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Difficult People -YOUR Labelling Them As DIfficult Is A Problem

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How Labeling People as Difficult Causes Problems

Most—if not all—of us talk about difficult people. We think, “Oh, that’s John again, why is he always a pain in the posterior,” or, “Why is Mary so darned stubborn and difficult all the time?

We tend to characterize (or label) people and put them into boxes or categories. If you do that, it’s not a character flaw on your part, but a way of trying to simplify the world. In fact, our brains are wired to do this automatically. Brains are wonderful information reduction and labeling machines. They classify, label, and organize information to make our lives easier. Unfortunately, while our brains do this labeling almost automatically, the process makes dealing with difficult people … well … more difficult. Here’s why.

When you label a person as difficult (or stubborn, boring, or untrustworthy), you use that label to predict their behavior and actions in the immediate and longterm future. In other words, you use the labels to create expectations on your part about how the person will behave. In one sense, that’s not necessarily bad.

Predicting difficulties can help us prepare. In another way, it is really bad. When we have negative expectations about someone based on a label, we act differently than we would with someone about whom we have positive expectations.

In other words, your expectations and labels of people can cause you to create the exact behavior you believe will happen—a self-fulfilling prophecy situation.

When we label a person difficult and have poor expectations about the person, we are more likely to …

  • interpret their actions as negative.
  • have strong emotional reactions to them.
  • treat them abruptly.
  • expect less from them.

    All of these factors can create difficult situations with someone when no difficult situation was actually present in the first place.

In other words, your expectations and labels of people can cause you to create the exact behavior you believe will happen—a self-fulfilling prophecy situation.

For a more productive way to think about difficult people and what they do, click here to continue.

About Company

Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992. Since then Robert has trained thousands of employees to deal with angry, hostile, abusive and potentially violent customers. He has authored over 20 books on various subjects, many published by McGraw-Hill.


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  • Canada, K0A 1M0