Dealing With Difficult People: The Sniper
“A ‘Sniper,’ according to Robert M. Bramson, is someone who maintains a cover, if often thin or transparent, from behind which they take pot shots at you. That’s a definition from a terrific book: “Coping With Difficult People.” A sniper’s weapons include innuendos, not-too-subtle digs, and non-playful teasing.
Here are some of Bramson’s recommendations:
If you are attacked by a sniper, “the first thing to do is to smoke them out. Refuse to be attacked indirectly. ”
Here are power questions to use:
“That sounded like a dig; did you mean it that way?”
(We personally like the idea of using the person’s name.) Example: “Susan, that sounded like a dig. You didn’t mean it that way, did you?”
If the sniping occurs during a presentation you are giving, turn to the Sniper, and say, “Do I understand that you don’t like (or agree with) what I’m saying?”
Another power question. “Sounds like you’re ridiculing me. Are you?”
Bramson concludes with this wise advice. “Use any behavioral props you need to get over this barrier: smile, raise your eyebrows, act coy, or whatever. But do say something that will not let the slight go by unremarked…. Even if your Sniper has denied everything and you have accepted the denial, he or she will be far less likely to snipe in the future.”
Admittedly, dealing with difficult people can be unpleasant. To reduce the pain, we recommend that you try out some of these power questions with snipers.
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