Sitting slightly away from everyone else, they will be demonstrably engrossed in their smart phone, i-pad or incredibly pressing work. Yes, they are a member of that global tribe, who turn up when least expected or needed … the lesser-spotted Determinedly Difficult Person.
A couple of weeks ago, I had one of these in a group. She was on the offensive from the outset – maybe to do with me, or maybe to do with her having better things to do (the big boss had organized the session).
She’d run workshops and presentations herself she said, but we differed fundamentally over what this meant. Hers was that this involves ‘exercising power and control over the audience’. Call me lily-livered, but mine was about ‘hoping to be mildly influential and engage people’.
She works in a singular role in her organization (hah!and I could see why). I explained I did projects, like apps, which involve designing containers into which you hope people will be effective (yep… same idea behind Apple, exactly, but somewhat scaled up there).
To begin with, a couple of other people present joined in on her objections. They faded as these got dafter and dafter. At one point she quibbled with a sentence on one of my slides. She would never say that, she said. So I explained as this was my sentence – not hers – it wasn’t really a problem.
Afterwards, I thought about all this.
I’d kept my cool – for sure – but had missed opportunities to teach at my absolute best. There were moments where I could have supplied the rest of the group with useful extra content, as points were raised. My attention was torn between fully delivering and minimizing this woman’s effect.
It reminded me of what cognitive psychology tells us we get most defensive about:
– Our competence
– Our sense of control
– Our individuality
– Our acceptability to others
And how important it is to make the threatened feel that they matter.
Over at completelyfreesalesadvice, Tony Dowling has written a great post on this, citing advice to ‘go to the balcony’ i.e. take up a position as an observer of what is going on.
Some people will just stay difficult – and all that we can do is to protect our own sense of control by doing something, and nipping on to that balcony to keep a sense of perspective.
With hindsight, maybe I should have given this difficult dame the whole floor early on, so she could air her views about the subject matter, the event – and anything else bothering her.
What I will hope though is that, one way or another, she notices this Stay Cool app just gone on to the App Store. It’s an antidote for anger management.
And I bet you know someone who can use it, too!