Dealing With Difficult People part 3 Be an Active Listener


Good day (or Night depending on when you access this) to you! Thanks for sharing some of your valuable time with CSI Onsite.

We continue with a short series of blog posts centered upon the idea of Dealing With Difficult People. If you are interested in reading our previous postings

Click on the links above and they will take you to the corresponding blog post.  The purpose of this series is to give you some time tested principles and resources that I have compiled over from experienced professionals in a plethora of different environments. We hope they increase your effectiveness in your home and work life.

Here are 4 basic guiding principles when dealing with difficult that we are looking at in these posts:

Be Kind
Be Humble
Be an Active Listener
Be Assertive


We are on the third principle, Be an Active Listener. One of the best people I have ever witnessed deal with difficult people (and difficult issues) taught this to me over years of working with together. His name is Cajon (name changed…not to protect identity I just don’t want him getting a big head!) and he was a in the top tier of our organizations leadership. I was first introduced to the concept of Active Listening as Cajon (and another trainer) certified me to work with engaged & married couples through an extensive training process.  It wasn’t until later that I would truly appreciate the value of Active Listening. I would observe on a consistent basis how Active Listening would bring clarity to expectations, communication, and avoid misunderstandings in our staff meetings and our company wide meetings.

How do you actively listening? What is Active Listening? Active listening is your choice & ability to let the person/people that you are communication with know that you understand them by restating their message back to them. Sounds quite simple don’t it? In praxis it isn’t, in fact, when you first learn, it is as if you are learning a new language and takes time to truly learn how to do it with excellence and consistency. If you wish to be a great communicator you would do well to learn to do Active Listening. It depends on you carefully listening to the other person, listening attentively without interrupting (without assuming you know what they mean). Then you restate what they spoke to you. DO NOT interrupt their words to mean anything other than what they spoke, even if they are sending other meanings through body language, voice tone, etc… (use their exact words if you must).  Here are a few examples of Active Listening:


“If I understand what you said, you are concerned because you want to go skiing next winter. But you think I would rather to go to the beach. Is that correct?”

This is a real example between my wife and me.

ME: “So I heard you say “there is a family picnic on the Sunday, and if I want to, we could go” Is this correct? The words I spoke we verbatim what she had spoken to me. However, that was not the message she was communicating (which I assumed in my mind, but didn’t say so out loud.) She immediately corrected herself and said WIFE: “I’m sorry that was not what I meant and what I said wasn’t clear. I know how busy we are on Sundays, but there is a family picnic. It would mean a lot to me to go as a family, can we do that?”


Did you see how restating the sender’s words can help you get the whole message? Doing so not only brings clarity, it allows you as the receiver/listener to acknowledge the feelings of the speaker (which, by the way, is a huge plus in Marriage). The process also lets the sender know whether or not the message they sent was a. actually what they meant and b. clearly understood.


For you as person whether you are an executive, a laborer, teacher, parent, student, whatever your station in life, you will come to highly value Active Listening and the positive benefits of using the process.

If you carefully listen to people and demonstrate to them that you value them as a person, you may soon discover that the frequency of DPEs (difficult people encounters) and the severity of their difficulty begin to diminish.

Active Listening isn’t a silver bullet, but it does work, and will increase your effectiveness as a communicator, employee, partner, and definitely as a leader.

One last bit of Active Listening guidance, there are instances when Active Listening is not only not needed, it could be detrimental. If someone, while threatening you with a weapon says “Do X & Z or I’ll bust this chair across your face!” Don’t restate that…not the time or best method of communication in this instance. I think you can safely assume what they mean and act accordingly. As a feisty, red headed Martial Artist, I might correct them with a little chin music…but that’s a different blog altogether. Enjoy to journey in learning how to employ the process of Active Listening, and please let us know some of your stories of using it.