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Dealing with Frustrating People the ABT Way

We don’t always get to choose the people we work with. And even when we do, those chosen few can turn out to be much more difficult than we expected. But looking to the positive side of the ledger, situations where you have to deal with frustrating people are ripe for practicing your Asset-Based Thinking (ABT) skills!

Through ABT, you can learn to minimize the effect of others’ negative behavior on you. By focusing the spotlight of your attention on their assets, you open yourself to what they have to offer.

Assume you have something to learn from everyone you meet.

Taking this perspective dissolves animosity and piques curiosity as opposed to conflict. As a result, you are in a position to explore what you and this (formerly) frustrating individual can create together.

If you have a strong working relationship with someone, it’s fairly easy to think of their good qualities and keep them top of mind. As such, you will get much better practice if you try ABT feedback with a more challenging friend, colleague or family member.

Take this story from my latest book Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do.

An executive client of mine was the senior vice president of operations for a large science company. He was scheduled to have what he anticipated to be a confrontational telephone conversation with an important stakeholder opposed to his latest project. His colleague, who already had a relationship with the stakeholder, was not available to sit in on the call and support him.

“I was nervous and unsure how I could have a purposeful call with someone who had opposed us so strongly. I also wished my colleague could have done it instead of leaving it to me! But, I also knew this was mine to take on, and I had to get myself in the right mindset to respectfully engage the other person,” he said.

“I thought back on my ABT training, and in particular…  “assume positive intentions.” I had to shift my perspective of the other person. I had to see where we had common and aligned interests. And the more I thought that through, it was the case.

“That small shift in perspective allowed me to approach the conversation in the most open, respectful and constructive way possible. And I am glad to say it was a successful call and important step on the path to finally gaining community support for the [project].”

The client knew he had to find some way of seeing something positive in the person’s character or he would have spoken with an unproductive tone and demeanor that surely would have been picked up on the other end of the line. Leveraging his ABT mindset, he was able to build trust and realize common ground with the key stakeholder.

Give frustrating people a mental 5 to 1.

The next time you are scheduled to meet with someone you find difficult, take a few minutes beforehand to think about that person’s assets, talents, and capabilities.

Try to find five specific things you admire about him or her. Regardless of how much they may irritate you, keep your list of their deficits down to one piece of constructive criticism.

And then let that one go too.

Dwell on the five admirable qualities and when you next interact with this person, you will have these positive attributes at the forefront of your mind. When you remember all the ways this individual brings value, you will find it much easier to set aside your differences.

What are your tips for working with difficult people?

Photo by: Melepix

Dr. Kathy Cramer

Kathryn D. Cramer, PH.D.
Founder and Managing Partner, The Cramer Institute