No leader is void of individuals who bring frustration. It could be a direct report, critical outsiders of the organization, other department members, a boss, or at times those in a leader’s innermost circle. Handling these types of frustrating people can be very draining and, depending on the leader’s personality, it may be difficult to navigate to an appropriate response. Most leaders understand, however, that their response can often dictate the individual’s performance and ultimately the progress that the organization can and should make. If a leader is too harsh or bulldozes over frustrating people, momentum can be diminished. Oftentimes this leader over-communicates through their tone, body language and word choice, which can hurt the relationship and damage the capacity for progress.
Understanding how to deal with frustrating people in the times when you are most frustrated is critical to creating a culture that produces great work and emotionally healthy staff. Recently, I came across a passage of scripture that speaks directly to this. I have read it several times before and though it is easy to quickly read past, as a leader it can be very difficult to apply. Here’s the passage…
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. – James 1:19-20 (NIV)
This isn’t a revolutionary idea, in fact, I bet you have read it before. The truth is, though, that choosing to be slow to speak in moments of your greatest frustration can be very challenging. What is so interesting to me is that the writer connects your ability to be slow to speak and slow to be angry not with the individual you’re dealing with, but with your own personal growth. That means that a lack of patience is a reflection of your personal growth, not of the frustrating people you’re dealing with.
With the understanding that you will be frustrated in the future, it is important to have a game plan on the front end to ensure that you give the appropriate response to each situation. Here are a few ways that you can ensure you’re leading towards that end.
5 Ways to Handle Frustrating People
1. Pre-Determined Empathy
Empathy is simply defined as being able to see and feel what the other person sees and feels. Before frustrating situations arise, pre-determine that you will be the type of leader who constantly puts themselves in the other person’s seat. Rather than formulating your rebuttal in difficult conversations, seek to fully understand the thoughts and needs of the other person. In frustrating conversations, constantly to ask yourself, “What does __________ want and need, REALLY?“