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Deal effectively with difficult personalities

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 Excerpt from LACT LACT workshop

difficult blog : Vast subject that difficult personalities… one could say that there are plenty of them… We have chosen to talk to you about three types of difficult people: the manipulative person with a paranoid tendency, the angry person and the fragile person or victim.

Questions that are addressed here:

  • What to do and what not to do with these difficult personalities?
  • What are the usual attempts at solution by those around you?
  • What are the costs in case of failure?

With more than 80% success, discover LACT's answers in this video.


What mainly characterizes the figure of a somewhat paranoid manipulator is that, in fact, the paranoid is someone who is afraid of being right. He is as if he had his eyes rather turned inside himself and when he turns them outwards, he is surprised, he gets scared, he says ola, he sees the danger… He is afraid of to be right, but, emotionally, he considers that everything is against him, everything is threatening.

As for the angry person, you have to see anger, most often, as a regulation. You spoke to us about your collaborator, we can clearly see how her anger is a regulation for her: she is very angry, she leaves, she comes back and everything is fine, it has calmed her down... Except that it has side effects of working with someone who is angry…

As for the fragile person or victim, he highlights his fragility or his victim status, under the effect of an emotion that has not always been "digested", most often anger. She has discovered secondary benefits in continuing to behave like a fragile person or a victim, we pay attention to her, etc.

In general, the usual reactions of these people considered difficult, will be either of the order of denial, or of the order of emotional overflow, or both at the same time. We are then dealing with people who are in an excess of rationalization - as manipulators do, always finding ways to rationalize - as well as people who will have difficulty managing emotions, either too little, either too much.

And we end up seeing that these symptoms of manipulation, anger, complaining, end up constraining and neutralizing those around you: we avoid meeting the difficult person, we take care to calm them down, we are focused, we are neutralized and we are limited in our field of action to react. And we will see that the reactions of those around you at the same time will exacerbate the symptom. For example, someone who is overly worried, we will try to reassure him...

Participant: yes… “don't worry, take a step back”, etc.

LACT: That's it, and what effect does it have on him to tell him, “don't worry, take a step back”, to minimize…?

Participant: It's denigrating the person's suffering…

LACT: The effect it produces is worse than anything.

The worried person says to himself: but it's terrible, he doesn't understand how close we are to danger. It can go further, if it's very exacerbated, in addition he'll say: it's a way of wanting to cuddle me, so I have to be wary of this person there, she's not just unconscious, she's can be malevolent like the snake. Participant: He is told he absolutely has to do this, do this, this, that, or wait, let's look at the priorities;

I have the feeling that he is trying to complicate things, take a certain form of power… LACT2: You will see with Claude in an individual telephone interview, following the workshop, how to manage this.

It will give you indications to precisely stop complicating, and perhaps even seek to complicate better, see better to put out the fire. LACT: Wanting to calm the nervous, angry person, as Grégoire says, is far from being effective. There are more effective ways to manage this, but which are sometimes very difficult to implement in a company. So in general, what do we do in the face of this type of reaction? You said it very well, we tend to avoid it, we will act as if nothing had happened. And that contributes even more to the denial of the person and that gives even more legitimacy to the means that she has found to regulate her emotion, to manage her tensions, and which obviously does not seem to pose any problem in the entourage since everyone continues to act as if nothing had happened… but indeed, for her and for everyone, it is very difficult. A person around you could say: but wait why are you getting angry? Instead, she says: but what? It's terrifying, so there really is denial.

or a person who is a victim, fragile, it's different. She complains a lot, she shows her fragility, sometimes she can try to delegate but in any case when she is a little too much, we actually try to ask her to see things a little more positively.

LACT2: Or he is asked to find solutions.

You have to move on, you have to get there. LACT: In her case, we will have to stop finding solutions for her.

We are going to say we are helpless, that there is no solution. For manipulators, the approach is different. A manipulator behaves like a snake. The most common reaction is to run away from it, you want to run away from it, but it doesn't work. Attacking him doesn't work either. You will have to kill the snake with its own venom. This is a very precise protocol. Killing the serpent with its own venom is really an application of the myth of Perseus with the Medusa. When Perseus fought Medusa, with her head full of snakes, which represents supreme evil, he didn't go like that without protection, he went with a shield, a weapon, etc.

From the point of view of the powerful and threatening person, seeing someone who is afraid, who is trying to flee, who shows their fragility, motivates them even more to be threatening and to be dangerous...especially if they have a somewhat perverse as the cat does with the mouse. Clearly, in cases of harassment, since we find there the figure of the threatening Medusa or the cat facing a mouse or a fragile or fleeing person, this will be all the more stimulating for the harasser, it will exacerbate the process of 'harassment. But if the victim begins to attack, to finally defend himself, the evil person is always one step ahead and will find ways to be even more attacking. Faced with this trap, there is only one way of acting which will become a real weapon for the harassed, with less effort, and which will consist in killing the snake with its own venom. This is the only effective strategy in this type of situation. Then, you will have to adapt this strategy according to the category of snakes you are dealing with, a cobra, a naja, etc. Clearly, depending on the situation, we will have to take into account the details, the contextual elements specific to the situation to define and adjust what precise communication and according to what type of relationship, we will have to make this strategy effective. Each situation has its own peculiarities that we must take into account.

Finally, faced with these difficult personalities, how do companies react?
How do they find solutions to get out of these traps? In general, as soon as you spot the difficulty, either you know what to do – then you try to act, you don't succeed, and then the idea of ​​separation or transfer comes very quickly, quite radical and rapid - either we don't know what to do - and there we wait, we will try to ignore the conflicts, we will let them manage, the infection grows, we let it rot and at some point we are forced to have to make separations or mutations – or finally, we try to reason, to do something and not succeeding, we end up giving up and letting it rot, which comes down to the two previous cases, and in any case, we leads to radical situations which are always costly. A 1990 study reminds us that the replacement of an employee is between 75 and 150% of his salary, ie between 30,000 and 150,000 euros, it is a real rational and tangible cost. And there are more indirect consequences (images of the company with employees, bad climate, concern). Food for thought for HR, which sheds light on the issues and the interest of doing things differently.

What do we propose in these cases to companies and to the HRD. When we are contacted and alerted, we offer to make an operative diagnosis [more details on the operative diagnosis here]. We are going to see who is involved, who are the people who would participate in the heart or the peripheral of the problem, and most often in spite of themselves, to make it more persistent and to aggravate it, we are going to give indications in strategic matters, in in terms of communication, in terms of relationships to block as many things as possible that feed the problematic situation. Depending on the complexity of the situation, we offer targeted problem solving intervention. We can intervene directly with the difficult personality, carrier of the symptom, on the condition of presenting it to him in a certain way, according to his own point of view of the situation. However, when the latter is not in denial of the problem, one should not try to put her in crisis, nor to force her to work. We can then indirectly do things with those around us and reverse a dynamic that will allow a person in denial to suddenly be able to reveal their difficulties and start working on them.

From our point of view, the solutions that we propose are very economical if we look back on our means, since our interventions roughly speaking are between 3000 and 10,000€ for a problem-solving intervention. In general, we obtain 80% success on the problems on which we are solicited or on the objectives on which we are asked to intervene [more details on our success rate: here]. You now know that problem and objectives are always intimately linked, and that we take particular care to reframe a situation, a problem that prevents us from achieving an objective, from seeing what is happening, how the problem works.

Keywords: Difficult Personality , Paranoid , Manipulative , Anger , Fragile , Victim , Emotions

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