We all encounter situations where we disagree with someone or just have difficulting working with them, causing stress and strife for everyone.  Here are some tips to help manage those situations and work productively with even the most difficult people!

When dealing with difficult people, there are really three factors, all of which are important to resolve the situation.

  1. Them
  2. The Situation
  3. You


What can you do when you find yourself in a difficult situation?

By thinking about what the other person wants and about how we react to them, we can try to move beyond the situation to a solution …

The CLASS technique

The next time you are confronted with a difficult person, try using the C.L.A.S.S. technique:

C ontrol your own response

L isten to find out what they want

A cknowledge their issues

look for S olutions

S ummarize and close


C – CONTROL:  You cannot control anyone’s behavior but your own. Control your own response.  But, as we’ve seen, your behavior can affect the interaction. Keeping a cool head will help the situation.

What you can do:

  • Don’t add to the emotions of the situation – keep your voice tone and volume low and speak slowly
  • Ask no threatening questions
  • Act professional at all times
  • It may help to take a detached view. It’s just the way they are: you had nothing to do with!


L – LISTEN: Now that you have your reaction under control, find out what they want.

Active LISTENING is more than letting the other person talk.

Active LISTENING is more than letting the other person talk. When you are Active LISTENING you:

DON’T ASSUME anything about the speaker or their issues. Let them talk without mentally rolling your eyes and dismissing their comments out of hand.

“No one ever … Everyone always … I never … It doesn’t fit … gives me a headache …”

LET THEM TALK: their issues and all of their feelings. No matter if you agree or disagree, whether feelings are positive or negative.

DON’T PLAN YOUR ARGUMENTS: don’t make a mental list of the points you’re going to argue as soon as you can interrupt ... Just listen.

Active Listening can be difficult, even with friends.

Here are some things that can interfere:

  • Assuming in the beginning that the speaker is wrong
  • Mentally criticizing the speaker’s way of talking
  • Pretending to pay attention
  • Making suggestion when you should be listening
  • Disagreeing or blaming when you should be listening
  • Reassuring, sympathizing or consoling when you should be listening
  • Distracting or joking because you are uncomfortable – when you should be listening

In summary … Find out what they want – you may thing you know, but you may learn a few things.



Next, ACKNOWLEDGE their issues. Paraphrase their statements and get details on sweeping statements.

Let them know you have been listening and that you understand their situation. It gives them the change to correct you if you are misunderstanding them.


S- SOLUTIONS: next, look for SOLUTIONS.

Problem solving means doing things like:

  • Getting and giving information
  • Suggesting possibilities
  • Appearing helpful
  • offering choices as available
  • agreeing on a course of action
  • breaking it down into manageable increments
  • prioritizing what steps they can take

Look for SOLUTIONS. Avoid being pushed into a confrontation or decision that you are not ready to make:

“If you say Susie thinks I’m not doing the job, how about if I go talk with her this afternoon and see how we can fix this problem … That sounds important, I need to think about it … That sounds like an important issue, I want to hear more about it from you and others before we make a decision”

Look for SOLUTIONS. You may not be able to solve the entire problem right then but you can help them sort out what you can do in the here-and-now. Be very clear about what you can and cannot do to help them.

Do not promise them impossible results to quiet them.

“Let’s see what ideas we can come up with so this doesn’t happen again … Do you think it would help if … Before you call that meeting talk to Sally. She might have some good things to say … I can’t solve your billing problem right here, but I CAN give you the name and number of who handles your account.”


S – SUMMARIZE and Close: Lastly, sum up and move on.

Before ending the conversation, repeat what they have agreed upon as their plan of action. Especially for people who just want to ramble on, repeating to them their plan of action helps you move towards ending the interaction. It puts the ball back in their court.

Wish them well.

Summarize …

“Okay, you’re going to call on Monday and I’ll put a note in your file for Mary to see when she gets back. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about this. … So, since we can’t seem to work this out between us, we’ll call Mary. I’ll call here to set up a time on Thursday because that’s when you’re available. Thanks for talking about this … So, I think we agree that you will come in on Monday to finish and I’ll cover your paperwork on Wednesday. Great, I’m glad we worked that out.”


Hope these tips are helpful.  Good luck and just remember this quote:

"I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
- Indira Ghandi, (1917 – 1984), Prime Minister of India 1966 - 1984


For morning information, try our online childcare classes:

Communication Basics

Dealing With Difficult People

How to Take a Chill Pill

Partnering with Families

Talking with Parents

Working With Humor