There are people we absolutely love and adore. And then there are the people whom we would much rather not be in the presence of, and occasionally feel like strangling, whenever contact is made. But as cruel fate would have it, sometimes - just sometimes - a perfect storm occurs and you are made to work with them. Such is life.
Of course you will want to do a great job at the task, but the nincompoop(s) stands in between you and that A+. Tell you what: the time to rewrite those equations is NOW! (If you can’t beat them, join them, right? *soft sob*) Here’s a simple, no fuss guide on how to deal with difficult people and perhaps, show some love (Okay, fine. One step at a time).
Do Not Get Defensive
During a disagreement, it is easy to engage your defensive mode. However, as many experiences will tell you, your defensive stance will neither achieve anything constructive nor help you prove your point. Instead, it will send terrible signals that show you as an unnecessarily uptight and rigid person. The worst of this occurs when one’s defensive behavior becomes contagious in the manner that the people you are dealing with also adopt it. Yikes! How does one deal with this without potentially causing tension amongst everyone on the team?
We think you should attempt to listen and demonstrate curiosity to the situation. Sure, everyone has viewpoints and may want to put them across, but judge the situation and decide if your viewpoint and/or theirs is valid/necessary. Through making a concerted effort to understand what is bothering your teammate and treating each piece of feedback with respect, it helps to prevent animosity on all sides. Controlling defensiveness is mutually beneficial – its reduces stress on your end, and improves the quality of conversations within your team, ultimately improving the quality of work your team produces.
Be the Bigger Person
The above point and this one are interconnected. Sometimes defensiveness can give rise to temptation to retaliate at that person’s level. Resist it! Do not let your ego rule something as trivial as a group project. Instead, take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. Demonstrate empathy by asking yourself: Why is he/she feeling this way? What point is he/she trying to make? Is our project lacking a focus we previously did not see? Thinking empathetically helps us develop a certain level of emotional maturity, and prevents us from ending up feeling ashamed for taking a detour just because we were provoked. After all, you are all working towards a common goal.
Learn to differentiate between the person and his/her behavior. We've found that they are not the same! The person’s behavior is merely a situational response, be it right or wrong. We may be disappointed by the deed, but ultimately, we should respect the doer and try to find common ground. If there's no hope for the person to see his/her mistakes, be the bigger person.
No Winners, No Losers
Contrary to popular belief, there is no necessary need for the end of an argument to crown a winner and a loser. More often than not, when you’re think you have won, you are actually losing. Not taking into perspective the other person(s) view because of your own convinced stances could have a detrimental effect. A willingness to listen to what each other has to offer brings with it more insight and further exploration of an idea/project/discussion - a victory for the both parties.
Further, compromising shows your accommodation and willingness to work together. This can be extremely beneficial going forward, allowing you to secure smoother relations with the same person in the future, as your actions have indicated that you do not stonewall whenever there is a conflict. Sometimes, it is useful to remember that it is a small world, and an even smaller University. Who knows when you might have to work together again!
At the end of it, remind yourself: The times you are finding someone difficult to work with, someone else might be finding that WITH YOU. The only way to break free of this vicious cycle is to perhaps constantly remind yourself that we are all human. We are all entitled to express a myriad of emotions, good or bad. When the latter happens, be patient. Instead of reciprocating, be calm and handle the situation with poise and grace. Always aim to be that nice, friendly 'someone' that you, as a person, would enjoy working with.
And if all else fails, find the group members or the people who are reasonable, because they're sure to help you out. Fret not, we are all in this together!