3 x 3 methods to win over difficult people


From time to time you may meet people that appear extremely difficult to get along with and where you think: “Oh my god, this is a nightmare! It is so frustrating and annoying to work with this person (or group). What on earth could I do to make it easier for me to improve the relationship?”.

If this is the case, please read on and feel inspired by three different approaches I present to you that contain a three-step element in regards to working with resistance in a constructive manner.

Change your perspective
Use the simple “3 position” approach to find out more about different perspectives.

Think of a conflict or a challenging situation involving others, then…

  1. First go into position “ME” and ask yourself: What is my desire? What do I need?
  2. Secondly, change to position “YOU” and slip into the shoes of others that were participating in the conflict. Try to see the world from their position. Ask yourself: What do I see / feel / think / need on the YOU position (the position of the other person)?
  3. Thirdly, go to the position of a third person that is able to see both ME and YOU position. Observe, what you can perceive from this different point of view.

At last, go back to ME position and reflect on what you can take away from this exercise.

Crucial success factor: This lesson works best if you not only go through the positions mentally, but you actually work with moderation cards on the floor and change positions physically.

Basic resistance handling
From a change management perspective you can use a three-fold approach reflecting resistance.


Ask yourself: Is your counterpart…

  • not knowing?
    Then you will have to communicate and inform more than in the past. Use roadshows, information channels, emailing, websites, flyer. Offer knowledge transfer sessions and feedback opportunities.
  • unable?
    Then you will have to qualify more. Offer trainings, education sessions, support in knowledge transfer. Help impacted employees in better coping with new or adapted roles.
  • unwilling?
    This is the hardest part. In this case, you will have to enter a dialogue, reframing arguments, initiate a negotiation process, may use sanctions/rewards, and/or confront. You may also want to use coaching as a means to support and resolve conflicts.

First of all, you have to find out in which category your counterpart (impacted person) falls, then you choose suitable activities and approaches.

Point-of-view-based resistance handling
Paul Lahninger (“Resistance as a motivation”) has illustrated in his excellent book that you can use three different interventions to effectively deal with difficult people depending on your point of view.


  • Empathize if the YOU is supposed to be the corner stone of your message => Be an active listener, repeat to what you have heard in appreciative words, ask for more information
  • Rationalize if you want to put the TOPIC and the WE into the center of your message => Clarify topics, negotiate to find solutions for different requirements, delegate to others to find a solution together
  • Set boundaries if you want to put the ME into the center of your message => Show how you feel right now, ask for something, confront your counterpart, set conditions, answer in a provocative way

Your strategy very much depends on what do you want to be the central aspect in your message and interaction with the other person. Is it rather a YOU, WE or ME? This has a vital impact on your proceeding.

These are three different yet similar approaches and methods to cope with difficult personalities, may they be clients, partners, colleagues or employees.
I invite you to give this a chance and use some of these ideas the next time you find yourself in a situation with a difficult counterpart.

Good luck and have success!

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