We’ve all been there. Red faced and stunned when we’re caught off guard by a snippy comment, heated accusation or rude insult.

Communicating with difficult people is never fun but no matter what you do for a living, it’s bound to happen at some point. 

As a coach who also works in a high stress and often ego-driven industry, I’ve found myself in these situations more often than I prefer, but I learn something from them every single time. This week, I’m sharing my biggest lessons in how to handle a heated conversation with a difficult person.

1. Lose The Audience
The first thing you want to do is to move the conversation to a more private setting. When you remove the audience factor, the other party is less likely to ‘perform' and it takes the pressure off you.  

Also  - and this is probably the biggest bonus here - those 2 to 3 seconds it takes to move into a different space gives each of you time to catch your breath, regulate your heartbeat and then start the conversation again, less frazzled.

2 - Meet Them Where They’re At
Sometimes a stern comment needs to be met with a stern response. I’m not saying to bully back but often the only way to get through to someone is to speak their language.

3 - Validate their feelings
Letting the other party know that you could understand where they’re coming from and why they might be upset, helps. Majority of the time, people just want to feel like they’re being heard.

4 - Find a Common Goal
Most conversations become heated because one person doesn't feel like their needs are being met so if you can find a common goal - all the better. This way, you’re both working towards the same outcome which helps fosters a combined effort from both of you.

5 - Be Mindful of Mental Illness
Truth of the matter is, 1 out of 5 people in the US experience some sort of mental illness each year which means, we never really know what’s going on with someone behind closed doors.  This may be the level & style of communication that’s normal for them or there’s another layer. All the more reason to….

6 - Speak With Empathy and Compassion
If you’ve found yourself in a heated conversation, it’s a clue that either you or the other party has an emotional connection to the topic or there's an underlying issue that's hitting a sore spot.  If there wasn't, neither party would be so upset. 

One last thing to remember - when getting caught in the crossfire of someone’s tantrum, they're simply communicating the best they know how, regardless of how it makes other people feel. Most people just aren’t aware that their communication style can be abrasive if not downright insulting to others.

I love, Love, LOVE communication stories so if you have one to share, by all means - comment below and if you're an introvert, drop me a line. I promise I won't leave ya hangin!