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Handling Hard Conversations with Challenging People
September 14, 2021
I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.
-Lao Tzu

"People problems in work settings is the top stressor for most workers," write Luis Hernandez and Connie Jo Smith, in an article that is part of the Exchange Essentials article collection, "Dealing with Difficult People."

"Who are these folks?" they ask? "They are the ones that we can easily recognize because they can bug us individually or can drive the entire team bonkers. They are the ones who:

• are bossy
• act superior
• are loud and aggressive
• are phonies
• try to please too much."

The authors offer a variety of strategies for dealing with these challenging folks.

Ron Friedman, writing in the November 2016 edition of Harvard Business Review, gives some pointers on how to negotiate an emotionally charged conversation with someone you find difficult.

Friedman recommends using a technique represented by the acronym PEARLS:

  • Partnership ('I bet we can figure this out together.')
  • Empathy ('I can hear your concern.')
  • Acknowledgment ('You clearly put a lot of work into this.')
  • Respect ('I've always appreciated your creativity.')
  • Legitimation ('This would be hard for anyone.')
  • Support ('I'd like to help you with this.')

"The key," Friedman notes, "is to employ them sparingly at first and to say only the ones that genuinely reflect how you feel."

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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Tiffany Peckham · September 17, 2021
Lincoln, NE, United States

Sarah, thank you for your comment and sharing the article.

-Tiffany at Exchange

Sarah Becker · September 15, 2021
Cambridge, NY, United States

The study on the 30 million word deficit is now called into question because of the very limited number of children and families in the study as well as questions of bias that may have influenced assumptions. It’s time to stop referring to this study while still deeply valuing the place of early conversation and language in children’s reading and writing development.

Please refer to this article from NPR:


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