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Dealing with Difficult People: Ten Ways to Improve Your Communications Success

Have you noticed that some people seem to stop listening even before you start talking? Do you avoid approaching some people unless you absolutely have too? Improve your chance for conversational success by considering the following ten factors before starting your next conversation.

1. Consider the setting. Where will the conversation take place? Is it public or private? Are there other things going on that will be distracting? Is the setting approapriate for the topic?

2. Consider the personality, gender, culture, age, etc. of the other person. If the person is different from you in these respects, you will want to adapt your style of communication to respect these differences.

3. Consider the internal influences (emotions, bias, etc.) on how you approach the conversation. What is your motivation? What baggage are you bringing with you as you talk with this person? Recognize it so that it won't get in your way.

4. Consider the internal influences (emotions, bias, etc.) on how the other person will receive the message. How might your history of communication with this person impact the way they respond to your approach? Will they be distrustful, anxious, humiliated? Your past words and actions will impact whether they will be receptive to you and your message.

5. Consider the interest level/level of importance of the other person. How much information does this person need to know? Is the topic relevant to their work or do they just need a basic awareness of it? Would verbal bullet points work better than an in-depth report? Be careful not to overwhelm someone with how much you know. They may think you are just trying to impress them or boast about your knowledge.

6. Consider the language needs (familiarity with topic, jargon, educational level, etc.) of the other person. Are you using words the person is familiar with or talking over their head? Are you talking in a demeaning way by "dumbing down" your word choices?

7. Consider what you want to accomplish by initiating the conversation. Keep your goal and the message in the front of your mind. If you need to relay information make sure that the person understands the information. If you need to address a challenge, make sure you address the challenge without making it a personal battle.

8. Consider what the other person might need to receive from the conversation. Stick to the information the other person needs. Don't try to become friends or talk about personal stuff if the other person isn't responding positively to that direction of your conversation.

9. Consider the long-term impact of the words, tone, and gestures they use. You may be having a bad day, but the other person may take your comments or attitude personally. That will impact future conversations. If you've had a bad day and said something inappropriate go back to the person to apologize and briefly explain that you were having a bad day and wrongly took it out on that person.

10. Consider the external factors (noise, distractions, setting, etc.) that will impact how the message is relayed and received. Again we return to setting. Make sure that you initiate and participate in conversations that provide the best environment for a successful exchange of ideas and information.

Copyright 2005 Donna Doyon. All rights reserved. You are free to reprint this story as long as you include complete attribution, including a live web site link.

The attribution should read:

By Donna Doyon, author of GLOW: Renew Your Spirit and Release Your Inner Beauty. Please visit Donna's web site at for information on how you can say "goodbye" to self-defeating attitudes and behaviors and "hello" to a more successful, balanced, and joy-filled life!'

Donna Doyon, Activities Coordinator for Your Virtual Retreat is the author of GLOW: Renew Your Spirit & Release Your Inner Beauty. She offers information, inspiration and encouragement to people who want to say goodbye to self defeating attitudes and behaviors and hello to greater success, healthier relationships and more joyful living. Get inspired at her website:

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