Managing difficult personalities
In fact, we are all someone else’s “difficult personality” at some point! 😳 Given multiple constraints, relationships at work can be complex and require patience.
It takes time to understand each other and to adapt to people’s different operating modes, according to whether you are more “people-oriented”, “direct”, “analytical” or “creative”.
However, certain ways of operating are more “difficult” than others such as those that prevent cooperation despite repeated efforts. You can unmistakably identify a difficult personality because:
working with them leads to constant uneasiness;
you are constantly on guard , feel guilty or invisible;
you are exhausted from any exchanges;
there are frequent disagreements, which occur in a tense or crisis mode; or
this person is on bad terms with many staff members.
Though it’s not possible to change a “difficult personality”, you can avoid certain mistakes and foster the status quo:
great self-confidence, great self-control or sometimes violence
show fear, causing them to lose face, impulsiveness
be powerful, serene, normal
worrying, constant tension
shoulders tense, restricted breathing, alarmed gaze
surprise, improvise, bursts of optimism
be extra reliable to reassure them
fear of being alone, admires others
overly kind, submissive, “needy”
push forward, systematically helping
trust with responsibilities they are capable of, encourage to be more self-reliant
pessimistic, puts themselves down
makes the most of their misfortunes
excessive kindness, excessive positivity
show appreciation, give opportunities to succeed that they can handle
fear of disappointing, seeks approval
reserved, shy, blushes, stammers, hushed voice
irony, mocking, irritation, hurrying
show gentleness and consideration
impatient, competitive, rapidity
wandering eyes, machine-gun voice, fidgeting lower limbs
excessive reflection or analysis, pointless competitions
be available and attentive
vague look, seems not to be “there”
display of feelings, excessively close relationships
use logical, quantified, rational arguments
occupies the space without taking others into account
systematic opposition, non-renewable favours
compliment moderately and talk about others
long sentences, recurring topics of conversation
hurrying, irony, excessive recognition
reassure about their abilities
cold, behaves like a "commander"
improvises, mockery, compliments
be solid and maintain the contact
loud voice, withdrawn, sometimes aggressive physical proximity
authoritarian, criticise, attacks
be informal, simple, sensitive
strong vocal and physical expressiveness, seeks attention
seduction, compassion, mockery
listen without falling under their spell
Break free from psychological games
There are two types of dysfunctional relationships in which the protagonists find themselves trapped in an endless circle; sometimes changing “roles”, but never escaping from them.
The phenomenon sometimes occurs unconsciously, sometimes insidiously through manipulation. These psychological games work against your independence and are sources of unease:
the first is the “drama triangle” (Karpman), which associates three interdependent roles: the “victim”, the “persecutor”, and the “rescuer”;
the second, described by Transactional Analysis, is the “parent/child” model.
Identify the “drama triangle” and break out of it
The drama triangle involves a “persecutor”, a “victim”, and a “rescuer”. These three roles do not necessarily occupy the same time and space. They describe the types of dysfunctional roles that some people play. Learn to spot these behaviours, as:
the “victim” will flatter the “rescuer” or “persecutor” in you
the “persecutor” looks for a “victim”
the “rescuer” seeks to rescue
sometimes a former “victim” becomes a “persecutor” or “rescuer”
the roles change round during a lifetime or a career
The table below describes the attitudes of the three profiles and offers ways to break out of this triangular relationship at work:
To do if you recognize yourself as …
To do if you are confronted with …
Counter-manipulation phrases to say in a neutral tone and with an open posture
Changing the “parent/child” relationship into an “adult/adult” one
The “child” is a dysfunctional behaviour because the person refuses to be independent and rejects any responsibility, with two possible attitudes: rebellion or over-submission. The “child” is looking for a “parent”.
As for the “parent”, they are looking for a “child” they can keep dependent on them.
Seek to have an “adult/adult” relationship, which requires:
assuming one’s responsibilities;
the ability to identify one’s own needs and to express them (emotional maturity); and
a good posture between empathy and assertiveness.
Become a super-team-player by learning to:
manage difficult personalities (and acknowledge that we are all someone's "difficult personality");
identify and break free from psychological games, such as:
the "drama triangle", made up of a "persecutor”, a “victim”, and a “rescuer”, and
the "parent/child" relationship, defined by rebellion or over-submission.
You know the right posture and you’ve worked on yourself; now you’re ready to organize yourself and boost your teamwork performance! 😎