Deal with Conflict, Don't Rain on my Parade...

Conflict Management and How to Deal with Negative Difficult People

Guest Speaker Jody Urquhart

Have you noticed negative or difficult people around you are affecting your otherwise cheerful disposition (and how unfair is that)? Why do Negative Nellie’s feel they need to unload their pent up vex at an unsuspecting person? What is up with the negativity and conflict?

One of the top sources of stress in our workplaces today is conflict from difficult people. (HR Magazine).

Have you ever wondered why some people are difficult to work with?

According to Robert M.Bramson, Ph.D., author of coping With Difficult People,

 “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.”

In other words, they do it because it helps them.

Studies by the institute of Heart Math suggest that we all give off energy that is either positive or contracting. Some people increase energy when they leave a room, and suck energy from the environment when they walk in the door. Morale and Inspiration plummets.

The unfortunate part is we tend to become like the people we are around the most. For instance, when you visit somewhere and people have accents you tend to take on the accent, just like people in groups tend to dress alike and take on similar characteristics.

This may mean because you are around negative people you may become negative too! Yikes.

Listen to people complaining endlessly about work, and you'll find yourself starting to do the same. Add to it that negative emotions exert a more powerful effect in social situations than positive ones.

Unfortunately you can’t eliminate the negative person, but you can find ways to deal with them. If you were around someone with an infectious disease you would probably take steps to reduce the risk. Negativity is infectious so it makes sense that we should ward it off.

Negative behaviors are defense mechanisms; they protect people from developing relationships, from taking risks, from getting in trouble or making mistakes. If you can permeate the wall there defenses hold up you have a hope of diffusing toxic emotions.

Keep it Positive

Anger and negativity usually stem from the anxiety, fear response in the brain, -one of the oldest, most primitive parts of our brain.  Also responsible for the fight or flight response, It reacts without thinking. From a Society for Neuroscience article on Bliss and the Brain:A scrutiny of brain activity indicates that individuals with natural positive dispositions have trumped up activity in the left prefrontal cortex compared with their more negative counterparts.” Happy people think more logically. If you can make someone smile or laugh you literally force them to use a different part of their brain that is more logical and reasonable. A person cannot be negative and smile or laugh at the same time.

Do you Fight? Or Flight? My experience is under stress people either fight back or retreat. It is the classic fight or flight response at play. Your mind tends to respond to stressful situations as dangerous and immediately fights back to protect, or you retreat( run away, disengage)

Physically within your body adrenaline pumps into your blood stream and stored fats turn into sugar for energy, your digestive and immune systems suppress and your focus become fight or flight. This response was very useful for cavemen but much less adaptive for today’s society and acute sources of stress. For example, one of the key sources of dissatisfaction in the workplace today is lack of appreciation, our stress response to feeling unacknowledged would have us fight or retreat, making the situation worse. As long as all stress is seen as dangerous, which for a lot of people it is, than this fight or flight reaction can wreak havoc on your life. Prolonged continuous flight or flight reaction takes a strong physical toll on your health. The degenerative wear and tear leads to heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes and more.

The best thing to do is short circuit the fight/ flight response by refusing to react.


1)     Respond to stress by recognizing your pattern. Under stress do you typically fight (get angry, lose your temper) or flight (disengage, give in, or become passive)

2)      Reframe your attitude to perceive the stress as a challenge not a threat. If you feel a lack of appreciation challenge the situation and yourself to recognize why you are upset and how can you get the recognition you deserve.

Let it roll off your back, some people are just ANGRY. Negativity, hatred and disgust are boring and not worth your time. Sometimes these people are out there to help you develop your resolve to stay positive no matter what.

Distance yourself from negative people by taking an involved but impersonal view. The more you can see them as separate from yourself, the less likely you'll be to interpret their behavior as being a personal attack against you. It's just the way they are; you had nothing to do with it!

Adjust your tolerance. People who are easily annoyed have a low level of tolerance for inconveniences or frustrations. Think of yourself as “buoyant” and resilient in the face of stress and respond that way. Find out what triggers your anger and develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over the edge.

If you are confident and feel good about yourself you are more likely to be buoyant to negativity and be a force for change.

Negative people try to validate their victim hood by pulling others into their warped view.

Don’t be their prey! Think of it this way, If someone were to say “Nice job of handling that”- what would you have done to deserve that comment?

Interrupt Negativity- When someone is heralding negative assumptions simply do something to distract from it or stop it. I love to do the unexpected because it literally halts a person’s point of view and gets them thinking about something different. It is the whole premise of humor. It has to be unexpected to be funny (which is why you don’t laugh at a joke if you’ve heard the punch line before).

Don't fight back or try to beat them at their own games. They have been practicing their skills for a lifetime, and you're an amateur.

Don't try to change them. You can only change your responses to their behavior.

Pass some perspective please. Who says criticism requires anger? Who says discussing challenges (opportunities) is a bad thing? It all depends on your perspective.

Negative accusatory people are likely inferring things that aren’t true. Their flawed assumptions are creating a negatively warped picture.  Clear up the facts so you both see a clear picture.

Have a good laugh- we often laugh hardest when we have been feeling most tense. Just because you laugh doesn’t mean you don’t take it seriously.

Remember positive people ground your outlook so find positive people and be around them.

The next time someone tries to rain on your parade and affect your sunny outlook you will know what to do about it

Jody Urquhart,

Jody Urquhart is a professional speaker who compels stressed-out and fed-up professionals to rediscover their passion, purpose & sense of play. To discuss having Jody speak at your next meeting please call us at 1(877) 750-1900 or email

Made Ya Laugh

My mothers only 8 hours by broom

I don’t like when people say needless to say… because there going to say it. If it’s needless to say than it’s needless to hear

Why does it take 100,000,000 sperm to fertilize one egg?
Because not one will stop and ask directions.

Why do female black widow spiders kill their mates after Mating?
To stop the snoring before it starts.

Regular Columns

1) Oh Lighten Up! Your quick, easy lighten up idea for the month

Let people Laugh At You. If you are known for moodiness, acknowledge it with a "Mood-O-Meter" outside your door. Take turns forecasting your mood… from don’t come near me or ill kill you to come talk to me- it will make your day. Don't underestimate the power of self-effacing humor for making yourself more accessible and liked.

2) Game Spot - a fun quick activity you can use this month at work

  • Get in groups of 7 or 8. Point to the person who laughs the most in your group This person is… Ms (or Mr.) playful…you are an expert on how to lighten up and have fun at work.

  • 3 other people in each group are to interview Ms. playful, on how to lighten up, or what she does to have fun and use humor at work

  • The 4 remaining people in each group… you are listeners….listen to the questions and answers.

  • At the end of the time, the “listening” team must recap what the interviewee has said in three sentences. The team asking the questions scores the other team on the accuracy of its recap. Teams are then rotated so that the listeners become the interviewer

3) Appreciation Station. A way to recognize, celebrate and appreciate people

  • Research shows that employees receive praise and recognition from their immediate supervisor once every seven days. We may need it everyday.

    How often do you tell your spouse you love them? (Almost everyday)

    What would happen if instead of every day, you just said it once or twice a year-Maybe on their birthday and your anniversary- Would that cut it?

    Nope. It is the same with employee recognition
  • Send Recognition Letters Home

    A personalized thank you letter sent to the home from there manager…. An employee will never forget

    Recognizing families or partners for their sacrifices is one of the most powerful (and yet untapped) motivational tools ever.

4) Art of the Unexpected- Some funny simple tasteful pranks and other unexpected things you can try if you dare to throw people off guard and keep it fun

  • Put outrageous price tags on office equipment. (i.e. - $30,000 for a computer mouse)

  • March up to someone and tell them they need to help you with something and say. “If we don’t get this done right away were both completely screwed”

  • Say there is a new sexual harassment policy that says you’re not allowed to make eye contact at work