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Even those who have had a good grounding in etiquette need some updating in this rapidly changing world, and the idea behind this book is to provide the information you need in an orderly, easy-to-find, easy-to-understand way. You will find everything you need to know about proper behavior, socially and professionally, in casual and formal circumstances, here and abroad. Mesta immediately followed suit, and the other guests took their cue from her. Good manners come from the inside and do not change. Etiquette rules come from the outside, and they are constantly changing.

The rules in school are different from the rules in the office. And the rules also change with time. Good manners are based on kindness and respect, which transcend etiquette. In every human situation, there is the correct action, the incorrect action, and the appropriate action. This book explains the rules. Only you can judge whether to adhere to them verbatim. Knowing the rules is essential because it puts you in the position of knowing when it is appropriate to break them or bend them.

Sometimes adhering strictly to rules is used as a weapon—which is the height or depth of bad manners. Part 1: Dining Etiquette. This section includes the most common dining mistakes, table settings, how to eat difficult foods, and tips that will help you approach the most daunting dining situations with confidence. Part 2: Business Etiquette. Business rules are different from social etiquette, as is the whole approach to the subject of manners. Part 2 deals with what to say, how to dress, and how to react to various situations in the world of work, including the new opportunities and potential pitfalls brought about by the ongoing electronic revolution.

Part 3: Correspondence. The pen is still powerful, the age of e-mail notwithstanding. Part 3 discusses the etiquette of e-mail, the structure and style of letters and notes, appropriate stationery for different situations, invitations, and addressing people properly. Part 4: Home Etiquette. Manners for children and young people are discussed here, as well as the problems and pleasures of home entertaining—everything from a casual get-together to a formal dinner.

Part 5: Saying the Right Thing. Here we look at how to deal with conflict and criticism. We also discuss how to meet and interact with people with disabilities and with people from other cultures, as well as how to give and receive compliments. Part 6: Fun and Games. This part deals with courteous behavior in the world of sports—everything from yachting to roller blading. Also included are travel etiquette and tips on preparing for and surviving a wedding. Live and Learn These boxes communicate little etiquette facts and tidbits.

Aghast in the Past These boxes contain etiquette quotes from long ago. What Do You Say? You know who you are, and we express our deep and sincere gratitude. We were blessed with the specific contributions of Alison Douglas Knox, Esq. Trademarks All terms mentioned in this book that are known to be or are suspected of being trademarks or service marks have been appropriately capitalized.

Alpha Books and Pearson Education. Use of a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark or service mark. And to many people, table manners are the most worrisome aspect of social etiquette, but for the most part these worries are unnecessary. Even the prospect of the most formal dinner should not intimidate you. After you learn the rules, you will be able to approach dining in public with confidence, which means that you can relax and enjoy the meal and the company. It is an experience that we can realize more fully when we know what to expect and what is expected of us.

Chapter 1 Etiquette in America: What Happened? In America, that evolution took on a distinctively robust American flavor. The Rough-and-Ready Pioneers When the Americans, whose sinewy hands tamed a wild new continent and fashioned an industrial juggernaut, set out to acquire their own systems of courtesy and manners, they did so with characteristic vigor and a style that was by turns practical and quixotic, solemn and hilarious. In the beginning, there was little time for contemplating the social graces. Behind the westward-questing pioneers, the unceasing arrival of new hordes of immigrants kept conditions continually unsettled.

Another major factor in pioneer life was the scarcity of women. In Europe, women were continually in the majority, and they were the makers and the guardians of the traditions of courtesy. In early America, women were a minority and, in fact, so scarce that men tended to treat them with something close to reverence and to compete in exaggerated and often comical politeness for their attention.

Women were to be respected and protected and, if possible, pampered. Poor Richard and George Washington on Manners Early on, the government enforced minimal standards of civility through its laws, providing penalties for slandering, lying, cursing, and even flirting. Strictures came from the government and the clergy, and advice about proper—and legal! The few etiquette guides that were available tended to stick to the basics. The Genteel South and the Robust North As leisure and wealth increased, people wanted to know more about how to behave in a proper manner. The Southern plantation owners, sitting amid their productive fields and black vassals, and the prosperous merchants and tradespeople of the Northern port cities all sought a standard of decorum and even elegance that would better reflect their wealth and power.

These wealthy planters looked about their own country in vain; then ultimately they looked back to England to find the literature of civility. According to these publications, the earmarks of a gentleman were not only probity or moral uprightness , but also valor, piety, and justice. The gentlewoman was modest, meek, chaste, and compassionate. The habit of Americans looking to England for printed politeness guides continued for about a half-century after the severing of political ties following the American Revolution in After defeating the British in the War of , Americans expanded their territory to reach the Rio Grande and the Pacific.

The creation of the railroad and the construction of waterways like the Erie Canal encouraged citizens to reach into the interior of the country, allowing new towns to spring up. Andrew Jackson, son of a destitute immigrant, moved into the White House in , into an office previously held by the Harvard-educated Adamses and wealthy and powerful Virginia landholders.

Ordinary people believed they could make themselves into whatever they wanted to be. The idea was that any man could become a gentleman—not that gentlemen should cease to be. From the s until the Civil War, Americans had their choice of homegrown etiquette advice books. In these we see a shift away from an emphasis on probity, valor, modesty, and compassion and a move toward the view that etiquette is a set of rules to be learned.

Americans did not want to be lectured to about character, chivalry, and morality. They wanted to learn the rules of behavior that would enable them to move comfortably in high society. And these books differed from their predecessors in the overall attitude about how women should behave. The emphasis shifted away from being meek, pliant, and weak and toward more strength and independence. One author advised bluntly that crying was no longer fashionable. Along came John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Cornelius Vanderbilt. The suddenly rich burst upon the social scene with absurdities of conspicuous consumption and, in the process, re-created the American social scene.

Some observers viewed this development with alarm. Author and critic E. There was something of a backlash to this. Formal calls were to last no longer than 15 minutes. The dining room became an arena for conspicuous consumption with what was described as a bewildering display of goblets, plates, and silverware. The etiquette of the ballroom was complex and severe. Formal introductions were imperative, and the style and form of the dances themselves were strictly prescribed. The years after World War I saw an even more pronounced drift away from what began to be considered, somewhat contemptuously, Victorian manners.

The movies, the automobile, the radio, and the forbidden-fruit syndrome that accompanied Prohibition had a profound influence on behavior, and finally the Great Depression seemed to wash away the last of the old ways. Although the American thirst for advice on behavior remained unquenched, its form was altered greatly. Emily Post and, to a greater extent, Lillian Eichler gave advice that was practical, straightforward, and much less doctrinaire and accusatory than the pronouncements of the etiquette doyennes of previous eras.

There seemed to be a national consensus that appropriate behavior could be simpler, more spontaneous, and more genuine. If anything, World War II reinforced this perception. During the war years, Americans of all classes worked together toward a single goal. The American heroes were the grimy guys in foxholes and the stout-hearted defense workers on the night shift. Having good manners, fitting in, dressing right, and being part of the crowd were vitally important.

Advice columns and magazine features on proper behavior remained popular, although the approach was perhaps more chatty than instructional. Then came the s, with hippies, the drug culture, long hair, shorter dresses, denim, and disobedience. There was a pronounced decline in the popularity of books and magazine articles written on etiquette. Etiquette became a word seldom heard except in jest. In an era of rebellion, etiquette was deemed unworthy even of protest. The decades since the massive upheaval of the s have brought enormous changes to our society, particularly the struggle against discrimination based on gender and race, and the electronic revolution.

As the globe continues to shrink, as people from all backgrounds and cultures are thrown together as never before, and as computers change the way we communicate, civility—not chivalry—will be the mark of a sophisticated citizen in the twenty-first century. Where We Are Now and How We Got Here Through all of the changes and crises that have molded American society over the years, a willingness and even an eagerness to accept information and advice about behavior has remained. And now, in the twenty-first century, this desire for knowledge and advice on behavior continues, but the wish to acquire information about etiquette is more sharply focused than ever before.

Career-oriented people have come to realize that people skills equal or surpass technical skills in importance. The social scene is very often merged with the world of work. The boardroom, the marketplace, and the international stage have replaced the ballroom and the dining room as the arenas in which we are judged by our behavior. Hey, lighten up. Redemption is at hand. The sins detailed in the following list made the top 10 list only because so many people have committed them so often in the past.

After you pick up a piece of cutlery, it should never touch the table again. Knives go on the plate, blade facing in and touching the inside of the plate. Only the handle should rest on the rim of the plate. Dab delicately. It belongs unfolded on your lap. If you leave the table, place your napkin on the chair and push the chair back under the table. Watch the upholstery.


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Pick up the napkin from the center and place it loosely on the table to the left of your plate. Never chew with your mouth open. Finish chewing, swallow, and smile philosophically, content in the knowledge that you could have said just the right thing, but had too much class to speak with food in your mouth. Remember what your mother said: Sit up straight and keep your elbows off the table. If you have any doubt about where your hands belong, put them in your lap. Breaking bread. Here is a real bread-and-butter tip. Tear bread into bite-size pieces and butter each piece just before you eat it.

Take it easy. Dining partners should have the same number of courses and start and finish each one at about the same time. Lipstick etiquette. Leaving a lipstick trail behind on stemware and flatware is bad form, especially at a business meal. Wait until the meal is over and, even then, ask if anyone minds if you smoke. If anyone does object, offer to wait or to smoke at the bar.

And, please, never use a plate as an ashtray. Purses and briefcases. Keep them off the table. And this rule goes for keys, hats, gloves, eyeglasses, eyeglass cases, and cigarette packs. Even though common sense and a sense of courtesy may keep you from committing many of these errors, they bear repeating. No explanations are necessary. Devereux in Etiquette for Women, published in , after you pick up a piece of cutlery, it should never touch the table again—advice that applies today as well. What do you say?

Can you clue me in? Cool yourself until it cools. Having spent so much time talking about mistakes, it is important to point out that nothing as diverse as dining with a number of other people will ever be achieved with perfect serenity. Things go wrong, and when they do, you should react calmly and, if possible, cheerfully.

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The first thing to remember is that anybody can have an accident! Stay cool. Downplay the incident as much as possible. If you spill something, blot up what you can. If the person next to you is a victim of the accident, let him or her handle the damage control.

Apologize quietly and offer to pay for any dry-cleaning bills. The following is a list of difficult foods to eat, along with some tips on how to eat them correctly. Before we get started, here is an important codicil to keep in mind. Remember that you can eat certain foods with your fingers, but when in doubt, use a fork or spoon. If you already have your paws on the item, go ahead and eat it. Eating an artichoke requires a bit of an attitude and a little digital dexterity. Pick it up with one hand, remove one leaf at a time, and dip the soft end into the accompanying sauce.

Then place the whole soft end in your mouth and pull do not yank it through your teeth to remove the edible part. Discard the rest by placing it on the edge of the plate or on a side plate—not your bread plate! Use a knife to scrape the fuzzy part off and then cut the meat into bite-size pieces with the help of a knife and fork. See the following section on fruits. If the bacon is very crisp, you can eat with your fingers. Otherwise, use a knife and fork. Hold the spoon in your right hand to scoop up the dessert. The fork goes in your left hand, and you use it as a pusher. To eat caviar, you first spread it on a bite-size piece of toast and then add any condiments, such as chopped onions or capers.

To eat these fresh vegetables, remove them from the serving plate with your fingers and place them on the side of your dinner plate. Take small bites, using your fingers to bring the vegetables to your mouth. Use both hands to eat an ear of corn. Butter and eat only a few rows at a time. Eat crabs as you would lobster. See the following tips.

To eat a lobster requires a host of techniques. If you pull out a large piece, cut it with a fork. Use your knife and fork to eat stuffed lobster. Use the same technique with olives as you did with bacon, pickles, and celery. If the olive is pitted, eat it whole. If the olive is large and unpitted, hold it in your fingers and eat it in small bites, instead of popping the whole thing in your mouth and munching. As for the pit, kiss it into the palm of your hand then deposit it on the edge of your plate.

Pasta comes in many different sizes and shapes, but you can basically divide them into the long and stringy type and the short and squat type. Instead, eat a few strands at a time, twirling them on your fork without the support of a spoon. Do not cut the strands with your knife. Small ziti, penne, and the like require only a fork. The technique to use on a potato depends on how it is prepared. Eat the inside of a baked potato with a fork. If you want to eat the skin, cut it into manageable pieces with a knife and fork.

Cut fries in half and eat them with your fork. If the tails are still attached, use your fingers. Eat shrimp cocktail with a seafood fork, dipping a shrimp into the sauce and popping it into your mouth in two bites if large. Better still, put them on a serving plate, spoon a little sauce on them, and then cut the shrimp with a knife and fork. If you eat tortillas with your hands, start eating them at one open end, holding the other end closed. If the avocado is still in its shell, use a spoon. If in pieces on a plate, use a knife and fork.

Eat berries with a spoon if they are served with no stems attached. If served with their stems, hold the berry by the stem and eat it in one or two bites after dipping the berry into sugar or sauce. Section grapefruit halves so that the meat is accessible without a lot of digging. Eat the sections with a spoon and never squeeze the juice. Handle lemon wedges with care. Either peel oranges and tangerines with a knife or with your fingers and then eat them section by section. If served on a plate, eat them with a fork.

Halve and then quarter peaches with a knife; then eat the fruits of this labor with a fork. You can either eat the skin or peel it off with a knife or your fingers. You eat pineapple with a spoon when served in small pieces and with a fork when sliced. If watermelon is served in small pieces, eat it with a spoon. Otherwise, use your fork. Put the seeds into the palm of your hand and transfer them to the side of your plate.

Continental vs. American Style In our shrinking world, we often see people using the continental or European style of dining, as well as the more familiar to most of us American style. Both are perfectly correct, and neither is preferable to the other. After it is mastered, the continental style is far more graceful and efficient, so it is well worth learning. Children, by the way, often get the hang of this style of dining more easily than adults do. When knives and forks became popular in Europe in the early seventeenth century, most people probably used them in much the same way as Americans do now.

Only later did the upper classes in Europe begin using what is now known as the continental style and the practice spread—but not, obviously, to America. The knife is used for cutting only. It is held in the right hand for right-handers while cutting, and the fork is held in the left hand to help control the object being cut. The knife is then put down on the edge of the plate blade facing in , and the fork is switched to the right hand to lift the cut piece to the mouth.

The tines of the fork face upward when bringing food to the mouth. Hands are in the lap when not being used. The person sitting next to you has just commandeered your bread plate by accident. Place your bread on the rim of your dinner plate. Americans are the only people in the world who use this basically inefficient style of dining. Continental style. The knife remains in the right hand and the fork in the left. After the food is cut, the knife is used to push it onto the fork. The prongs of the fork face downward when the cut food is lifted to the mouth unless the type of food—peas or creamed food, for example—requires a different tactic.

The hands remain above the table from the wrist up when they are not in use. Live and Learn 18 Small forks for eating were first used in the eleventh century in Tuscany. Prior to that and for some time after, people ate with their hands. They separated their meat by tearing it with their hands or cutting it with knives and using their fingers to pick at it.

Eleanor is credited with initiating and encouraging many chivalrous and courtly customs. Dining skillfully and enjoyably takes homework and practice. But, just as nobody ever learned to ride a bike by reading a book, actual experience is necessary for you to become a poised, informed, and confident dining companion.

Sit up straight. Keep your elbows off the table. Keep pace with the others at the table. Continue using it. Ask the server for a replacement when you need it. Put it on your dish, rather than leaning the used item half on and half off the plate. These situations include banquets, at which as many as 10 people are supposed to dine comfortably at a single round table; the buffet meal and the special etiquette it requires; the dreaded formal dinner; and the business meal, both in and out of the office.

Many of us learned basic table manners around the family dinner table, and this experience, obviously, does not equip us to handle these special situations. Braving the Baffling Banquet You are attending an awards banquet or a wedding or the final function of a weeklong conference at the Grand Hotel in a distant city. The room is a sea of linen and candles. There are dozens of round tables, and each is supposed to seat—somehow—10 people. The place settings seem to be jammed together. One set of cutlery blends into the next. There are too many dishes and glasses, and far, far too many people at the table.

Stay calm. Continue to breathe normally. You can handle this, one step at a time. The first two letters of the word drink are dr. First, find your table. Then find the place card with your name on it. Never, ever, ever, rearrange place cards to suit yourself. To do so is a major breach of etiquette. Somebody gave considerable thought to the seating, probably taking into consideration factors such as familiarity and status—within the society, family, company, or institution.

Tampering with the place cards is even ruder on private social occasions because the host has given careful thought to the seating arrangement and will not be happy if you try to second-guess him or her. Enter your chair from the left side. Men, it is neither sexist nor theatrical for you to draw out the chair for the woman on your right. Women, accept such a gesture. The Place Setting Once you are seated, a bewildering display of stuff will undoubtedly confront you. What faces you is an organized table, not a malicious rebus designed to befuddle you.

Think of a place setting as a chart—a chart that will guide you safely through the meal. First, look at the silverware, also known as flatware. Start at the outside and move inward as the courses arrive. Accordingly, you can usually tell the number of courses to be served by taking a good look at the flatware. At a very formal dinner, however, the server might replace the flatware before serving each course. As each course comes and goes, you will remain relaxed and confident. Make sure that the blade of the knife always faces you.

Live and Learn The phrase powder room was originally used at formal balls in England centuries ago to designate the room in which servants attended to the wigs of the guests. Braving the Baffling Buffet The buffet meal scene may resemble the siege of the Bastille. Somehow, ordinarily sensible people seem to think the food will be taken away before they get some or that others will take all of the food, leaving them to starve.

This irrational approach results in the two major buffet blunders: approaching the table too quickly and putting too much food on your plate. Approach Before piling food on your plate, look at the dining tables. Remember, if place cards are on the tables, do not shift them around to suit yourself.

Then take a look to see whether the buffet has one or two lines. If two lines are moving, you will find serving utensils on both sides of the table. Take your place in line. At a restaurant or hotel, it is fine to ask to have a dish replenished. Use the serving spoon or fork provided for a particular dish and put the serving piece next to the platter or chafing dish when you are finished.

A hot metal spoon in a chafing dish could burn the fingers of another diner. Going back for seconds or thirds is perfectly acceptable. That defeats the whole idea of a buffet, which is offering a multitude of choices for a variety of tastes and appetites. Serving Stations When various dishes are served at serving stations, as at a brunch buffet, remember that the attendants are limited in what they can provide.

Special requests are okay if they are easily accomplished. And only ask for ingredients in your omelet that are in sight and readily available. In a private home, use common sense to determine whether you should retain your plate or ask for a new one. Sitting Down If people invite you to join their table as you leave the buffet line, either accept graciously or find a way to decline just as graciously. If you need to leave the table temporarily, be sure to place your napkin on the seat or arm of your chair.

That way you can circulate a bit. Indeed, one of the few—maybe the only—advantages of a stand-up buffet is that you can drift around and chat with a lot of people. For example, food at cocktail parties is often consumed while standing. When you settle on a place to stand, make sure you are not blocking a path to the buffet table or anything else. Before Sitting Down A lipstick trail is the red badge of discourtesy. Take precautions before you reach the table. This is also the time to visit the restroom for hair repair and other finishing touches. Remember to greet everyone before sitting down.

Gentlemen must rise to greet latecomers. A server will draw the chair for you. Enter from your left. Napkins After you are seated, wait for your host to make the first napkin move. When the host places the napkin on his or her lap, the guests should follow suit. Similarly, at the end of the meal, the host should be the first to place the napkin on the table to signal that the meal is over, having made certain that everyone at the table has finished. Large dinner napkins should remain folded in half and placed across your lap with the fold facing your waist. If you leave the table during the meal, place the napkin on your chair.

If the server does not push the chair back under the table, you should do so. The server may also refold your napkin and place it on the arm of your chair during your absence. At the end of the meal, do not refold the napkin. Pick it up from its center and place it loosely on the table to the left of your plate. Never turn your glass upside down. Wine is offered with the first course soup and will be poured from the right. Red wine and brandy glasses are held by the bowl because the warmth of the hand releases the bouquet.

Red wine glasses may also be held by the stem, but white wine and champagne glasses are always held by the stem, so as not to diminish the chill. Wait until your host has lifted his or her glass before you drink. The Seven Courses Once again, the number of pieces of silverware will indicate the number of courses you can expect, and the general rule is to start from the outside. You may expect the formal dinner to consist of seven courses, in this order: soup, fish, sorbet or other palate cleanser , a meat or fowl dish, salad often served with cheese , dessert, and coffee.

Courses are served from the left, removed from the right. Wine is poured from the right. It helps to know from which direction they will be coming at you. Live and Learn The custom of clinking glasses was originally used to drive away evil spirits. If you want to clink, do so with the greatest care, particularly if you are using fine crystal. For the most part, it will suffice simply to raise your glass in the direction of the person being toasted.

As for the toast itself, there is an old saying which you would do well to repeat to yourself if you are asked to propose a toast. Place both the knife and fork in about the position with the points at 10 and the handles at If you have been eating the course with the fork only, place it prongs up in the same position as the knife when finished. Placing flatware in the finished position facilitates the server clearing from the right.

Finished position. In this case, the knife and fork are crossed on the plate with the fork over the knife and the prongs pointing down. It is also correct to form the inverted V without crossing fork over knife. Resting positions. Servers in fine restaurants are usually trained to recognize the I-am-finished and the I-am-resting signals. This technique diminishes dribble danger and looks more appealing. Sip from the side not the front of the spoon, making no more noise than a spider. Yes, you may tilt the soup plate often, inaccurately, called the soup bowl away from you to access the last of the soup.

Leave your spoon on the soup plate. However, if the soup is served in a two-handled bowl or bouillon cup, leave the spoon on the underlying saucer. When eating soup, tilt the spoon away from you. Tilt the soup plate away from you to get the last bit of soup. A two-handled soup cup. Second Course: Fish Watch out. In fine restaurants the fish course is often served with special fish knives and forks.

Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Sep 25, Ravi marked it as to-read. Trying to get answers for some difficult and nagging questions at work. Jane Dee rated it liked it Dec 23, Many Waters rated it it was amazing Jul 22, Frank Grimes rated it really liked it May 03, Karen rated it liked it Sep 07, Jason Jermyn rated it liked it Mar 19, Karen added it Apr 25, D Andrews added it Jun 21, Sandi Orlando added it May 14, PurplyCookie marked it as to-read Oct 07, Danie van der Merwe marked it as to-read Jan 02, Siddartha added it Jan 19, Yinzadi marked it as to-read Aug 13, Josh added it Jan 14, Anneliese added it Mar 04, Kristi added it May 10, How to Use This Book This book is divided into six sections, each of which explores a different aspect of the ins and outs of dealing with difficult people.

You'll learn that, in most cases, developing mutually rewarding relationships with these folks is less of a short-term if A, then B exercise, and more of a process of demonstrating your own commitment to improve the relationship. You'll also find out that how you pursue your agenda with the difficult person or people in your life matters just as much asand probably more than! Here's what the six parts of the book cover. Part 1, It Takes All Kinds, shows you some of the most important basic principles you can use when you encounter virtually any difficult person in virtually any situation.

This part of the book will outline a few important skills that fall into the survival kit category, give you an idea of what a successful general strategy for dealing with a difficult person looks like, and debunk some of the most common misconceptions about dealing with difficult people. Part 2, On The Job with Difficult People Who Aren't Your Boss, offers pragmatic, real-world tips you can use to improve your relationships with, and get superior results from, troublesome subordinates.

It also provides you with strategies for dealing with colleagues who seem to go out of their way to make your life rougher than it has to be. This part of the book offers detailed advice on dealing with tirades, mystifying topic changes, and all the other challenges tossed your way by the extremely difficult boss. It also offers yea! Part 4, Negotiating with Difficult People, gives you specific strategies for seeing past the bluster and the ego games and making sure you come out with the very best deal you can when you have to dicker with a difficult negotiator.

Part 5, Consumer Retorts, helps you disconnect gracefully from sales windbags and other nonessential personages who want to claim time you don't want to give them. This part of the book also outlines detailed action plans you can pursue when some impersonal outfit or other insists on denying you what you have coming. Part 6, Dealing with the Day-to-Day Nasties, shows you what to do when you encounter problems with your neighbors, people who act out in public places, and people who may represent minor, but nevertheless unpleasant, legal problems. Lastly, there's a Glossary of key words and definitions used in the book.

Extras In addition to all that good stuff, you will find sidebars designed to make improving your relationships with difficult people even easier. These text boxes feature information you can absorb almost immediately, with little or no brain damage. Here's how you can spot these features:. Special Thanks from the Publisher to the Technical Reviewer. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Along with Difficult People was reviewed by an expert who not only checked the technical accuracy of what you'll learn in this book, but also provided invaluable insight and suggestions.

Our special thanks are extended to Craig S. Former president of Royal Crown Cola, Ltd. Acknowledgments Thanks are due to my wife Mary Toropov, and to Steve Denson, who provided invaluable help with dictation and editing work and, all the more remarkable, did so when I was not exactly at my best, thanks to a painful nagging eye problem. I would also like to thank my Creator for allowing that painful nagging eye problem to pass. My gratitude also goes out to all the good people at Macmillan who made this book possible: Theresa Murtha, Megan Newman, Gretchen Henderson, Nancy Warner, Robyn Burnett, and everyone else involved in the planning and execution of this project.

I'd like to add a special word of thanks to Dick Staron, whose experience, vision, patience, and guidance are very deeply appreciated, now as always. Don't tell me you're going to give me grief, too. What makes you think I'd be willing to do that? This is simple. Even you should be able to understand it in no time. I just can't work under these conditions. Everyone is difficult sometimes.

But some people, it seems, are difficult most of the time. Is there a secret to dealing with people who make life generally harder than it ought to be? There may not be one secret. But there are a number of techniques you can use to get a better fix on why people act the way they do, what encourages them to keep acting that way, and what you can do about the people who threaten to drive you crazy.

The best way to get started is by taking a good, long, look at the common denominators of the people who seem to live to make life difficultand some of the most common mistakes we make in interacting with them. The evidence is clear. It's visible in countless encounters in offices, shops, public areas, over the telephone, and across customer service counters. Difficult people are everywhere, and the people they torment have to find some way to interact with them.

It's not just your imagination. There do seem to be a lot more soreheads, whiners, wind-bags, and powertrippers lying in wait for us nowadays than in years past. And since it isn't our imagination, don't we have a right to ask: Who are these people? What do they really want? Why do they act the way they do?

What should we do when we run into them? The why of the difficult person may be the toughest of these questions to answer. Some people think the general level of civility has simply declined over the last few decades, causing escalating wars of inconsiderate behavior.

Some suggest the cause may be our. At the same time, many observers feel the problem lies in the economy's ability to produce jobs that leave people feeling stifled and unfulfilled for most of their waking hoursand ready to take out their feelings on others. Still others believe the modern mass media have encouraged a certain unhealthy self-absorption in some quarters.

Whatever the reason, the truth is there are a lot of rudeniks, interpersonal saboteurs, and manipulators out there. In this chapter, you learn the best basic ways to approach the tough job of interacting with difficult people, some tools you can use to make more sense of these folks, and some simple steps you can take in just about any situation to help you hold your ground without causing a scene. Finally, the information in this chapter will get you started on reaching the ultimate goal in dealing with difficult people: Quietly teaching them how to take action to adjust their own attitudes for the better.

Pretending that the people behind trying day-to-day encounters don't really exist can be a big mistake. Consider these two fictional accounts of run-ins with people who make life toughaccounts that represent the kinds of real-life attitude dilemmas you run into on a regular basis. I Want to Get Through Now! Jane, an executive assistant, found herself talking to an irate customer who was bound and determined to get in touch with her boss.

The boss was on vacation, but the fellow on the other end of the line didn't feel like hearing any excuses. He demanded to be put through to the top, right away. On vacation, eh? I'll just bet he's on vacation. From me and the rest of the customers he's swindled. You walk into that blowhard's office and tell him that I've got a problem with the kiddie pool his company makes, and that if he doesn't pick up this phone within two minutes, he's going to have a complaint through the Consumer Product Commission to deal with. Did you realize that your pools puncture the moment a kid wades in them wearing a pair of cleated soccer shoes?

Well, that's. Put the craven little hypocrite on the line right now. Jane was briefly tempted to hang up on the howler, but she realized that doing so would probably only escalate the conflict. The customer would probably follow through on his threat to get state consumer affairs officials involved, and even though his claim of a product defect was laughable, the prospect of wading through the paperwork and fielding more of the customer's grating phone calls for her boss made Jane feel woozy.

The boss really was out for the week. How on earth was Jane supposed to deal with the telephone tirade? I need you to look at my rsum, Peter's brother Eddie said one weekend.

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I've got a big interview coming up tomorrow, and you know so much more about rsums than I do. Eddie had been out of work for a long time, and Peter wanted to try to find a way to help him make a new start. This job seemed perfect for him. He was happy to help Eddie brush up the rsum and, as luck would have it, Eddie did get the job offer shortly after his interview.

The week Eddie started work, he called his brother again and said, I need you to help me set up an outline for a presentation I'm going to be making tomorrow. You're a whiz at that sort of thing, Peter, and I'm still finding my sea legs around the office. Can you come by and take a look at things for me tonight?


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  • Peter dutifully made his way over to his brother's apartment. Two hours and one soggy pepperoni pizza later, a top-notch presentation was ready to be presented to Eddie's boss the next morning. The work was barely finished before Peter heard his brother ask, Before you go, do you think you could help me double-check these figures my boss needs for a report next week? I've been going through hell lately trying to figure out how to make the spreadsheet program on my computer work, and you're so much better at that sort of thing than I am.

    You could do it in a flash, right?

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    It was ten o'clock at night, and Peter had been hoping to head home and get some sleep before reporting to work at his own job. But Eddie was his brother. Peter switched on Eddie's computer and helped him assemble the figures he needed. As the weeks went on, Eddie's requests for help became more and more predictable. They were always accompanied by some flattering remark about how talented Peter was in the area in question.

    Every compliment carried an unspoken, but powerful, message: If you don't help me, I'll fall on my face. Peter felt guilty when he thought about not pitching in. Still, he realized that if things kept up the way they were going, he'd be working two full-time jobs: his own, and his brother's. The trouble was, he was only going to get paid for one of them. Peter was a victim of the beyour-best-friend syndrome. Peter knew he couldn't simply turn his back on a member of the family, but he also knew he had to find a way to change the pattern that had developed between himself and Eddie.

    Had he put himself in an impossible position by helping Eddie to get the job he wanted? How to Respond? More often than you realize, the difficult people you encounter every day take advantage of your desire to find a quick way out of the situations they dump in your lap. These people don't usually come out and say it, but what they may really mean is, It will only get worse if you don't do what I want this time.

    Get your boss on the line, or you'll have to deal with more calls like this one. Do my work for me, or you'll be responsible for me fouling up on the job. The truth is, though, finding short-term escape routes from these situations may only exacerbate the problem. If you offer vague excuses and tell the irate caller you'll look into the problem, the next day's call is likely to be all the more irrational and unpleasant.

    If you start playing games with the relative who takes advantage of your willingness to help out by, for instance, pretending to be busy every time he needs help, you may deepen the existing self-esteem issues he faces, and make your own relationship with him more challenging. Maybe I Can Baffle Him with Bull You can close your eyes and hold your breath when you come face to face with a difficult person if you want.

    The sad truth is, though, these folks usually won't go away if you try to ignore them, wait them out, or to get off the line by making a plausible-sounding excuse. There are three big reasons not to try to deal with the people who make your life difficult by setting up fasttalking end runs that supposedly minimize the difficult person's influence. Here they are. Number One: Short-Term Relationships Crash and Burn That irate kiddie-pool customer needs to hear a reason to change behavior patterns.

    By lapsing into bureaucratspeak, as we may be sorely tempted to do, we only increase the likelihood that we will be unable to turn the exchange into a conversation between two people, rather than two automatons speaking steadily louder. Experienced customer-service reps have developed some pretty canny strategies that you can use to encourage real-world connections with even the most furious callers. One is to highlight something that makes you sound more like a human being than a faceless functionarylike a problem you face on the job.

    I've been spread incredibly thin here since Mr. Jones headed off to the Bahamas. In fact it's been the toughest week I can remember.

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    I may need some time to track down the most recent warrantee information on the product you bought. The alternatives, simply repeating the organization's policy, or restating a formal-sounding excuse such as I am not authorized to address that run the risk of making your encounter with the difficult person even more unpleasant than it already is.

    When they know the other person has essentially given up on the exchange, difficult people figure they have nothing to loseand they might as well cause an even bigger stink, either with you or someone else. The best customer-service authorities train their reps to follow three steps. Ask for the facts and listen to the answers you receive. Accept responsibility and promise specific steps to help correct the situation. Peter's brother appears to be presenting him with an impossible choice: Take over a good chunk of my work, or assume personal responsibility for the outcome if I don't do well.

    No matter how much simpler it may appear in the short term to give in, Peter has to find a way to change the operating assumptions. Someone in Peter's situation has to find a way to reinforce positive behavior when it arisesor, as author Tom Peters of In Search of Excellence fame puts it, catch people in the act of doing it right. By insisting on cooperative effort, praising forward movement when it appears in even the most modest form, and setting up reasonable limits in advance I'll help you get the hang of this program, but I can't stay past , Peter can probably expect to get much better results.

    If Peter makes no effort to set realistic limits, he is going to be in for an ongoing cycle of opportunism on his brother's part and unspoken resentment on his part. The result? A long-term downward spiral in the. If the difficult person you must interact with is convinced that a particular behavior pattern works, the pattern will continue or intensify.

    Are they frightened by my threat to summon state authorities to look into the kiddie-pool scandal?

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    Threaten them again, perhaps more loudly, until the refund check materializes. Is he concerned enough by my appeal for help that he'll pull my project out of the fire this time? Flatter him even more shamelessly the next time a tough situation comes up. From Screamers to Snakes in the Grass As you've seen, difficult people who shout and bluster their way through exchanges aren't the only types to watch out for.

    Those who use subtle emotional manipulation to get you to do what they want can be just as taxing. Members of both groups can make your life miserable if you let them. Difficult People Who Take the Overt Approach People that fall into this category are like the angry customer who doesn't believe what you say, and, at least initially, may not appreciate any effort you may make to act on his or her behalf. These people are likely to set their minds on a particular objective Get the person on the other end of the line to admit wrongdoing and simply pound away at that goal relentlessly.

    They may need to be granted permission to rant and rave for a moment or two. These folks are like the relative who tries to duck responsibility and use guilt to get others to carry the load. These people may make subtle, or perhaps not-so-subtle, appeals to past experiences that have little or nothing to do with the situation you both face now.

    They may attempt to cast themselves as the victim in the present situation, even though there's no logical reason to do so. Standing Firm: It's Easier Than It Looks Both types of difficult people, overt and indirect, can often be pointed in the right direction by your encouragement using a tactful series of exchanges that result in clear next steps for the difficult person to followsteps that don't leave you feeling compromised. Read on. Let the Blusterer Know You Understand After letting the blusterer speak his or her piece and maybe blow off a little steam , you're ready to help build up or reinforce a constructive relationship.

    You can hold on to your principles and your own self-esteem when dealing with the difficult person who takes the overt approach by making an understanding statement. This statement does not address the specific facts in the situation, but it does show that you appreciate the other person's concerns. In many cases, these people are simply eager to be heard in the first placeeven though their communication style more or less guarantees that people won't feel much like listening to them.

    Understanding statements help you and the blusterer overcome the nobody-will-listen syndrome. Your understanding statement to the blusterer might sound something like this: I understand how frustrating it must be for you to have to deal with a pool that leaks, Mr. I have children myself, and I know what it's like to have to tell them they can't play with something they've been looking forward to.

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    No guarantee of a refund, no confrontational stance; just a statement of understanding, complete with honest real-world experience to support it. Having laid this foundation, you'll be in a much better position to avoid caving in to the blusterer. What you say next could sound like the following: I'm going to try to get to the bottom of this problem for you quickly, because I know it's the type of difficulty that should remain unresolved no longer than it possibly has to.

    Things are very hectic here right now, because I'm handling all the phone traffic this week while Mr. Jones is in the Bahamas. Can I take a look around the office for the most recent warrantee information on this product and call you back tomorrow morning at with an update? What's not to like?

    The person on the other end of the line can rest assured that we know exactly what he's going through.

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    We've stated our desire to find the answer to the question he's run into and we've avoided falling into the trap of reciting an answer as if it were being delivered by Robby the Robot. Instead of reading from a rulebook, we've suggested a tactful cooling-off period and a promise to take the initiative and get back in touch at a specific later date.

    Your update is likely to contain the same information you'd supply right now, only better documented, but at least the blusterer has found someone to. The next day's call may just go a little more smoothly. Praise the Indirect Manipulator's Objective What about that relative of Peter's who seems to expect him to fill in as an unpaid assistant for the foreseeable future?

    The key here is to let the other person know his or her intent is praiseworthy and a sign of real ability and personal achievement. Peter might decide to say something like this: It's great that you want to make a strong impression with this project during your first week on the job, Eddie. I know you're going to do a fantastic job there. But I have to tell you, I think you may be selling yourself short when it comes to setting up spreadsheets.

    I've seen you use the graphics program on your laptop. You're a real pro with that application! Pull it up now, I want to show you some of the things it has in common with the spreadsheet program you're going to be using on the job. By framing the brief instruction period with praise, rather than criticism, Peter stands a better than even chance of showing his brother how to expand his own skills.

    He also sends an important message: Praise is associated with the development of independence. Of course, there's a lot more to dealing with difficult people than these two simple redirection techniques. But they're an excellent starting point. The rest of the book will give you some ideas on where to go from here. Remember, difficult people usually know full well that other people are intimidated by their overt or indirect tactics. They use their tricks to initiate and reinforce cycles that work to their advantageand your disadvantage.

    By supplying an alternative to letting the difficult person set the agenda, you can take the first important step toward setting up a more constructive, realistic relationship. The Least You Need to Know Ignoring or giving in to overbearing or manipulative behavior may only make the situation worse. Difficult people come in two basic types: Overt and indirect. Learning to recognize both types can help you deal with the problems they cause. When dealing with blusterers, use the understanding statement, which distances you from the facts of the situation but allows you to demonstrate concern based on your own real-world experience.

    When dealing with indirect manipulators, praise the person's basic positive intent and refocus the exchange on the most productive ways for the difficult person to realize the goals associated with that intent. Abraham Lincoln once submitted the name of a Reverend Shrigley to the Senate for confirmation as a military chaplain.

    The appointment gave rise to protests from certain notoriously cantankerous religious leaders, and Lincoln decided to meet with those he had offended to find out what the problem was. Having exchanged pleasantries with the representatives of the group that opposed Reverend Shrigley's nomination, the President got down to business. On what point of doctrine, he asked his pious visitors, is the gentleman unsound? He does not believe in the endless punishment, a scowling senior member of the group intoned. He believes that even the rebels themselves will ultimately be redeemed, despite their wicked ways.

    It will never do to have a man with such views serve in the capacity of military chaplain. Lincoln was silent for a long moment. Finally, he said, If that be so, gentlemen, and if there is any way under heaven by which the rebels, living or dead, can be turned from their present course, I say we ought to hazard the theological risks that may come our way let the man be appointed.

    The bewhiskered representatives of orthodoxy had to admit that the president's broad objective was a sound one that was in keeping with the spirit, if not the letter, of the doctrine of their churches. They withdrew their opposition, and Shrigley was confirmed. Did it matter to Lincoln why his guests felt so strongly about the doctrine of eternal damnation? Should it have? Consider the following steps in the President's communication process: Lincoln hears his visitors out and learns of their concerns. Lincoln highlights a value he and the members of the group share: turning the rebels from their present course.

    Lincoln wins the assent of the members in the group for his candidate. Lincoln didn't engage in a long-winded debate about the implications of a particular religious doctrine. Neither did he make any attempt to act on the deep, underlying causes of his guests' outlook on eternal damnation. Instead, he talked about turning the rebels around. No one in the room could, or did, quibble with the validity of that goal. There are any number of theories we may use to psychoanalyze those who make life difficult for us. We may decide that they received too little affection as children, or too much affection as children, or the wrong type of affection as children.

    We may conclude that a particular person is, as a result, acting to compensate for early problems with parents or other loved ones. We may tell ourselves that a particular difficult person is out to get as much attention as possible, or establish constant control over others, or act out against authority figures, or pursue an agenda that ensures they will always fail due to some form of self-sabotage. Yet unless we're acting in the role of therapist, the issue of whether these attempts at psychoanalysis are correct or incorrect makes little or no difference to our relationship with the difficult person.

    What matters most is that we accept that the person we're dealing with looks at the world in a unique way, a way that's probably considerably different from our own. News flash: People who rub us the wrong way seldom share our outlook on the world in a glove-fitting way. The trick is to become willing to move past rightness and wrongness, and see beyond the surface differencesas Lincoln did in his encounter with the church officials.

    When we put aside matters of fact or, more commonly, opinion or dogma and study the other person's viewpoint carefully, we'll be better positioned to find some point both sides can agree on. We'll be well on our way to dealing more effectively with difficult people. The Familiar Cycles They Want to Initiate Difficult people, as a very general rule, like to do things in a familiar way. We are all creatures of habit to some degree, of course, but people who make life trying or unbearable for others generally do so by clinging to a particular routine or preconception long after someone else would have tried a different approach.

    Even a difficult person who delights in keeping others on the defensive may attempt to develop a certain predictable i. Difficult people, in other words, can be expected to rely on seeing the world from their own unique perspective, and they may become extremely reliant on a predictable routine.

    A difficult workaholic may expect everyone to put in an endless succession of hour days; a difficult idler may give expensive, unrealistic estimates of how long it will take someone else to complete a given project. Similarly, a creative manager, used to ripping product plans to shreds for two and three hours at a stretch in order to encourage exciting new approaches, may stare in blank disbelief at a by-the-numbers subordinate who habitually tests, retests, and re- retests before making even a preliminary commitment to a new idea.

    Both approaches, when adhered to rigidly, will end up making life difficult for someone. Both approaches represent persistent personal programming. How is persistent personal programming likely to affect your relationship with the difficult person? This is the guiding force behind the here we go again feeling you may experience from time to time with this person.

    People who are hard to deal with may: Attempt to apply one or a few guiding principles to any and every situation. Confirm and reconfirm long-standing suspicions about the world at large and, quite possibly, ignore stark evidence that does not support those suspicions.

    Assume that others will see a given issue in essentially the same way they do. Assume that others are capable of roughly the same deeds they are. Assume that their own skill gaps will almost always represent daunting challenge areas for others. Cite the inflexibility of other people as a recurrent problem in their relationships with others. Do whatever is necessary to hold on to a familiar way of approaching things. Your Secret Weapon: Commonality In Chapter 1, one of the tools the harried secretary used in dealing with her insistent caller was an assurance that she, too, had children, and knew what it was like to have to deal with a favorite toy that didn't function properly.

    Building bridges with a difficult. It's one of your most important weapons. You can use commonality to reassure the difficult person that he or she is on familiar ground when interacting with you. If you can convince the person that you and he or she are capable of thinking in the same, familiar way, you may be able to minimize a lot of pointless friction that would otherwise come up. Honest, verifiable commonality could sound like this:. To a telemarketer who won't get off the line: You know, my sister had a job selling over the phone not too long ago.

    She told me all about it, so I know how tough the managers can be sometimes. We're not going to take advantage of what you have to offer tonight, but I hope you have better luck with your supervisor than she had with hers. To a superior who constantly insists on proof of your having quadruple- and quintuple-checked everything you hand in: I know how much difference just a little bit of attention to detail can make.

    I once stopped a promotional piece from going to press that had a swear word scribbled on a corner of one of the negatives! It was pretty small, and everyone else in the office had missed it except for me. If I hadn't decided to make one more review of the negatives at the end of the day, it could have been disastrous. To a colleague eager to whine about virtually anything: It's true; sometimes it seems like the system's set up to encourage only the finest brand of mediocrity when it comes to decisions about office space.

    Remind me to show you my collection of Dilbert cartoons from my last job sometime! Anyway, I guess we're going to have to make the best of things with this office redesign plan, and here's my suggestion on how we can do it. Implying that your boss shouldn't worry so much about spotting errors will only make the error-eradication inquisitions more frequent.

    Repeating the standard brush-offs will only convince the telemarketer to redouble his or her efforts to yammer through the rest of the sales pitch without stopping. Suggesting that your colleague complains too much will only convince your coworker that you're one of them.

    As long as you can do so responsibly, use commonality to embrace and support the other person's viewpoint at the outset of your exchange with the difficult person. Excuses, Excuses The top ten reasons people give for not using appeals to commonality early on in their exchanges with difficult people: 1.

    It'll never work. It takes too much time, and I don't particularly feel like spending any more time with this person than I have to. I can't think of anything that would support or embrace this person's viewpoint. It will only encourage the person. The person wouldn't bother to do the same for me.

    It might be perceived as a sign of weakness. If I do, the person may decide to rely on me the next time there's a big fight. It would compromise my integrity. I don't feel like getting drawn into this person's way of looking at the world. It might rub off on me. If I do, the other person will think I'm trying to poke fun at him or her. Did one or more of the reasons above sound familiar to you? Every single one of these rationalizations is off-base.

    How do you suppose people keep their sanity while working for truly difficult bosses? It can be done! By learning to look at things as their bosses would, and demonstrating that ability to their bosses on a regular basis, that's how! Items two and three, which claim it's a waste of time or essentially impossible to try to discuss things from another person's point of view, are pretty much absurd on their face.

    Any good salesperson can tell you that investing the time necessary to define a prospect's needs as he or she defines them is one of the most efficient and most reliable ways to win new business. If learning about another person's outlook can work for salespeople who have to deal with difficult people, it can work for you. Items four and five are almost as bad. The only encouragement you'll be giving the difficult person is to think of you as a fair-minded individual; someone without an ax to grind.

    As a general rule, people don't dump on potential alliesthey may need them later on! As for the difficult person's unwillingness to show the same concern for you, you'll learn in the next chapter how making the first move is one of the best ways to reinvigorate stagnant, or worse communication patterns. Make a quick mental list of the five people you most respect and are least likely to antagonize. Doesn't the force of their internal code, their obvious willingness to treat you fairly and well, bring about your desire to treat them well in return?

    As for number six, if talking to someone in an open, accepting way counts as a sign of weakness, we're all in big trouble. Agents of hostile foreign powers and fugitives from the law may represent exceptions to this statement, but they're probably not the people you have to deal with on a regular basis.

    Will the difficult person see your attempt to establish commonality as a pledge to stand up as an ally during the next fit or tantrum, as the speaker of statement number seven fears? Probably not, but if he or she does, you certainly have no obligation to play that role if you feel it's inappropriate to do so.

    As for the question of whether taking a few moments to see an issue from another person's point of view will compromise your integrity, get real. Intransigence begets intransigence. The last two items, which have to do with, as it were, getting the difficult person's cooties and worrying about whether or not your own overtures will be misinterpreted,.

    Outlooks aren't diseases; you won't become a difficult person because you try, for a brief moment, to accept the viewpoint of a difficult person. As for the expression of common concern being viewed as ridicule, only the most hypersensitive sorts will make that mistake. If they do, a gentle, sincere reassurance will usually be enough to correct the misimpression. Adjustments, Not Victories Establishing commonality is an initial step, not a magic wand that magically resolves conflicts and guarantees positive outcomes. As we'll see in the next chapter, fixating on outcomes isn't always the best approach when dealing with difficult people.

    Your aim should be to establish an atmosphere in which both people can attempt to make adjustments, rather than an atmosphere in which one person can claim a victory. Difficult people have a way of black-and-whiting situations; those who learn to interact with them effectively learn how to avoid taking the bait. Even a tough project manager will appreciate on some level suggestions that do in fact result in greater revenue for the department, but winning the opportunity to demonstrate the potential of one's ideas requires patience and a certain willingness to overlook or work past interpersonal challenges.

    The Art of the Possible. Dealing with difficult people is very often a long-term undertaking; a matter of encouraging a number of small changes that result in a steadily stronger set of personal connections. By focusing on what can be accomplished from a given person's outlook, rather than on what can't, you'll be in a better position to encourage a long-term change for the better.