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How to deal with rude co-workers

Posted June 8

Question:

I have a co-worker who is driving me crazy. He is super competitive and he constantly puts us all down to make himself feel more important. He is subtle with his insults too, and assumes we will take them as joke. He brown noses the boss too and takes credit for other people’s ideas. The boss doesn’t see what is happening and is apparently impressed by him. I know it’s pointless to try to talk to the guy, I’ve kind of tried in the past and he’s not interested in getting feedback from anyone. Is there anything I can do to make him stop being a jerk or get him to just be nice? If not, can you tell me how to survive dealing with him every day?

Answer:

I’m going to give you a couple different ideas here (and these suggestions will work for anyone who has a difficult person in their life.)

The first technique is to have a mutually validating conversation and directly ask for different behavior. This works great if the other person is rational, calm, logical and capable of actually caring about you. But if you are dealing with a toxic person, who may even have narcissistic or sociopathic tendencies, you can’t get anywhere with conversation.

You could then try the encouragement technique (explained below) because it sometimes makes toxic people actually want to change themselves, but most of the time you are going to end up at option No. 3 to work on yourself and become really chill and unoffendable.

One thing to keep in mind, no matter which option you choose, is that rude people who insult others, are overly competitive, show-offs, know-it-alls or brown-nosers are usually battling a lot of fear they aren’t good enough.

It is terrible fear of failure and insecurity that makes them need to appear better than others. It will really change how you feel about this situation if you see this person accurately as scared, not just rude.

Then, one thing you can try (along with the three options below) is validating, reassuring and building up this person as much as you can. Praise them and tell them how wonderful, amazing and good they are. Even though this is the last thing you want to give people who treat you badly, it is exactly what they need.

Sometimes when they get some validation they will feel better and won’t need to put you down anymore. So keep that in mind with each of the following suggestions.

Remember people are always more motivated to change when we show them their light than when we point out their faults. People who feel good about themselves are also more loving, positive and giving towards others.

Here are my three suggestions to solve this problem:

1) Have a mutually validating conversation with them

Follow these steps for best results:

  1. Figure out the outcome you want. What kind of behavior change do you want to ask this person for? Pick one specific thing that they could do differently. (Stop being a jerk is not specific enough.) Asking for him to be careful to give appropriate credit for ideas moving forward is better.

  2. Choose the right time. Make sure you choose a time and space to have a private, uninterrupted conversation. Ask them if this is a good time and if they are open to chatting with you.

  3. Be calm. People can read your emotions and your energy. If you are angry, scared or upset when you talk, they will feel threatened and get defensive before the conversation even starts. Set your angry, nervous feelings aside, trust that your value is absolute and can’t be diminished. Trust this experience is here to teach you both something and come from a space of trust and confidence so you approach them without nerves.

  4. Set your agenda aside upfront and focus on showing up for the other person first.

  5. Ask questions about how they feel about your working relationship and life at the office. Actively listen to how they feel and whatever they have to say. Do not get defensive or upset about anything they say, just validate their right to see the situation the way they do. (Nothing they say can hurt you.) Even ask if they have any suggestions on how you can improve. Being open to getting feedback creates a safe space where you can ask permission to give some feedback later on. Make sure they feel heard and understood before going forward.

  6. Then, ask if you can ask them a favor. When they say yes (and they usually will because you have earned it after listening to them) try to phrase your needs using “I” statements as much as possible and avoid “you” statements. Say things like “I have felt … I have noticed … It feels to me that … and I was wondering if you would be willing to do this for me moving forward … it would really mean a lot to me.” Ask for the behavior you want to see moving forward and stay focused on their future behavior. Don’t talk about the past, it just makes them defensive and they can’t change it.

    If they are logical and rational, a conversation like this might work. If not try the next technique. …

2) The encouragement technique

This is a great way to go if this person can’t handle a direct conversation. First, figure out the behavior you would like to see in this person. Then, think about how you would treat him and what you would say to him if he behaved this way. Then start doing and saying these things now.

Example: "John, I just want you to know how great it is to work with you. You are so careful and respectful to all of us and so kind. I just want you to know I appreciate you man."

This might make John want to be that kind of person, because people always want to live up to your highest opinion of them. Also, when you see the highest best in people you literally push them in that direction.

Then, every time he does anything good, jump right on it and tell him how awesome, honest or humble he is. (Focus on the qualities or kind of person you want him to think he is, not the specific behavior.) This isn’t lying, it’s showing him who he has the potential to be.

(And this technique works great on kids too.)

3) Ignore the bad behavior and work on you

When you are dealing with someone whose fears, insecurities or even a mental condition makes them really impossible and toxic to deal with, there is really nothing you can do to change them or get them to care what you need.

In these situations all you can do is work on you. Practice being strong, bulletproof and in trust so no person can diminish your value with anything they do or say. You can see this experience as an amazing personal development opportunity to make you better and stronger.

You can choose to see every situation in your life as a perfect lesson the universe has brought you. Ask yourself what dealing with this person could teach you? How could it make you stronger, smarter or wiser?

See every day as a chance to practice being the most balanced, unoffendable, confident, wise person you can be. If you do this consistently others will sense the truth about who you are, and goodness, confidence, wisdom and hard work do get noticed. Eventually the truth about who you are will come through.

You can do this.

Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.

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