Close-up Of Red And Blue Figurine Paw Separated By Wooden Blocks On Desk

Last week I led a session at the Department of Education as part of their program, Conversations about Leading. It was a wonderful experience, led by great professionals who cultivate leadership.

The topic, dealing with difficult people, is an area where I have deep expertise because of my work helping organizations lead large scale change. There is always a group of people who are either apathetic or hostile to new initiatives.

I write about successful tactics in my business bestseller, Getting Change Right. To my surprise, the section on dealing with difficult people was one of the most popular sections in the book!

Here are my two biggest takeaways from decades of doing this kind of work:

  1. 90% of difficult people will shift their position to some level of support after simply by being listened to by someone who is genuinely interested. One of the great failings of change initiatives is the lack of listening.
  2. I am a difficult person! In every interaction where communication is breaking down, there are at least two parties. Taking responsibility for my own listening is one of the best ways to increase the effectiveness of communication.

What can you do this week to improve your relationship with difficult people?


“You can change your world by changing your words.”
Joel Osteen