How to communicate with a difficult person? We all have that one person in life with whom we find difficult to communicate. Communication is the backbone on which any relationship rests. It is good to speak the mind and be truthful. However, what matters most is what, why, when, where and how of the communication.
I have often heard people saying that truth is not easy to accept but I think that is not an entirely correct statement. Though it is correct that most of us love to live in a world of denial and are not ready to accept our weaknesses even when shown. The problem gets further aggravated when truth is shown by a junior to a senior. However, my experience says that where most of us go wrong is in choosing the content, location, and method of conveying the truth.
What and How….
I was once told by a senior it is always better for a junior to say ‘I have not been able to explain, I will try again’ when a senior has not understood his / her viewpoint. But many a juniors end up conveying ‘You have not understood’. Both statements convey the same “senior has not understood’ but the first statement sounds more respectful with the junior taking on the ownership. However, the second statement is bound to hurt the ego of a senior and may have serious repercussions. The aim should be to convey a view without causing any hurt. This sounded sensible to me, but I must admit there were times where I forgot the golden rule and ended up on wrong side of the senior.
When and Where….
There are seniors who think that the appointment they hold give them the right to shout, humiliate/ insult the junior whenever and wherever they feel. How long can a junior hold his/ her emotions back in such a situation? Someday he/ she is bound to let go. I personally had a very Iow threshold for accepting nonsense and believed in following the path of letting go. I have gone to the extent of telling a boss ‘You do not know your job, let me do mine’ publicly. However, in retrospect I think it is always better to hold back the emotions for that time. It is not at all sensible to hit back in a public place or in a conference where others are also present. It is always better to seek an appointment and convey the viewpoint to the boss in the privacy his cabin. Chances of his accepting the right view are very high after discussions in the cabin. If the boss still refuses to see the light, then by all means next time give him/ her your piece of mind the moment he tries to humiliate (and be ready to face the consequences).
Many a times the juniors or even seniors fail to ‘understand the why’. Why a senior or a junior has behaved in a particular way. The professional upbringing, home environment, life complexes all affect the behaviour. It does not require too much of an effort to understand the reason behind a behaviour or a reaction of any individual. I have served with bosses who believed that a strong dose of ‘shouting’ in the morning conferences kept the junior on the toes through the day and improved their performances. Nothing can be more far from true, but juniors cannot help it. Do not let such behaviour upset you. All juniors have their own strategy of dealing with such bosses. We used to get together in the senior colleague’s office after the meeting and curse the boss to our heats content, have a hearty laugh and get going with the work. May not the best way to deal with the situation but it worked for us.
Another ‘why’ which should be very clear in communication is ‘Why should you communicate/ react/ respond?’ and ‘Why should you respond in a particular way?’ Think over these two questions deliberately, analyse the damage which can result and your own ability to deal with the consequences before taking a call. You should not regret whatever action you take. If you are married and your analysis indicates a profession threatening outcome than it is better to take your spouse on board. You do not have to seek their approval but keep them informed. More often than not the spouse may suggest a much better way of dealing with the situation. I must admit my wife did show sparks of brilliance in suggesting solutions in such situations.
Every individual can work out his or her own way of communicating with a difficult boss based on personal experience. The methods I have mentioned are purely based on my experience and may not work for all. People are advised to take a plunge after giving a deliberate pre thought to the envisaged action or reaction.