Difficult People – Part 1: The Hostile Aggressor


This is the person who is always aggressive (whether they realize it or not). Often they’re emotional types – not likely to calm down no matter how hard you try. I was always taught to try and calm them down by acknowledging their concerns. Here’s how it would go: “you don’t understand, we won’t get this product ranged unless you give them another 20% in margin” at which point I would respond with “I hear what you’re saying, but the reality is…” and try to prove why it was simply not possible to give them another 20% in margin. The thing is, no matter how sound my reasoning, it never actually worked. Why? Simple – it’s the word “but”. You may not realize it, but it’s a barrier word – as soon as you say it, the other person hears “you don’t know what I’m saying”. Other barrier words could be “unfortunately”, “the bottom line is”, “at the end of the day”, “however”, or “with all due respect”.


The following is a simple methodology I picked up to better handle these situations. The key here is simple:

1) Acknowledge and clarify the situation
2) Get the person to say “yes” by suggesting a possible next step

Here’s how it works:

This is how it might look like in practice:

- “I  understand that you think the offer is not suitable for the client so why don’t we set a meeting for first thing tomorrow to work through each of the issues. Does that work?”

- “It sounds as though you’re unhappy with the feedback and I’d like to recommend we each write down the reasons why before we meet to discuss. Would you be happy with that?”

- “You’re telling me that we can’t deliver what we promised to the client. (pause) I want to solve this, can we have a discussion about this now?”


Notice that instead of using “but” and trying to convince the other person of your thinking, we are suggesting a possible next step. The object here is NOT to arrive at a solution or solve any complaints, it’s about getting the person to agree to the next step with a “yes” answer. By that time, (hopefully!) they’ve calmed down enough to have a reasonable conversation with. Try it out, let me know how you go.