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How to deal with difficult people

I've been a Graphic Designer and Illustrator all of my life. And I've been a teacher for a good chunk of it, too. And believe me, I have dealt with difficult people. As a professional dealing with clients, or as a teacher dealing with students, you are going to meet difficult people. In fact, I suppose if you plan on doing just about anything on planet earth, you will meet these people.

The best thing to do with difficult people, of course, is to avoid them. Going out of your way to get into conflicts just makes you a difficult person. And that just means that some poor person is going to have to deal with you! If you can't avoid, deflect.

Most *difficult people* are acting in what they believe to be their best defense. So it's best to give them the benefit of the doubt. That's someone's sister, or brother, or mother, or father... the list goes on. Tell yourself that.

• The first thing to do is express sympathy, or empathy. Empathy means that you are showing that you have had whatever is frustrating your *difficult person*, too. No, you don't say, *I, too, have known what it is like to have come to class without a pen!* with a big pompous wave of the hand, but that's the essence. This will solve the vast majority of your problems with these people. They don't need a solution, they need understanding. If you don't know how to give reassurance, learn how. It's like CPR, everyone should know how to do it.

• If empathy isn't working, try redirection. This gets increasingly difficult as we go along, so watch out - if you do this incorrectly, it will backfire. Show them something shiny, move the subject along to something more pleasant. Don't change the subject! But direct it to a more positive area.

• Disconnect. If sympathy, empathy, or redirection doesn't work, you are in trouble. Get out of there! Bite the bullet and be brutally honest. I say, *I see that you're mad, let's deal with this later*. At this point, you've failed (there is no winning with this person) and you are lucky to just get away unharmed. As Chris Rock once said, *whatever happened to crazy?!* Some people just crazy.

You don't have to be a Graphic Designer or a teacher to use sales techniques. Used well, they can enhance your life in many ways. They can keep you safe. And that's what self-defense is all about.