Dealing with Difficult People

Mr. Know-It-All, the terror of every discussion. Mouth always open.

Carl, the Big It, sits at the other end of the table. I’ve planned it that way, snagging the seat farthest away from him at every monthly volunteer meeting. Everyone’s too nice to tell Carl he needs therapy or a kick in the pants. I’m not sure either would help.

Some folks have a bottomless greed to be the smartest person in the room. The bride at every wedding. The cat with the biggest tail.  (Insert heavy sigh~~)

Maybe you have Carl’s clone at your work? Organization? Family??? He’s the one making Swiss cheese out of every suggestion. Even when his brilliance is interrupted, he’s able to hijack the topic and herd it back toward himself.

How did I get such a mean Inner Angel?

Time ticks away at our meetings. We shoot furtive it’s-your-turn-to-reign-him-in looks at each other.

I’m telling you this because I’m the one getting a kick in the pants.

February is Self-Change Month (Thank you inner angel-grrrr), previously, I’ve dealt with Carl by mentally rolling my eyes—which are now loose and twirl if I’m jostled in the elevator. So now Miss Goody-No-Shoes has me trying other methods.

I hiked up my big girl panties and:

  • Talked to him. Heart to heart. One on one. Privately.
  • Talked to him in a group. Set boundaries. Confronted him when he crossed it.

And I discovered…

Carl is confrontation-proof. He even enjoys the drama!!!

Robert M. Bramson, PhD. (Coping with Difficult People) says: “Individuals behave in a difficult manner because they have learned that doing so keeps others off balance and incapable of effective action. Worst of all, they appear immune to all the usual methods of communication and persuasion designed to convince or help them change their ways.”

So I grudgingly thank you, Inner Angel. I’ve learned:

  1. Annoying behavior is habitual, not personal. Carl’s a cockle burr under everyone’s saddle.
  2. Don’t play his game. He’s practiced all his life. And….

Me and my inner hooligan are ignoring you, Carl.

So….okay….I’ve changed. I ignore his games, and now….strangely, Carl no longer takes sniper shots in my direction.

Ohhhh…sometimes he fires off sarcasm then loudly says, “I was only joking,”  but mostly to other volunteers.

Phooey!! All that self-improvement for nothing.  Have you got a “Carl” I can come over and practice on?. Smiley

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About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in A Laugh, Change, Humor and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

72 Responses to Dealing with Difficult People

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    I love the way you outed this rage! Carl sounds like a d**k. I think you’re amazing to learn from it & move on – excellent write-up 🙂

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  2. —The cat with the biggest tail.— I like that.

    Brilliant post!!! xx

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  3. The photo says it all! I enjoy your writing style and humor.

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  4. “I was just kidding,” is the classic response for passive aggression. I lived with one for 20 years. Notice that is past tense.

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  5. Margie says:

    I’ve met a few Carls too!
    If Carl is the Chairman of your committee, you are in trouble. Otherwise, the chairman’s job is to shut down Carl. (Can you tell I’ve chaired a few committees?)
    Personally, I’d put Carl on a subcommittee made up only of him. Then I’d invite him to join the main committee long enough to give his subcommittee report, then send him home.

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    • Barb says:

      Carl pulled a little drama when we tried this. Blathered about open meetings, transparency, and such topics. Any device to get attention will do for him.

      Like

  6. Phil says:

    In my early career, I used to work at a mid-sized healthcare system that had as many committees it seemed as it had employees. There were plenty of Carls to be found in this fertile environment of incessant meetings – you know, those events where the minutes are kept and the hours are lost. Reading all these stories about the Carls of the world, I’m reminded of a quote:

    “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”
    ~Bertrand Russell~

    I wish I could help you find a way to muzzle Carl. Some people just love to hear themselves speaking. No real cure for narcissistic, pompous asses of the world. Pity too.

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    • Barb says:

      What a great quote. Thanks
      If my dear old mum read this blog (no one in my family reads my tripe). She’d point her finger at me for ranting about asses and say, “Just make sure you don’t become one, too.”

      Thanks, Mom, for wisdom for the journey.

      Like

  7. territerri says:

    Oh my gosh! What perfect timing that I just landed on this particular post. I was in the process of writing about my Carl, a coworker who sits much too close to me in the office and distracts me with her constant chatter, her constant questions, her constant opinions, her constant online shopping she absolutely must share with me, her five-hour packaging/wrapping/mailing of personal Valentine’s gifts on company time. And worst of all? Her need to “lord over” me, even though she is not by any means my boss! She walks around the office exclaiming woefully, “I’m just SO busy! I don’t know how I’ll ever get all my work done!” I too think that I have broken my eyeballs from the eye-rolling.

    She’s on vacation this week and I am blissfully happy at work. But I realized what a mistake it would be to write about her on my blog. (Bad ju-ju to write bad work things on the internet!)

    Your post about Carl made me feel so much better and so much less alone with this problem. Thank you!

    Like

    • Barb says:

      No problem. Come over here and write about your Carl anytime. Sounds like I need to create another “Stare Kit” to send out. (Or you could see St. Soprano below).

      Like

  8. Nezzy says:

    Girlfriend, I fear we all have a Carl or two in our lives.
    God bless and have a wonderful day….(void of Carls) Heeehehehe!!!

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  9. mj monaghan says:

    Thank goodness I haven’t had many Carls in my day. Usually with the people I’ve been around, someone else in the group would put the clamps on that really fast. Bless you though for taking him on.

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    • Barb says:

      With all the new challenges that you constantly put yourself through, I can’t believe you don’t have a “Carl”. Blog Life is still young. I’ll be sending your my “Stare Kit”, to help you prepare.

      Like

  10. Red says:

    Since I am often Carl, the best way to diffuse my know-everything-ness is to engage me in snark and conduct the meeting whilst I am laughing at someone who thinks their snark is better than mine. 🙂

    Red.

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  11. Saint says:

    carls of this world are completely immune to appeals and reason; don’t waste your time; just waste him! hahahaaaa!

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  12. digipicsphotography says:

    I don’t tolerate people like that very well and tend to tell them what I think of them. Not a good thing in the work world. Good thing I work nites.

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    • Barb says:

      Are you saying Carls don’t come out at night? Good to know, we’ll set our meetings for midnight from now on.

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      • digipicsphotography says:

        That might work. I’ve found if you take some of those folks out of their normal environment, they don’t function well. And nite folks have a way of looking at people that conveys how stupid and pitiful they are.

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  13. I agree with ignoring unwanted behaviours when all fails. I remember that one way to deal with kids tantrums is ignoring the act and not giving in. Adults like Carl needs to have a dose of their own medicine…if not, again just “ignore the likes of him.” If they don’t get the message, that’s so sad for Mr. All knowing. What an insightful , enjoyable post. Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

    Like

  14. pegoleg says:

    I have never, ever dealt with a difficult person in my life. And if I could interest you in a nice bridge, only used by a sweet little old lady to go to Manhattan on Sundays…

    Love, LOVE your you-kicking-you picture!

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  15. Sigh. I would love to say that you are alone and I have never, ever known such a person but I have sworn a vow not to lie for what is left of the day.
    Ignoring them has been the best thing I have discovered – but they sure as hell make that hard. Good luck.

    Like

  16. Julie says:

    I can’t believe he didn’t listen to you especially after you “hiked up your big girl panties!” Is that what turned his face pure white and permanently froze his expression? Maybe he just needs a little sun.

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  17. souldipper says:

    Oh boy…in one organization, we have three of them and it’s hell if they all end up at the same meeting. They love competing with each other. What happens here, we have a sub meeting. It drives the Carls into apoplexy because usually we decide to do what common sense dictates which is not necessarily what they think is needed.

    You are so right…they are very polished at being Carls. Who knows how to deal with them…

    Like

  18. ansuyo says:

    A Carl by any other name…….

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  19. Unfortunately we all probably know someone like this. I think it’s likely to be uncurable past a certain age. As you say, it has worked well in the past and they are programmed to chatter. Yikes.

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  20. Can you come to my house and practice on my older brother? Difficult, rude, always has to be in charge while me…. let’s not go there.

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  21. Dear Barb… Most of the people who I work with are like that, so that means it is either all of them or just me who is the problem. It can’t be me though, as I’m far from brilliant at work, and they all try to out-do each other with their brilliance to show me exactly where I’m going wrong… have you ever practiced on groups? What would you suggest I do? Yours, T from the UK.
    I agree with JSD’s comment above, though, he does seem to be bullying…

    Like

    • Barb says:

      Great Gobs of gooseflesh, Tom. If I you and I could come up with a group solution to handle the turkeys we work with, we’d be richer than the Queen. Sometimes I think age is a factor. It seems either the young or old are always right. It’s mostly in the middle age that we realize we don’t have a clue of what’s going on.

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  22. Actually, you CAN fire a volunteer. Or at least, the designated leader can, and sometimes, MUST. It’s a crummy job, but I had to do it a number of times when I served as our state’s Section Manager for amateur radio. If a person is behaving in a manner detrimental to the stated goals and/or projected image of a group, that person has to be moved out of that group. (Like if an amateur acted as though he were “in charge” of the emergency service personnel, instead of serving them.) If that guy is as bad as you describe, might other volunteers quit rather than have to deal with him?

    Like

    • Barb says:

      Group dynamics are a funny thing. People have quit, then come back, because the work is fulfilling and far outweighs the short stints of Carl’s love of his own voice. I think it’s like having a doofus Uncle. Everyone knows “that’s just the way he is. No one really wants to hurt his feelings. Strange how we avoid conflict. Thanks for the nudge to our backbones.

      Like

  23. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    There always has to be one in the crowd somewhere.
    I totally agree with Elyse, that is the way to go I feel.

    Like

  24. At first I felt sorry for Carl (clearly he needs help), but then I remembered my Carl. His name is Erland (he lives across the street). He’s just miserable. I’ve decided to be nice to him and hope he doesn’t go crazy and shoot me some day (Carls always own guns). Fortunately, your Carl sounds more foolish than dangerous.

    Like

    • Barb says:

      Oh…WW. I’m so sorry. I can always skip meetings, but you can’t skip going home. Take care of yourself. Yes, my Carl simply has a case of jackassery, I think.

      Like

  25. momaescriva says:

    Easy solution. Change the meeting place and don’t tell him.

    Like

  26. Alice Lynn says:

    Why you can’t fire a volunteer? I think it can be done if enough people are fed up with this attention-seeking missile. BTW, how do you set up those photos? Or get them? You could even use Munch’s painting, The Scream, for emphasis.

    Like

    • Barb says:

      I’ve been trying to fire myself for years. I have a small camera set up in my mind which catches my angel and inner hooligan. Obviously they work in a vacuum.

      Like

  27. Elyse says:

    How about coordinating everyone else at a meeting to simply turn to him silently and stare when he is rude.

    Like

  28. El Guapo says:

    Can’t believe I forgot – craziest Carl ever, from Llamas with Hats. Enjoy!

    Like

  29. Ah yes. I believe I’ve met a Carl or two. Consider this link about how to deal with a narcissist: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201008/how-deal-narcissist

    Like

    • Spectra says:

      And many narcissists have “Oppositional Personality Disorder”. I’ve known 5 or 6 too well. You can never make a suggestion they won’t poo-poo. Given also to OCD, they will drive you crazy making the same statements over and over again, because only their own thoughts are real – until they wear you down and you give in just to shut them the f**k up. This behavior is continuously reaffirmed as working and therefore, being correct, so anyones distress or disagreement is naturally wrong. They lack empathy – an area of the brain that allows people to develop an understanding of the “other”, and imagine the other’s feelings and thoughts as being as valid for that person as their own thoughts and feelings are valid and real to them. No empathy (also a key factor in sociopaths and the anti-social) is a very real brain or psychological disorder.

      If you want to manipulate someone who you’ve identified as Oppositional, you just ask them for the opposite of what you want. If you want to, say, order pizza for lunch, say, “I was going to order pizza, but I know you hate it for lunch”. The OPDer will insist they love pizza and will take it upon themself to order it, telling everyone, including you, what a great idea they had when they decided, on their own, to order pizza. These people are a bit mindless, so you can make suggestions anytime you want if you frame it oppositionally (I know you don’t want to go to that movie, so I guess I will go without you) and they will actually believe every idea you plant into their mind was their own – and they will talk as if it was. The possibilities are endless.

      The Carls of this world are idiots – have a little fun with them 😀

      Like

  30. El Guapo says:

    Aside from the meeting mayhem, is he good at what he does? And can meetings be held informally, and just not be advertised to him?
    Really, the ignoring his noisemaking is about the best you can do. Unless you can irrefutably prove to him that your … is bigger. Though that generally doesn’t go so well…

    Like

    • Barb says:

      YOur suggestion of having a meeting and not telling him made me laugh out loud. Yes, he has skills…one of them being, he’ll take on crap no one else wants to do. So…in a way…we sentence ourselves to our own punishment.

      Like

  31. dan says:

    Go to an AA meeting. Imagine a room with twenty five Carls and Carlas.

    Like

  32. Margie says:

    Aw man, everybody has run across one or more of them in their lifetime. Who was in control of the meeting? Was there someone? Good for you coming to terms with this pain in the arse! Margie

    Like

  33. Roxie Matthews says:

    And you can’t fire a volunteer. Maybe you need to take out a contract on him. When he’s not at meetings, sucking up all the time attention and energy in the room, is he good at what he does?

    Could you smother him with kindness? Have a big, “Hooray for Carl” party with cake and banners and speeches about what a valuable volunteer he is? Meet his needs? No, what am I thinking? People like that have inexhaustible needs. I’ll help you pray for him.

    Like

  34. JSD says:

    He’s a bully! To repeatedly take diggs at someone then claim he was joking is nothing more than bullying. Can the formal, or informal, adoption of Robert’s Rules by everyone put a sock in that big mouth?

    Like

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