Dealing with Difficult People

Training a difficult person to be slightly less difficult is doable and worth doing.scaredwoman


I recently spoke to a company and one of the questions they posed was how to use this information to set boundaries and enforce them. For instance, if you have someone else who is overstepping their bounds and infringing on you, how do you set a boundary? Where do you set it? How do you enforce it? Do you need their agreement on where the boundary is set?

Let’s start with the last question first. No, you do not need someone else’s approval to train them to respect your boundaries. If they are respectful, then by all means, do this with them and have a conversation about your boundaries and where they are and how you can help them learn to respect your boundaries. But if they are not respectful, you can still do this.

Setting Boundaries

The question on where you set a boundary is where the person who has the boundary needs it to be set. The other person doesn’t have to agree on the boundary, they just have to accept that it exists. Why is irrelevant. The only caveat is that in a work situation where one person has a boundary – if they set it in a way that prevents work from being done, then that boundary isn’t reasonable. Everything in bullying and harassment is predicated on whether they behavior is necessary and whether it serves a reasonable purpose. No reasonable purpose – sorry. But if the purpose is that you need to be treated with respect – that’s reasonable.

So – now the question is – how do you set a boundary and enforce it. Once you know what your boundary is, you need to decide on a signal to let other people know – they have crossed that boundary. This signal is a delta. It’s a signal that something isn’t right and things should stop. If you have a respectful relationship, you can have a conversation about how the person can signal you and you can signal them. If they aren’t, just decide on what your signal should be.

Signals and Deltas

A signal or delta should normally be verbal. The word “boundary” can work or “respect” of whatever chosen word or phrase you have come up with. Whenever the boundary is cross – you state the delta. What you expect to happen is for the person to stop. If they stop, thank them. Reward them for stopping. That’s what you want. No other action is needed.

If they don’t stop, then keep issuing the delta or signal until they do. Eventually since their attempts to communicate aren’t working with you – they will either stop, or try asking you why you keep saying the same thing over and over again – at which point, thank them for stopping and if they asked, explain you had a boundary.

Making it Work

The key to getting this to work is consistency and positively rewarding when the person stops. You don’t need to punish them or argue with them. You simply need to not respond except to neutrally and calmly state your delta while making eye contact. You aren’t mad, sad or upset, just – there is a boundary here and when someone crosses it – you tell them. A boundary was crossed.

Here is why punishment or getting angry is so counterproductive. If someone stops when you ask them to – and you get mad at them, you are telling them stopping is bad. You want them to think stopping is good. So positively reward them when they stop. That is all that you need them to do. There is no need to discuss or debate or explain your position. It’s irrelevant. Just – this behavior doesn’t work for you and if they want you to do something for them, you need them to ask you in a polite and calm way. You aren’t issuing judgement on them. It’s just a fact. When this boundary is crossed, you respond with your delta. They don’t want the delta, they should stop.

If you want to learn more about how to do this with bullies, join the website and access the free content. If you are in a company and would like this sort of training – visit and check out the training options.