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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 line.

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 special way.

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 correctly.

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 down.

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 "complainer".

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 them.

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People – Different Types. by Alison Fleming BA., MAssHFP.

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 result.

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 is correct.

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 would.

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?

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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 be good.

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 etc.

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!

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Dealing with difficult people. (Analyst/Relater). by 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 Relater-type.

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!) then continue...

"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 of others.

Relaters can be classed into "Yes" people and "Maybe" people.

"'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.

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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 Entertainer likes.

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, big mouthed.

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.

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