by Lisa McReynolds
ASA's Web and Communications Specialist
Patrick Donadio presented "Communicating with Difficult People" Wednesday afternoon at the International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE). Donadio told attendees how to identify the types of difficult people and how to deal with them on a day-to-day basis.
Research indicates that you communicate information and impressions in three different ways when you are face-to-face with someone. Donadio explained that 55 percent of what you communicate comes from facial expressions and body language; 38 percent comes from your voice; and seven percent comes from your words.
Your attitude and the attitude of the difficult person are influenced by how you decide to respond to that person. Donadio gave attendees 10 tips for dealing with difficult people. He said you should set clear boundaries, not only for the company but for yourself as well. When a conversation is escalating, try to delay the conversation until you are both calm, and discuss the issue in private. Donadio reminded attendees to praise in public; criticize in private.
There are three modes you behave in: child, parent, and adult. Donadio says to always stay in "adult mode." In the child mode you are defensive and emotional. In the parent mode you are judgmental, while in the adult mode you ask questions, focus on the facts and try to be a problem solver. Donadio said to seek first to understand, then to be understood. Ask questions and listen.
Donadio also said to use "I" statements that are more descriptive and encouraging, and not "you" statements that can make the other person feel defensive and judged. Find agreement in the conversation to build rapport and defuse the person. Don't take it personally. Focus on the issue, not the person. Make sure you understand the issue, and tell the customer what you can do to solve the problem.
Donadio told attendees the five types of difficult people: the complainer, the argumentative, the rambler, the quiet person, and the know-it-all. Be proactive and think in advance so you are not caught off guard. Choose the right technique for the right type of person, because some may not be as effective on certain people.
Donadio finished by giving attendees some steps for preparing to deal with these difficult people. Access the situation and identify what kind of difficult person they are. Accept them for who they are and do not take their behavior personally. Find an approach to interrupt the behavior and utilize the approach. Monitor the progress over a period of time, and modify and enhance the approach each time you interact with this person or similar people.