“Difficult People”. We will always have them around us, actively working as snipers, saboteurs, nay-sayers, guilt-spreaders — name your (least) favorite term for those who simply want you to fail, to pull you down to their level.
One metaphor I currently find appropriate is “Sandpaper People“, a term and definition I heard from Rev. Paul Stark of Missouri earlier this month.
“Sandpaper People are tough and gritty and grating. When they rub on you it can be unpleasant.”
“Some people regardless of what you do or don’t do, how you treat them or don’t treat them, will be like sandpaper.”
Author and psychologist Robert Bramson (http://www.copewithpeople.com/index.html) spoke about “Difficult People” to the California League of Cities conference in San Francisco in October, 1987.
He noted that people learn to be “difficult” because it works for them. One of the premier techniques he saw was “Sherman Tank” Behavior: Run ‘Em Over” (Aggressive). When it happens, people become defensive: 80% backpeddle, 20% become angry and are put out of commission.
He recommended that, when it happens, everything YOU do has to be done ON PURPOSE:
- “Do something different in response than usual. ST’s (Sherman Tanks) are ‘aggressive’, not necessarily ‘hostile’, or ‘fixers’; they may be ‘realist thinkers’ who must validate their ideas.”
- “Stand up to them, otherwise you will look weak.”
- “Don’t fight with them, don’t complain about their behavior.” (if they lose, they become ‘snipers’).
- “Use self-reference terms, not direct assault.”
- “Invite them to channel energy by asking for response in areas you desire – ‘Tell me more’.”
- “Stay with the topic”. (Don’t let a “red herring” or ad hominem derail the train)
- “ST’s cut you off – interrupt – claim to know the answers, so:
Always look them in the eye;
If interrupted, personally state “X, you interrupted me”, and continue;
ST’s are “corrective thinkers”; they see what’s wrong (from their perspective) and want to fix it.
Use disarming humor – it shows recognition of a serious approach without backing off.
ST’s are “know-it-alls” = PREPARE – show their opinion isn’t well-founded, but leave them a way to save face (Show them a way out);
ST‘s are articulate and are either right or believe they know what they’re saying – show them it’s not working for them.
Give them constructive, appropriate assignments” (but not positions of power and authority).
Now, the REAL TEST is: Are you a “Sandpaper Person” or a “Sherman Tank”? Think about it. Review your behavior when “working with” others. Be truthful to yourself about it. If you fill one of those negative job descriptions, you have identified an error to correct to help put you back on a rightful course in life!