twoI’d had a chat with one of The Colour Works’ team, as having previously attended an introductory workshop and been profiled along with the rest of my team (along with my manager), not only did I have more insight into my behavioural styles and preferences, but also that of my manager. He is Red/Blue and I am Yellow/Green.

We just didn’t seem to have any common ground? In fact we just seemed so opposite in behavioural styles and approach to work, I was unsure of even where to start or even if we could actually work things out!

They reiterated how although we might find a colleague’s opposite behaviours difficult at first, they can in fact be incredibly beneficial – their opposite strengths complementing our own style challenges. Having this completely different idea of how to approach the situation gave me some renewed hope! They suggested I look through the points in the Dealing With Your Difficult Person fact sheet – I decided it had to be worth a try. Some of the points seemed quite tricky at first, and it takes effort to stay and rectify a challenging situation – granted – but it also takes effort to leave and find a new job! Certainly in the first instance it would be worth channeling that energy in to improving the current circumstances. You’ll keep getting the same results if you keep doing the same things!?

Referring to my profile, I made some notes on why my manager’s behaviour could upset and frustrate me so much, and even more powerfully, how my behaviour could be aggravating him. I also thought hard about the attributes he possessed that I admired, like his ability to drive things forward and complete projects on time.

I booked time with him (not on a Monday morning!) and asked if we could talk. As well as telling him how I felt, whilst trying to communicate with him and being mindful of his preferred communication styles I also listened. Hard! I came to understand more about the reasons behind his behavioural style. This really helped me to not take things so personally. He was then also able to appreciate more of my feeling approach and utilise my strengths in these areas. We agreed on some ideas for a practical strategy to manage our differences, like him giving me five minutes to settle in in the mornings before asking for project detail, and me giving a weekly report on specific tasks, deadlines and progress. I really felt the weight lifted from my shoulders and actually found a more structured approach to my work (not necessarily natural to a yellow!) helped my focus and took pressure off me feeling like I might not have information to hand, or worried I might have forgotten something!

Work is now a pleasure again and instead of dreading Monday mornings, I now feel motivated and even want to get into work earlier. I guess we’ll always have our moments, but they are infinitely more manageable and with a much more positive attitude in the office, I feel we can only be on an upwards spiral.

Dealing with your ‘Difficult Person’

What is a difficult person? Well, someone who regularly rubs you up the wrong way, who gets your stomach churning and palms sweating, and that’s BEFORE your meeting. Afterwards, you may be left feeling angry, hurt, frustrated, unvalued, desperate, and wondering how can anyone possibly be like that.

Whoever your difficult person is – your manager, a member of your team, a customer – remember that these feelings are not unique to you. Indeed, the strong possibility is that they too feel the same way about you. And, if things are not checked, the relationship can only deteriorate further as everything each of you does just serves to re-confirm to each of you how impossible the other is.

What can you do about it?

Following the wise words of Carl Jung himself, “there is no cure nor improvement of this world that does not start with the individual self” – we must start at Square 1 and that’s you. So, here are a few things you can do to develop a better understanding of what’s happening and hopefully reduce the negative impact this relationship can have on your life.

1. Start by writing the person’s name on a piece of paper and alongside jot down those aspects of their behaviour that most upset you.

2. Now consider why it is that these traits affect you in this way.

Is it because this person’s colour preferences are opposite to yours and that they are therefore coming at things from an opposing perspective? Remember, it is quite possible in these situations for everything about the other person – their tone of voice, their body language, their interpretation of events, etc – to appear from another planet.

3. Four things you can do in these cases; firstly, consider whether you can adapt your behaviour slightly to better meet their needs as, as in 2 above, everything about YOU will also be upsetting them.

a. Revisit the pages about your ‘Opposite Type’ in your Discovery profile, consider how you may be coming across and what you can change, however small.
b. Look in the left-hand column for more general reminders of the colourful communications needs.
c. Add another dimension to your piece of paper by considering and jotting down any aspects of that person that you actually quite admire. Recognising that they’re not all bad, that they weren’t put on this earth to make your life a misery, can help us change our perspective slightly, and that may be all it takes!
d. Become a better listener! As Stephen Covey encourages, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. So often, this person is doomed (by you) before they’ve even opened their mouth, but, if you can keep your opinions on them centred on the EVIDENCE of what is said, as opposed to what we choose to make it mean, we’ll understand better where they might be coming from. Don’t interrupt, listen all the way through, leave a gap, check you’ve understood and avoid “Yes, but ??!”

4. It may be that your ‘difficult person’ is not your opposite type at all, but in fact, “too much like me!”

In this case, revisit the Blind Spots page of your Discovery profile. Are you indeed also capable of the very behaviour that upsets you? When we accept and re-own this behaviour, it can lose its hold over us.

5. Whether like you or unlike you, negative relationships usually involve what psychologists call ‘projection‘ – a human tendency to unconsciously externalise our individual concerns and weaknesses.

We project negative qualities onto others, consequently feeling ourselves to lack them. But we don’t, we can be all that we accuse others of being and, as above, it’s only when we accept and re-own this behaviour that it can lose its hold over us and we can become whole again.

And that’s it; hopefully something for you to work with to break the pattern and start to build a more effective relationship with your ‘difficult person’.

Read up on conflict in the workplace, handling the awkward meeting and the importance of team culture.

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