Are you a difficult person?

Beware – difficult people pop up everywhere.

As litigators, we can spot them.  The difficult person responds to a straightforward insurance issue with a lengthy email referencing the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta and other irrelevant material with lots of underlining, capital letters and exclamation marks.  They are not focused on the solution.  They focus on the problem – in fact they are obsessed with not only their perceived problem but often go to bat for the wider community.

At Rice Speir, we aim to make the complex simple.  Difficult people strive for the opposite.

It is important that you know how to deal with them so a bad situation isn’t made worse.

Take a look at this short video of our Nathan Speir and Simon Waalkens talking about their recent experiences:

It can be confronting to tell someone what they are doing is wrong and some resistance should be expected.  Don’t play their game – always play with a straight bat.  Try disarming their fire or fury with a smile.

Some people are resistant beyond rational explanation and can cause headaches for anyone tasked with dealing with them.  They embrace social media and turn into what are known as “keyboard warriors” online.

We are talking about persistent and insufferable complainers who will fight you on every possible point and at every stage and who are incapable of compromise.

Tips and tactics for dealing with difficult people

  • Dot your i’s, cross your t’s and always maintain complete procedural integrity.  Keep meticulous records and operate on fact rather than opinion.
  • Don’t fight fire with fire – a smile and a friendly approach is disarming.
  • Remain dignified and professional.  These people may act differently, they may scream, shout and protest.  Treat them with respect just like anyone else.
  • Follow the same processes as you normally would and don’t go above and beyond or escalate matters just because they demand that you should.
  • Keep all communications in writing.  When this is not possible, make sure another colleague is present and the meeting is well documented.
  • Lastly, communicate effectively as a team and don’t be afraid to ask a colleague for a second opinion on a matter.

If worst comes to worst

Health and safety is paramount – work with your team to clearly establish the point at which a person’s behaviour becomes inappropriate and take action.

Have clear procedures and make sure everyone is well aware of steps that may be taken in these situations.

There are some excellent ways to combat keyboard warriors – see our September 2018 article.

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