People – Reaching Common Ground. by
Alison Fleming BA., MAssHFP.
The main reason that communications can break down between people is through
lack of understanding. This series of short articles addresses the situation of
attempting to reach common ground and mutual understanding. Pretty deep subject
for hot foil printing you might think. But handling people effectively – as we
all know – is the crux of the matter in business dealings and when
communicating with customers. So you needn’t admit that you have read this!….
but the information it contains could lend a helping hand somewhere along the
Let’s consider first, human nature. No matter what ‘type’ of person a
character is, everyone needs to be understood. Everyone needs to feel wanted and
valued too. Each goes about fulfilling these basic human needs in his or her own
To communicate effectively, the goal is to reach common ground with whomever
and to deal on equal terms. That is, each party wishes neither to dominate or
nor be dominated by the other. The idea is to reach mutual understanding. After
all, every person has a right to be heard, to express feelings, to say
"No" without guilt, to make mistakes, and to be valued for what they
are. The daily conflict that arise tend to be due to lack of understanding. But
this can be rectified by good communications. There’s always going to be the
ultimate "odd ball" no doubt, but in general terms, reaching for equal
terms is the best way to go about things!
It is important to keep in mind that every person is made up of a unique
tapestry of genes, character, and experience. However, at the end of the day, in
order to be an effective communicator, you need to achieve the desired results
when dealing with people, so you have to keep "what you want" at the
forefront of your mind.
However, secondly you must also be flexible. There are may ways to achieve
the same goal and the person talking to you may have the best answer. Listen to
what people have to say in response to your communications. In listening it is
also important not to jump to conclusions before you have heard them out.
Try not to make assumptions about a person. Assumptions can be right, but
they may be wrong. Not making assumptions – for example, about what a person
looks like or sounds like – is hard, because we are all subconsciously looking
for common ground with people and tend to compare present characters with people
we have already come to know and love or hate as the case may be. We link
present experiences with those of the past. But by doing this we are only
putting up our own smoke screen and are bound to trip up. Paying close attention
instead is a much better way of getting to know the real person. The alternative
leaves one at risk of forming a caricature from a closed frame of reference.
In order to encourage people into your way of thinking, it is vital that you
earn their trust and respect. It is so easy to "get the wrong end of the
stick" with people, especially on first acquaintance. We need to understand
where they are coming from and this takes time.
Studies have been done that prove that – when people communicate – 55% of
what people respond to and make assumptions about is based upon what we see, 38%
is based upon what we hear and only 7% is based upon what is actually said, i.e.
the words used! There’s a lot to be said for written communications in this
case, making phone calls a close second and "man-to-man" a pretty poor
option, if we want ti interpret language in the same way!
When talking directly to a person, people are ever so clever at implying
things, through non-verbal means. This is human nature too. In some situations
people prefer to imply rather than to speak directly. The closer a person is to
another person (e.g. man and wife) the more things are implied and communicated
non-verbally. Many couples can read each other’s mind, even think things at
the same time when miles apart! However, I digress, suffice to say, we are
always on the look out for the non-verbal clues. Important though they are, the
search for them can get in the way of our absorbing verbal communication
So in order not to jump to conclusion about what people are saying, it is
best to reaffirm their communications, by repeating things back to them every so
often. For example if someone says they will call back later in the week, maybe
Friday, you can reiterate: "so, you’ll call back maybe Friday then?"
and so on. Ask questions whenever necessary, such as "will that be by phone
or in person?". This reaffirmation has always been true of formal meetings.
After a meeting the information is summarised in the form of "minutes"
or a memo. The meeting is put in writing. Good minutes include the work that has
been delegated to each person who has attended, deadlines for work to be done,
date of next meeting and so on. It makes everyone clear on everything. So why
not do it in one to one situations, where communications can so easily break
If you are one who tends to avoid "direct-speak", take care that
people do understand what you are intending to say. For instance, if you have a
complaint, it is best to air the reason for your unease before you launch into
the effects it is having. As an example, you may work with a very untidy person
and want your boss to do something about it. Instead of saying "I can’t
find anything because of all the clutter", how about "I want to be as
efficient as possible. I need a tidy office". Then specify the cause for
complaint. Then your listener can understand things from your point of view
straight away. Also, you won’t gain a reputation for being a
The next article in this series takes a look at various character types. Of
course the character types are "models", but by relating them to
people in your life, you may fall upon a fresh approach for communicating with
People – Different Types. by Alison Fleming
The last article in this series
discussed the subject of mutual understanding. Reaching this type of common
ground can be hard because – as we all know – everybody is different. There
are leaders and followers and all types in between. Folk have different ways of
doing things, different temperaments, different styles of communicating and
different priorities in life.
What is of major importance to one, is of little significance to another.
Lack of understanding in this area can cause clashes. However, some things are
the same. We all have the same rights in society and can take the opportunities
to stand up for these rights. People do stand up for their rights, but in
different ways, which is where conflict can arise. Everyone is open to
misinterpretation, simply through lack of understanding, and so the journey to
reach common ground takes longer.
In business, the attitude of ‘we’ can work it out, is preferable to the
attitude of ‘I’ can work it out. ‘We’ can work it out, leads to dealings
on equal terms which, after all is the fairest way. Again, we go back to the
initial idea that we need to understand where another party is coming from
before we can attempt to deal on equal terms.
To reach this common goal, assertiveness is a must. Assertiveness is the most
effective form of communication. It is neither passive nor aggressive. A passive
attitude often lays one’s rights open to violation. Common-or-garden
aggressiveness can assure one that one’s rights are acknowledged, but at the
expense of others.
Assertiveness has to do with being positive and confident, friendly and
fearless, acknowledging another’s point of view by listening (rather than
waiting to talk), while at all times keeping one’s own goals clearly in mind.
If all parties communicate assertively, some level of perspective and
understanding is achieved all round and dealing on equal terms is the natural
For the sake of simplicity, different character traits can be put into
categories and theoretical models can be formulated. Different people can be
considered in relation to the different theoretical models. Each model has
subcategories according to different modes of behaviour and the types of
communication that they warm to and shy away from etc, etc. When we look at the
difficult people in our own lives in relation to these theoretical models, it
can sometimes help to determine future communication tactics, or at least offer
alternative ideas that may halt the slide down that slippery slope!
So, on to the models:
People with the Ruler temperament are literally born leaders. They have the
in-built ability to order people around and to take both what they need and want
from life. Leaders are as crucial to a society structure as those who follow. A
good Leader is one who has the ability to acknowledge the value of others and to
utilise the strengths of individuals to mutual advantage. A typical Ruler type
will be a quick decision-maker, efficiency-mad, and with a need to control.
Under stress the Ruler type becomes aggressive, rude and uncooperative.
Impatient with people whom they consider to be incompetent, conversely the Ruler
type is very impressed with any character who can stand up for himself,
especially when in the Ruler "line of fire".
The Analyst temperament tends to be analytical and cautious. Details mean
everything. Decision-making is slow and methodical and precise. The Analyst does
not like to make estimates and is afraid of being wrong. The Analyst would
rather not make a decision if proof were not available to show that the decision
Under stress the Analyst becomes a chronic Complainer. Nothing is ever right.
It is difficult to deal with someone who finds the whole world against them, but
there is a way!
The Relater temperament loves to relate to other people. The Relater loves
team work and mutual support. The Relater loves to be approved of. In fact some
cannot work effectively unless full approval is in the bag. The Relater hates
aggression and confrontation and so would rather hide the truth than be put in
anyone’s firing line. Relater types are very sensitive to the feelings of
others. They need to work slowly.
The Entertainer temperament wants the whole world’s acknowledgement, so
goes all-out to get it. The Entertainer is not very good at getting things done,
but is great at talking about an idea and at mustering up the motivation in
others. The Entertainer is a quick decision-maker, although not often precise.
It’s "talk first, think later" with the Entertainer. The Entertainer
finds it hard to control emotion and is also easily embarrassed by their own
personal outbursts, which can be humiliating. The Entertainer hates to be
ignored and humiliated and finds this harder to deal with than other people
Perhaps we can see a little of ourselves in each of these character
frameworks or theoretical models. This is because each of us can only be a
mixture of the above …and each of us is indeed a tapestry and entirely unique.
However, lets stick to the models! From these categories can be created sub
categories of behavior. For example, one Analyst may react in a different way
to another given the same situation. Another example, a Ruler – under pressure
– can become either a Tank (and run all over you) or a Sniper (and hit you
with the sarcastic comments behind the safety of the public eye).
Everybody has at least one awkward person to deal with in everyday life, be
it a long term relationship to someone passed in the street.
So how to deal with different types of people?
Dealing with difficult people. (Rulers). by
Alison Fleming BA., MAssHFP.
In the previous article the idea of classifying character traits into groups was
touched upon; these groups being the Ruler, The Analyst, the Entertainer and the
Relater. Continuing in this vein, these hypothetical models can be used as a
guide when deciding how to deal with a "difficult person"! There are
various theoretical approaches for the various character types and their
sub-categories. So, some approaches may not work for some, but if just one
relationship is improved by utilising any of the theories herein, that can only
Different people find different ways to cope with the "stuff of
life". In order to be able to get on with all people, you need to attempt
to understand - to an extent - what is going on underneath a fellow's skin.
Going back to the previous articles people-types, the Relater and the
entertainer - it would be interesting to consider how each of the different
types would interact with each other. Maybe this can be done at a quiet moment,
but this month we'll take a look specifically at the ruler-type.
The ruler-type of person is someone we all come across frequently. In fact,
there is usually a little ruler in all of us! However, talking of the ruler-type
is to do with a theoretical type. We use this theory to help us to understand
how to communicate better with people who have such a trait, although we know
that there is no such hackneyed image in real life.
Sp - for the purposes of the theory - the ruler is a person who likes to be
in control. In considering that good communications requires that we deal on
equal terms, and that we respect each other's character differences, it may be
the best idea to let the person who likes to be in control, take control. Ask
what would be the best idea, how do they see things from where they are standing
A ruler under stress can be a hard person to bear. He/she can become so
domineering as to become intimidating and impossible to communicate with. When
you find yourself in a situation like this, in order to break this pattern it is
imperative not to be trampled on, squashed and spat out! There is nothing a
ruler likes better than to be challenged by a subordinate and nothing he
respects better than a subordinate who stands up for the right to speak out. In
fact, if you can hold your own with a ruler you could end up bosom pals. So,
stand your ground. There is no need to start shouting and throwing your weight
about in like fashion. It's just a matter of keeping at the forefront of your
mind what you want to achieve with this communication. Perhaps you are trying to
put across a point and your boss thinks that you are wasting his time. Stand
firm. Be assertive but not aggressive. Simply refuse to be ignored and insist
that you be heard. Just give the facts from your point of view. Refuse to be
intimidated. Your "ruler" will love it.
To a passive person an assertive person can look like a real domineering
character. To a ruler, even a mildly assertive person can seem like an
incompetent. It's all a matter of perceiving things from your own viewpoint. So
of course every person will seem slightly different to every different person
they meet, and what each remembers of that person will be of a slightly
different hue. If you are only mildly assertive and you have an extremely
assertive boss, when you become a lot more assertive - such as when you get adamant about putting across a point - then
to your boss it just seems as if you are having a good day! In the same way,
what can look like your boss having a fit about something, is just his way of
being more assertive than usual. He doesn't think much more of it than that.
This is how, putting yourself in another person's shoes can help greatly towards
better understanding and therefore more effective communications. Other people
who like to be in control are those who come out with the snide remarks, just at
the most inconvenient times of the day when it would not be pertinent to respond
in like manner - for instance, in the middle of a meeting. These types can be
classed as snipers. The way to deal with sarcasm in the. face of an audience, is
to meet it face to face. Forget the fact that people are watching. Ask directly
what was the purpose of the remark/rude expression etc. Ask them if something is
wrong. Put them "in the dock" (but in the nicest possible way). You
know, make yourself look good! Put them on the spot. If they cannot answer
coherently, simply state the intent of your communications or the matters of the meeting in hand and say
that if the rude remarks were not helping the meeting go forward in any way that
he/she keep them for another more appropriate time. A relationship such as this
must be sorted at a different time as it has probably been born out of some past
retort or experience that is niggling the sniper. At a more convenient time you
can sort out the problem, again by being assertive and just wanting to get to
the bottom of it. If both of you prefer the quiet life, in the end the truth
with emerge as long as you press for it.
Some rulers are "know-it-alls". This can be due to the fact that
they were (so they say) strictly brought up, punished for wrongs and
well-rewarded for rights. Now they make sure through life that they do know
what's right and what's wrong and 99.9% of the time they are right! Infuriating
isn't it! Yes, we all must know at least one know-it-all in life, past or
present. If not, you're bound to bump into one sometime. So be prepared.
"Know-it-alls" like to be in control and they are not very good at
listening probably because most of the time they believe that what they hear is
not worth the brain space! To get through to one of these people requires doing
your homework and treading carefully. Never try to put forward an argument on an
instinct. Make sure you have all the facts at your fingertips. Always listen to
them. They love that. Make it obvious that you are listening by backtracking
throughout the conversation and reiterating what that person has said: " so
you believe this, that etc. Then - after you have the whole side of his story -
offer your argument, almost as a sideline "I know you are well aware of
all the pros and cons of everything, but I did think this the other day and was
wondering what you would think about it, that Etc." If your idea could be tested
or implemented sometime in the future, suggest a date, time, place, person etc.
Show that you've done your homework and that you have had good reason to want to
communicate this information. He'll respect that. Most importantly, don't be a
know-it-all yourself. Leave that to them!
Dealing with difficult people.
Alison Fleming BA., MAssHFP.
In the last article the Ruler-type model was examined.
This article takes a more detailed look at both the Analyst-type model and the
The Analyst. A person with a tendency toward the Analyst temperament is one
who is obviously -analytical. With it, comes caution. Details mean everything.
Decision-making is slow and methodical and precise. The Analyst does not like to
make estimates and is afraid of being wrong. The Analyst would rather not make a
decision if proof were not available to show that the decision is correct. So no
rounding-off to be done here! Ask them to take responsibility for accuracy by
all means, but don't ask an analyst to make a decision!
The Analyst is easily irritated when there is a lack of information, also,
when information is repeatedly changed. As mentioned in the last article, under
stress the Analyst becomes a chronic Complainer and is even task passive and
withdrawn. It is difficult to deal with someone who finds the whole world
against them, but there is a way!
Complaining is a negatively assertive a way of communicating that one is
"at a loss" about something. The underlying meaning is "help me,'
1 cannot deal with this on my own." The reason or is behaviour in the
Analyst type of person could be that they do not have full knowledge about a
task. This could be because they do not feel that they have been given full
responsibility for a ask, maybe because full confidence has not been placed in
them, maybe because the "Powers that be' want to keep a modicum of control
(for whatever reason). The Analyst who needs the full story long and sweet
before anything can be started with confidence resorts to complaining out of
fear of doing something wrong. It is a reactive behaviour and one that can be
nipped in the bud.
In such a situation, don't accuse the Complainer of being a complainer. It is
a negative response. Respond positively and assertively instead. First listen
attentively to the complaint. Second, make sure that you have heard the
complaint correctly, by backtracking, i.e. repeating everything said and asking
whether you have grasped the point correctly. Ask limiting questions such as
what?, when?, how?. But don't ask "Why?". "Why" is an open
question. Ask the Complainer to gather all the information required in order to
solve the problem. Sympathise.
Another reason for the Analyst becoming a complainer is that the Analyst
tends to lack the spontaneous assertiveness enjoyed by others. This can lead to
poor communication skills.
Hence the problem could be about a work colleague (and their lack of mutual
understanding)! If the complaint is a petty complaint and a recurring one -
about another member of staff, and one that obviously does not require the
resources of a personnel department, a short and simple way to nip this in the
bud is to say something along the lines of... "Have you told them the
things you're telling me?" ...then... "Do you mind me telling
them?" If the answer is "Yes" (which it most likely will be!)
"Well let me know if you change your mind." This leaves the ball in
their court. It is unlikely that this complaint from this Complainer will echo
across your desk again.
Analysts in full swing have many good points too. They make terrific managers
of information. They are spot on with the accuracy, give or take naught. Even in
"complaining mode" there are gains to be made. Use such pessimistic
traits to consider all the negatives of a situation, so that your risks may be
reduced to a minimum!!
The Relater .As noted in the last article, the Relater temperament loves to
relate to other people. The Relater loves team work and mutual support. The
Relater loves to be approved of. In fact some cannot work effectively unless
full approval is in the bag.
The Relater hates aggression and confrontation, so does not marry well with a
ruler-type. Relater types are very sensitive to the feelings of others as well
as those of themselves and as such would rather hide the truth than be put in
anyone's firing line, so on the negative side - at times when full honesty is a
requirement, you may not be receiving the whole truth from them. Relaters are
people who like people who like people. They are genuinely pleasant people who
look out for everybody else and who at the same time need their own personal
comfort and security. Therefore, their working pace tends to be slower than that
Relaters can be classed into "Yes" people and "Maybe"
"'Yes" people are termed for their inability to say "no"
in case of confrontation or disapproval. "Maybe" people are those who
will not commit to a decision. "Let me think about WY , "Later.",
"In a while.". Sometimes decisions are put off until it is all too
late, simply because of the risk of hurting or upsetting someone.
The difference between the two is that the "Yes" person is
protecting himself from disapproval. The "Maybe" person is protecting
everybody else from being hurt or offended. Of course you can have a mixture of
the two classes in the same person, depending upon the -circumstances that
effect this type of behaviour.
In the case of both types, in a problem situation, there is a need to provide
a feeling of security in order that they may be encouraged to be honest. Lots of
support and acknowledgement is required. Examine the facts once disclosed. Put
the alternatives into order of priority. Then you do the action steps, rather
than them. A Relater under stress is a passive creature. However, if their
problem is YOU! and you value their services, show them that you value them. Boost that
confidence all you can. Resolve to work more closely together - as a team.
Dealing with difficult people. (The Entertainer). by
Alison Fleming BA., MAssHFP.
We're not talking treading the boards here. Continuing with the series about
model types of people and how to deal with behaviour traits, the Entertainer is
another theoretical model, encompassing those people who tend to behave in
certain such fashion.
Mentioned in the last article, the Entertainer wants the whole world's
acknowledgement, so goes all-out to get it. The Entertainer is not very good at
getting things done, but is great at talking about an idea and at mustering up
the motivation in others. The Entertainer is a quick decision maker, although
not often precise. It's "talk first, think later" with the
Entertainer. The Entertainer finds it hard to control emotion and is also easily
embarrassed by own personal outbursts, which can be humiliating.
The Entertainer hates to be ignored and humiliated and finds this harder to
deal with than other people would. The centre of attention is the spot the
Under stress a difficult person can be made out of the Entertainer. This type
of temperament can become over eager, superficial, manipulative, unrealistic and
fearful of losing prestige. All that may be required is a sarcastic comment
aimed in their direction, right when they're about to deliver their "punch
line". Or you could just ignore them. That would be humiliating enough too.
To relieve the Entertainer's stress, recognition an credit is the medicine
required. It is also good to try to acknowledge the positive intent of this
trait (whether it is really there or not in fact). Remember they are not very
good at getting things done!
The Entertainer type can be classed into two groups - the Grenade and the
Know-it-all. The Grenade group includes those people who will have an
uncontrollable temper tantrum when stressed. This tantrum differs from the one
that a ruler-type "tank" might display, in that the "tank"
decides to act like this. The Grenade is in fact out of control. It is a way to
cope with fear and frustration and helplessness that they may be feeling.
However, as much as it may help in the short term, when it's over they have
humiliated themselves by the display.
The way to deal with a Grenade is to first, get their attention and then to
show your concern in no uncertain terms, for they will be constantly looking for
perceived threats in your language, tone, gestures, even omissions. Ask them to
talk about the problem. Find out what triggered it.
Here's an example of how the Entertainer temperament can be rattled by the
Ruler temperament. Remember the Entertainer is an ideas monger. The Ruler is a
"doer". The Entertainer may propose an idea to the Ruler. The Ruler's
action will first be to air possible future obstacles before being supportive.
But the damage has been done. The Entertainer explodes in anger, because the
Ruler did. not take the first initiative of acknowledging the merits of the,
idea. A simple "'Hey, great!.".' would have done. In witnessing .the
Entertainer's - fit of anger, the Ruler feels out of control - something he
hates - and so hey presto you have a "tank" on your hands. Put the two
together and a terrible scene is witnessed !!
The Know-it-all is the term used here for the other group of Entertainers
under stress. Actually, the Know-it-all is acting. So caring for prestige and
recognition the Know-it-all will give a convincing performance and will actually
believe what is gushing forth from those lips. They truly believe what they are
saying. Therefore they can not be classed as con-artists or liars. Now could
this be a little risky me wonders! ,
To avoid an unpleasant situation, never make it plain to a Know-it-all that
you think that they are talking rubbish. This will simply add fuel to the
flames, making them more adamant as they defend their prestige - thin skinned,
Good points come as thick and fast as the not so good though. Where would we
be without our dreams and drama!
To summarise, there are Rulers and Analysts, Relaters and Entertainers in
this look at theoretical models. Maybe you recognise some traits in your family,
friends, work associates, even yourself! At the end of the day all that these
models and theories are trying to do is to work towards some mutual
understanding by using effective methods of communication. This way,
misunderstanding is reduced. Anything's worth a try!!
This series of articles has been comprised of the ideas that are presented by
Dr Rick Brinkman and Dr Rick Kirshner in their tapes "How To Deal With
Difficult People", available through Careertrack Publications, 1775 38th
St, Boulder,.CO 80301-2639.