Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People by Renee Evenson is a guide on how to communicate and fix issues when it’s most difficult.
- Always calm yourself down before addressing the situation
- When it’s unexpected, say that you need to think about it
The book is full of examples and dialogues. Therefore I invite you to get the book for the details.
Use I Sentences
When you need to voice a complain never start with “you” or it sounds like you are attacking people. Use I sentences instead.
You can see examples in this relationship article on fixing criticism.
The 5 Steps
The author recommends five steps to dealing with difficult people or a bad boss.
- Think first (think about the issue from all angles and calm down)
- Gain a better understanding of the situation
- Define the problem (once you understand, say how you see it and get a common understanding)
- Propose your best solution
- Agree on a resolution
Dealing With a Bully
I liked the skit on dealing with a bully.
This was my favorite part:
Going forward I expect you to treat me respectfully. If you can’t, then please don’t say anything to me.
Also read: what to do when your boss screams at you.
If someone in your team takes credit for the whole team’s work the best way to deal with them is to speak up right away while they do it.
Real Life Applications
When Unexpectedly Put On The Spot Say You Must Reflect On It
If you reply right away, you risk sounding too defensive and taking on too much of the blame.
Sometimes Simplistic, Too Easy Examples
Some of the examples were very interesting, but they were all solved too easily. I wish I had seen some really nasty character with which it’s difficult to deal with.
Sometimes “Not Bad Enough”
I feel that some of the examples were too direct and made your position too clear. For example, with some people you can build a better working relationship.
But with some others, you should mentally categorize them as enemy and then move from there. If you try to address the issue with them, they might use it against you and only undermine you more subtly (and more powerfully).
Sometimes Didn’t Like the Format
The author uses the 5 steps format in each single situation. I don’t think that was always the best approach. For example to a colleague who is giving big discounts to make a sales, she asks “I’m wondering why you do that”. I feel that such a question is annoying to anyone because the answer is obvious, which would be “to make a sale”.
Some good foundations of communication, like “think it through” and end on a positive.
I was surprised to see the book with rather lowish reviews on Amazon. I have seen plenty of bad books with good reviews, and Powerful Phrases might be a bit basic but it definitely shares solid foundations of communication.
Overall, it’s not the power moves style of book I was looking for but I give it a nod when it comes to improving communication skills in difficult situations.