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Personal interactions are a major component of business. Leaders spend a lot of time talking to executives, colleagues, clients, stakeholders, vendors, and more. Inevitably you will run into demanding people that will make things more challenging. If not handled properly, these situations have the potential to escalate into more serious problems. Understanding how to effectively communicate with demanding people and de-escalate matters is a valuable skill to have.

Dealing with demanding people is about knowing what to say and how to say it; making the person feel more comfortable and respected rather than defensive. You also need to be able to keep yourself calm and address things in a professional manner. When interacting with a demanding person, the following strategies can be helpful:

Focus on the problem, not the person. Try to separate the issue from the person and keep things impersonal. What is it that needs to be changed or addressed? By shifting away from placing blame and making accusations, you can make the situation more neutral. Instead of saying, “You didn’t follow up with client X,” turn things around by addressing the problem at large: “We need to make sure that we are consistently following up with clients to ensure we are meeting their needs and on track with the project.”

Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Share responsibility for the issue. Validate the person’s concern by taking a personal approach. Rather than, “You didn’t tell me” or “You didn’t explain,” saying “I misunderstood” can signify that you are taking some responsibility. This can help the person to feel like you are working with them and acknowledging that there was a breakdown in communication – not blaming them for what happened.

Convey messages in a positive manner. Avoid using absolutes such as “always” and “never” which can be limiting and accusatory. Also shift away from making demands and telling people what they should or have to do. You want to work together to come to a mutual agreement. It often takes some compromise between both parties. Focus on your desire to help and make things right.

There are many things that can make a person come off as being demanding. Perhaps they are stressed out and have had a long day. Maybe they have encountered similar issues in the past and had poor results. They may be frustrated or overwhelmed with what is going on and are not sure how to respond. As a leader, it is important that you recognize that these are not elements you can control. What you can control, however, is how you respond.

  • Take a step back and gather yourself. Take a deep breath before engaging in conversation. Maintaining a calm demeanor can help to diffuse a stressful situation.
  • Try to see things from the other person’s perspective. What if it was you instead of them? How would you want things to be handled?
  • Make sure that you understand what the issue is and what outcome they are anticipating. This can help you to be more proactive and helpful in coming up with a feasible solution.
  • Choose your words carefully. You don’t want to evoke defensiveness by making the person feel as though they are to blame or are being attacked. Your goal is to address the problem, not criticize the person.

Maintaining your composure, validating the other person’s concern, and working with them to determine a solution can help to ease tensions. Some factors will be out of your control, so you have to make the most of what you can control. If you are struggling to deal with demanding people and get positive results, JP Kantor Consulting can help. We will work with you on strategies for approaching the situation in proactive way, choosing the right words and actions to diffuse defensiveness, and developing more effective solutions. Contact us today to find out more about our executive coaching and consulting services.