Search form

About The Blogger

Dr. Dianna Lindsay's picture
After 43 years in my chosen profession, I remain excited, alive, and learning! From an active Twitter Account to blogging, from teaching Constitutional Law to Pre-AP English, from a national winner...
Back to Blog

Enlightenment: Difficult People

  1. As the Head of a High School, I am linked to situations that require me to address the behavior of difficult people. Some of these people are internal constituents, while others are external. The internal ones often leave the greatest scars on themselves and the culture of the school as they seek alliances and attempt to create enemies. Sadly, this is a reality of leadership.
  2. To address culture killers within an institution, I suggest the following seven tips:
  3. 1. Begin By Looking At Yourself:Be certain that you are not part of the problem by checking-in your own ego. Ask what you have done to contribute to the problem. And, when the person arrives at your office, listen, listen, and listen to understand the problem fully, completely, and articulately from the vantage point of the speaker. Listening to understand and not to respond is the first step in the process. Keep breathing deeply as you attempt to understand the situation and try to comprehend your role from the point of view of the speaker.
  4. 2.Seek to Understand:Stephen Covey again emphasizes the importance of this idea. After looking in, look to understand the speaker's perspective. Questions like, "So, you thought you were helping when......or "You were trying to assist by..." When the person who is difficult sees you taking notes and asking questions, you can de-escalate the tension and add understanding to the problem being discussed.
  5. 3.You Are The Leader-Be Firm But Frank: I believe that the sharpest knife makes the cleanest cut, likewise, reality is better than sugar-coated kindness that is not honest. Adults need facts, feedback, and truth. When a parent is upset about how their child is treated, don't tell her that the child used vulgar language, actually restate the language and tell her that this is not how we interact at LMNOPHigh School. The parent needs to have the facts too.
  6. 4.Remember The Difficult Person Is Also In Someone's Baby-Book: The person across from you in a conference is also a precious part of someone's family. Bring down the heat when you can. use humor, be empathetic, and lean-in. You have the power to change the temperature as the leader of the meeting. Do it!
  7. 5.Don't Be Hesitant to "Agree to Disagree": Not all conferences end with everyone happy. There will be disagreements as you maintain the good of the school, and the parent maintains the honor of the child. It happens! What needs not to happen is a "winning or losing" posturing by yourself or other professionals. Be open to the possibilities of learning new facts.
  8. 6.When Possible, Bring Everyone To The Table:I prefer to have all parties at the table as it shows respect, good listening, and valuing of the various positions. It is not easy but it is powerful. Again, keeping on topic and having everyone's voice in the issue can resolve long-standing issues. No one seeks conflict; but, it will find you in leadership.
  9. 7.Last Word:As the leader, you will meet the parties over and over again. Parents with multiple children in multiple years within a school do not want to burn bridges as they advocate for their children. Keeping the conversation focused, fair, and personal is the best way to ensure that the family remains part of the bigger institution of the school. You are in school work to make a difference and to be the bridge that helps adults and students reach their potential!