Dealing with Difficult Personalities

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Description: Learn all about difficult personalities—what makes people act that way—and how you can create better outcomes when you need to interact with them. Learn about different personality and communication styles, what you can and can’t influence, and how to recover from situations that, despite your best efforts, do not turn out as expected.


  • Know what makes for difficult personalities.
  • Learn to use communication approaches that work and avoid those that don’t.
  • Understand your individual communication style, by taking the What’s My Communication Style? Assessment.
  • Know how to manage difficult conversations.
  • Know how to keep interactions with others appropriate and professional. Know what words, expressions, and topics to avoid.
  • Know how to be tactful.
  • Know the 4 different types of difficult personalities and learn techniques for dealing with each of them.

Time: 1 day

Course Outline

Opening – Discussion

  • What kinds of difficult people do you regularly come into contact with?
  • What do you think are the causes of the difficult interactions you experience?
  • Difficult personalities defined

The Importance of Communication and Personality Styles

  • What’s My Communication Style? Assessment [See activity description on page 2]
  • Communication approaches that work and those that don’t
  • It starts with you – Be calm, be kind, be clear

Three types of Difficult Conversations in the Workplace

  1. When one of the parties is verbally aggressive or otherwise difficult
  2. When you need to deliver bad news
  3. When the conversation unexpectedly takes a turn for the worse

Steps to Deal with Difficult Personalities

  1. Approach interactions with greater self-awareness.

Activity: Giving Feelings a Name

  1. Rehearse the conversation in advance where possible
  2. Apply three proven communication techniques
  3. Use specific techniques for dealing with specific personality types

The Know-it-all

The Tank

The Sniper

The Complainer

  • Activity: Practice dealing with one of these types that you may have to deal with.

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

  • The importance of congruence
  • Activity: Sending and reading nonverbal messages.

The Role of Resilience

Supportive Communication

  • What it is and why it helps in dealing with difficult personalities
  • How to do it
  • Activity: Listen to the scenario and write down how each response makes you feel.

Summary/Action Plan