TIB #47: This is how you deal with difficult people in your business

Written by Arno Jansen

Have you ever come across difficult people in your business? A customer, client, supplier or partner who seemed friendly but left you feeling insecure and emotionally exhausted after your done with them?

If so, you may have crossed paths with someone with toxic personality traits. Many solopreneurs are very concerned with the people they serve and work with. That is a great trait to have when building healthy, reciprocating business relations. But it can work against you when you’re dealing with toxic people.

Therefore, it is important you learn this simple 3-step method to politely but decisively show that you are unhappy with them.And maybe even terminate the relationship altogether.

You need to take care of yourself and your business first

Getting sucked into such relationships is bad and can affect you in several ways:

  • You’re constantly trying to save the person and fix their problems
  • You are drained after dealing with them, leaving you depleted for those good people around you
  • You get sucked into gossip or you feel the need to try and impress them

But fear not, let’s look at a 3 step process to deal with these relationships. This process helps you step away from the emotional side and deal with this politely without feeling guilty.

Depending on your personality this may still be tough to do, but at least you now have guidelines to know what to do when.

I call this pattern you’ll learn today “1, 2, 3 ISP”, let’s dive in:

1. Incident

The first time you get that uneasy feeling. A knot in your stomach, or you experience a negative situation with a person, label it to yourself as “an incident”.

You can do that mentally, but it may be very helpful to actually write this down somewhere. Maybe you keep a journal, or you do it in your daily notes or weekly review. Writing the incident down means you articulate the thoughts and feelings you have about this situation. That makes it more real. You acknowledge that this situation was not good.

Additionally, find a way to express that you are not pleased with their behavior. Don’t judge, just provide the feedback. If you struggle to do that in the moment, come back to it a little later when you have given in some thought.

Some people are toxic, some are just having a bad day. Letting them know what their behavior did with you, is an opportunity for them to change.

2. Signal

If, after the first incident, similar negativity happens again, it is time to label it as a “signal”. You do the same thing:

  • Write it down somewhere. Acknowledge to yourself what this behaviour does to you. Learn to articulate how it feels. Make it real.
  • Express your dismay. Again, do it immediately after the fact, or take some time to think it over. Find ways to express it in a way that you feel comfortable with. But do make an effort to express it clearly. Not only do you offer an opportunity for the other person to change their behaviour as a result, you are also standing up for yourself.

When indicating the situation to the other person, tell them this is the second time already. Not as a warning, but to make sure you’re both on the same page. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to let them know how you feel.

You can also indicate clearly that you wish to continue the relationship in a different way if this behaviour continues. It is a heads up for what may be coming.

This can be very challenging for you, depending on your personality, but it is important that you find a way to express how you feel. Preferrably with emotional distance.

3. Pattern

Finally, if the behaviour does not stop, you can label it as a pattern. Same thing as before: write it down for yourself and express you are unhappy with how things are going.

The difference is, that now you are aware that this has happened 3 times already. You have written down what effect this person has on you. And there is a clear pattern visible in the behaviour. Despite you telling this person you are not happy with the way things are going, the behaviour remains the same.

Now is the time to cut this person loose. If you haven’t already, find a way to wrap things up as quickly as possible. I would even consider leaving potential money on the table, if that helps you cut out the negativity faster.

Now what?

These three steps provide you with a method to stand up for yourself and manage your energy well. Becoming aware of the patterns in the behaviour, gives you strength when you need to part ways eventually.

If you feel reluctant to speak up, find someone to practise with before you have the conversation. On the other hand: don’t make this bigger than it is. You’re taking care of yourself and your business, and thus of all the other people around you that are not toxic.

Thats it for this issue. Hope you found it helpful!


Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

Join my free Focus Finder email course to transform yourself from deeply distracted to fully focused.

    Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

    Join my free Focus Finder course and go from deeply distracted to fully focused.

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