How to Handle an Abusive Person

Posted on: July 31st, 2013 by bobmorris

HBR Tip

Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.

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Some people are demanding; others are downright rude.

If you’re not in a position to stop working with a difficult person, prepare yourself instead. Expect your greedy, selfish, or angry client to act poorly so you won’t be caught off guard.

o When you sense that he is about to say something hurtful, say to yourself: “Here it comes.”

o After he delivers the blow, take a deep breath and pause until he realizes he hasn’t provoked you into losing your cool.

o Then say something like, “Say that again?” or “Do you really mean what you just said?”

This is often enough to cause him to reflect on his behavior and change his approach. If not, at least you didn’t get flustered. The conversation may still be stressful, but preparing keeps you from being blindsided.

Adapted from “How to Deal with a Toxic Client” by Mark Goulston.

To check out that article, please click here.

Also, you may wish to check out an anthology, Management Tips from Harvard Business Review, by clicking here.

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