Identify Types – Know What Kind of “Difficult” You’re Up Against

by Ron Shapiro

Before you meet with a person, you should do a little homework. Making identification an automatic habit will help ease this step and better your skills. First do some research to learn about the person and their background, reputation, and even quirks. The more you know about the person before you meet him or her, the better prepared and less surprised you’ll be by their behavior. Next make observations each time you encounter the person, watch closely, and listen carefully. Being aware of subtle cues from and verbal and nonverbal communication including body language can help you pick up on feelings and intentions. Finally, probe to help bond and find common ground even with challenging personalities.

There are three types of difficult people:

1. The Situationally Difficult

Those people whose situation or circumstances make them difficult

• Normally nice people who become difficult under stress
• Their reactions are out of proportion to the event

Success Technique – Once you address their emotion, negotiations can proceed

2. The Strategically Difficult

Those people who believe being unreasonable is effective

• People who make you feel as if they are “up to something”
• People who try to make you “play by their rules”

Success Technique – If you address the tactic, they will modify their behavior.

3. The Simply Difficult

Those people with an ingrained personality characteristic

• People who make demands but do not explain why
• People who are difficult regardless of the situation

Success Technique – If you balance the power, you have a better chance of success.

If you found these tips from Ron Shapiro of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in his self-paced, downloadable courses at


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