There are three library books in my house right now that I did not order and hopefully were not taken out in order to deal with me. Once I reveal the titles you will know whereof my trepidation lies. The first is called “Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People” by Renee Evenson. The real kicker is in the description of the book: “Over 325 ready-to use words and phrases for working with challenging personalities.” Okay, I will fess up—I am a challenging personality (sometimes), but I like to think I keep most of my lesser agreeable traits under wraps (most of the time).
The second book is called “Dealing with Difficult People” and it brags that it is the revised edition of an international best seller. I am denoting a theme here and the word of the day seems to be “difficult”. Written by Roberta ta Cava this book says that it helps one deal with “nasty” people of various varieties. I may have my nasty moments, but on the whole I am generally pretty nice. So hopefully this book is not aimed at me (specifically).
Number three is called “Perfect Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People” by Susan F. Benjamin. (Aside number 1: I am wondering here if there is any coincidence in the fact that all three authors are women.) Anyway, Susan provides only “hundreds of (as opposed to Renee’s 325) ready-to-use phrases for handling conflict, confrontations, and challenging personalities.” Am wondering if I should be a little disquieted here, but am sure that my minor flaws are not worthy of three (count them: three!) books about difficult people.
In case I forgot to mention it, these three books were taken out of the library by my husband. He has been known to comment on my “delicate sensibilities” in the past when I have amusingly annoyed him, and the used the phrase “You can always tell a Harvard woman but you can’t tell her much” (changing the gender but not the meaning) when I have not particularly charmed him with my wily ways.
(Aside number 2: My youngest son has a whole different take on the books. Tyler saw them on the dining room table and during a conversation he was having with his older brother (which I overheard) he said “Look Adam, Dad got these books to figure out how to deal with you.” You gotta love sibling jesting.)
We have all come upon “challenging personalities”, and we all have our ways of dealing with their particular propensities. I must admit that adding a few key phrases to my repertoire might not be such a bad thing, on those rare occasions when I believe something should be dealt with in a manner other than hiding my head in the sand (by the way this idiom about the maligned ostrich has been proven incorrect but I still like it).
Susan of “Perfect Phases…” believes that “constant complainers ranks as one of (our) most formidable foes” and suggests these six phrases to counteract or balance their discontent. She says that first you should show you are listening (and I am sure not rolling your eyes helps with the sincerity), then you should utter one of these phrases:
1. Thanks for letting me know your impression.
2. I appreciate your input.
3. I understand what you mean.
4. I was not aware that you saw the situation that way.
5. That’s an interesting way of seeing the situation. (Love this one as it uses one of my favourite words, “interesting” in a way that seems innocuous but is not.)
6. Thanks for giving me your take on that matter.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I know that if I were the complainer in question here, I would not be satisfied with any of the six responses. I would know I was being patronized and also that my concerns were being given short shrift. But wait, Susan does not leave it there—she says that after uttering one of these phrases you validate the points made (by the complainer) and discuss ways of addressing the issues brought up by either saying that you will meet with someone who can do something about the complaint or offer to look into the matter further. Personally I think you should just skip to this step and leave out the phrases she suggests to mollify the complainer. I find them a bit demeaning and they would not put me in the mood for the important part of the conversation, which is doing something solid about the complaint. Just saying………
Okay, so maybe I am a difficult person.
Are you a difficult person?