Dealing with Difficult People and Difficult Situations in Not-for-Profits

There’s a phrase (variously attributed to different parts of the British Isles) “there’s nowt so queer as folk,” that encapsulates many of the difficulties people can cause in community organisations. Picture from the cover of Getting Past No, by W Ury People can be difficult in many ways, sometimes deliberately but sometimes without consciously intending to be difficult.  Because many community organisations welcome almost anyone who is interested in their activities they commonly attract a range of often dissimilar people, some of whom may be “difficult” in some way or another. There may be numerous reasons for difficulties arising in our dealings with other people, and such factors may apply to us and/or to the people with whom we have difficulties, including: Factors such as personality, age, psychological trauma, illness, injury, medication, etc., Fear or uncertainty caused by a lack of knowledge, insecurity or previous experiences, Scepticism (especially inability to see individual or collective benefits, and Reactions such as rejection and defensiveness, and offensive or passive responses. A psychologist or behavioural scientist might best know how to deal with difficult people (especially individuals with particular characteristics) and difficult situations, but for most people responding to such difficulties is not easy.  This article draws on negotiation and mediation techniques to help deal with “difficult people.”   Difficult behaviour Difficulties may manifest themselves in different ways, but are likely to fall into one or more of the following categories: Offensive behaviour: Aggressiveness, threats, pressure tactics, personal attacks (ad hominum), negative attacks on proposals, treating concessions as signs of weakness, physical intimidation, ultimatums and walk-outs, Obstructive behaviour: Limited authority, defensiveness, reference to a third party,...