When it comes to dealing with difficult people in life, we often try to prepare for the worst and make a plan of attack. The common attitude is, “Oh no! I have a problem; how do I fix it?”

Handling troublesome colleagues in the workplace can have its own set of unique challenges – projects, people and processes can become affected, not to mention your own sense of well-being and job enjoyment.

Is it possible to have a “battle plan” for dealing with colleagues and create a beneficial outcome for all without turning the workplace into a war-zone? Thankfully, yes. With some simple tactics and a shift in perspective, you can turn the tables on difficult colleagues and have more ease among your business relationships.

Don’t doubt yourself or take it personally

A colleague going out of their way to fight you can be very disconcerting. When I first experienced it myself, I couldn’t figure out why it was happening. This person would be nice one moment, and nasty the next. I received accusations of being competitive, copying work, not being as good as I thought I was, or at other times being totally dismissed or ignored. I was confused, and my first thought was wondering what I’d done wrong and what I needed to do to fix it and make it okay.

Then I learned this “mantra”: it’s not personal. I’d been seeing myself as the cause of their actions, but I began to notice that it wasn’t about me at all, so it made sense that my efforts to appease this person weren’t working either. Another hot tip is this: people tend to accuse you of what they are doing, not what you are doing.

So, when I listened to the accusations from my co-worker with impartial ears, it gave me information about what was going on for them: I began to see it was them choosing to compete and feeling less capable at their job. They were attempting to invalidate me so that they could feel better about themselves.

When I stopped taking it personally or trying to see how I was the cause of the problem, I was able to be more aware of the situation as it really was and choose not to get caught up emotionally in their choices and insecurities.

Replace reaction, anger and upset with gratitude

In the face of another’s unkindness, it is easy to react with upset or anger and make judgments: people shouldn’t act this way in a professional situation; it’s wrong; if only they would stop, change, see things from your point of view. Rather than conclude, expect or hope that things should be different – what if you could dispense with all of that and have gratitude instead?

This may seem difficult at first, but every judgment about right or wrong that we make, whether we direct it at ourselves or another person, eliminates our sense of choices and makes us powerless. You can argue, “Well, we should be respectful of one another,” and yes of course, wouldn’t that be nice if everyone did that? But a more pragmatic attitude would be to acknowledge, “Okay, this is what this person is choosing at the moment. What else is possible and what choices do I have I haven’t considered?”

Gratitude and judgement cannot exist next to each other, so gratitude puts you back in charge, with a clearer head and ability to act beyond just reaction. What can you be grateful for about this person and the situation? If you did not view them as a problem, what contribution could they be? What advantages could this situation present you? Every problem has a possibility attached to it, if you are willing to take out the judgment and look for the “silver lining”.

Acknowledge what is different about you

Difficult colleagues are often the ones that have not created or accomplished what you have or do not have the same sense of joy, fun, ease in life and work that you do. They may be attracted to conflict with you precisely because you are different. It’s not the nicest thing to acknowledge, but many people look to the strong, different and unique ones to try and get them down. This may not make sense to you, because you are probably someone who becomes inspired by another person achieving greatness. Not everyone functions this way, and the ones who don’t desire for you to be successful will attempt to bring you down and keep you small, so they can stay comfortable.

If you are finding this hard to see what’s so different about you, maybe it’s time to ask yourself: what is the strength I have that I haven’t acknowledged? What is different about me that I have not been willing to see?

When I started to look closer at what I was that was different to those around me, I realized that I was a lot happier than most people, I had more fun than most people, and I enjoyed my job more than most people. I could find the benefit in every situation, and this was very annoying for my colleague! Recognizing that I was not wrong, just different, was a blessing because I was able to turn things around and instead of being upset, I could just be myself and laugh when others tried to make my life miserable.

Be creative, not combative

When you acknowledge someone’s agenda for making your life difficult, without judging it or feeling the need to fight it, they become quite predictable and easy to read. Be grateful for all the information they give you and use it to your advantage. This may sound manipulative and in truth – it is! Manipulate simply means “to handle in a skillful manner.” Ask, “What does this person need and how do they need to be handled in order to be willing to contribute to with ease?” For example, if you know they love praise from their manager, you could say, “Can you help? The boss was so grateful for you helping him last month.” If you are willing to be creative and deliver what they need to hear, without a point of view, you will be surprised at what can change.

 

You don’t have to go to war with problematic coworkers to improve things. If you end the battle within you – eliminate judgment, have gratitude, ask questions, be creative and most of all, have fun being you – you will begin to realize that nothing and no one can make you unhappy or stop you from living your life the way you desire.


After completing her social work studies in Vienna, Doris Schachenhofer worked with children, homeless people, delinquent teenagers and prisoners transitioning back into the real world. Today she travels the world teaching and supporting people to be more of themselves. Her Being You classes are delivered in both live and online settings. Follow Doris here and on Instagram.


Storytelling is our most powerful form of communication ever invented. Whether it’s the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or a team or investor presentation, stories provoke our emotions. Stories help us feel something towards the person telling the story, i.e. the presenter (that’s you), which helps create connection, credibility and trust – an absolute essential if you want to stand out in today’s competitive business world.

Present a Hollywood blockbuster

Any presentation you put together should read like a good movie – it needs to have creative visuals, a compelling script, music, rhythm and heroic characters. All these elements come together and make your audience feel something, an emotion – excited, sad, angry, even apathetic.

Yet, in business, we’ve been taught that emotion (something that comes naturally to us women) is inappropriate. We’ve been told that problem-solving and decision making should rely on our logic and analysis.  This simply isn’t true.

It has long been noted that rational decision making – for the most part – is largely a myth. This is because up to 90% of the thousands of decisions we make each day fall beneath our level of awareness and are reinforced through our feelings and emotions. In fact, studies have shown that 74% of participants changed their decision after their emotion was changed.

A compelling blockbuster, therefore, needs to have a solid structure and stories that are easy to follow. It needs to have lots of signposts that lead your audience through on a journey with you. Show them the difference between life without your product or service compared to life with your help.

Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk, ‘Your body language may shape who you are’, is a perfect example of how you balance facts with that emotional pull. If you don’t know it, then have a look and pat attention to her screen visuals, gestures and the emotion she uses to draw you in.

Structure your story

Master communicator Nancy Duarte spent two years reading mythology, philosophy, and researching screenwriting and other story methodologies that have stood the test of time. In the course of her research, she uncovered a structure that some of the world’s greatest communicators had been using for years (including Aristotle).

It’s called ‘Persuasive Story Form’. This structure takes your audience back and forth between ‘what is’ (current state) and ‘what could be’ (the future world with your idea). You can use it for everything, from a movie script to your latest presentation.

Beginning: ACT I

  1. Have an honest conversation about the reality of the situation
  2. Give them a glimpse at the solution – with your idea.

Middle: ACT II

  1. Create tension and contrast for your audience
  2. Use a balance of emotional and analytical insights.

End: ACT III

  1. Begin with your call to action, what you want your audience to do
  2. Finish with an inspiring description of the world with your idea in place
  3. Ensure they leave committed to taking action.

To see this in practice then take a look at Nancy Duarte’s ‘The Secret Structure of Great Talks’ – you won’t regret it!

Make it memorable

If the goal of any presentation is to influence your audience (which it is), then you need to balance information with logic and emotion in a way that they remember your message and are driven to act upon it at the end. This is how what you are delivering can become meaningful and unforgettable.

Any time you present, it is your opportunity to influence the way those in the room think and act. So you’ve got to make them want to do something other than run or sleep. Should they feel angry and compelled to act now? Or excited about your new vision or idea?

To help, choose images, photos, and even colours, that match that mood. Then use relevant stories to connect one-to-one with them, so what you’re saying and showing becomes not only memorable, but meaningful as well.

I’ve seen video used really effectively in presentations, like a close up visual of an eye, something that is such high resolution you just want to reach out and touch it.

 

This is your chance to share not just your point of view, but also your passion for your subject, so let that shine. (Editor’s note: Learn how to change the world with your stories!)

Above all else, remember, the ability to bring emotion and heart to your subject is, for most of us, an innate skill. And when you balance this with logical arguments, then you create the opportunity to be remembered long after the lights go down. Just try it and see.


Emma Bannister is passionate about presenting big, bold and beautiful ideas. She is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency, and author of the book ‘Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations’.  Visit www.presentationstudio.com


The way people are communicating, both online and in person, is becoming more aggressive and more divisive. A lot of people believe that proving the rightness of their points of view will create the results they desire rather than doing what would be functional. As a result, they are listening to each other less and simply repeating themselves in the same way, as they desperately attempt to convince people of their point of view. Yet they only achieve frustration, without creating the result they are looking for.

There can be a different way, which is kinder and more inclusive. This approach tends to lead to those involved feeling better and also tends to create more successful, more expansive outcomes, even if these differ somewhat from what you originally intended.

I’ll use this perspective to highlight some of the ways people are choosing to communicate, the different styles they adopt, as well as the pros and cons of each. As you read the various communication styles, I suggest that you ask yourself some questions. The fundamental question is, “What is true for me here?” Broadly speaking, in each example, one way of communicating has more control and more logic while the other is more fluid and relies on creating genuine connections with others.

Being interesting or being interested?

A lot of people aim to be interesting, thinking that they will be able to win people over and get what they want or to entertain them. What tends to happen is that the other person feels left out and overlooked. So, even if you manage to push through the outcome that you desired, it may be that the other person is quietly resisting or becoming bored. Frequently, this resistance results in future problems.

In contrast, when you are interested, you are focussed on the other person and what they are saying. By asking them questions and actively listening to their responses, the other person can feel heard and understood, something I believe we all desire. You may also feel as if you have lost control and your familiar way of doings things. However, as this is much more likely to reveal what the other person desires, it can be more productive, resulting in less conflict further on the line. The person is grateful for you and may be drawn to offer you something in return, which can result in what you desire.

Hearing the words or perceiving the energy?

You have probably had the experience of someone committing to doing something, whilst feeling something isn’t quite right. Then later, not feeling surprised when they don’t follow through on what they said they were going to do.

Although in our logical society, we don’t tend to talk about it like this. What has happened is that you perceived the energy of the other person and knew it was not congruent with what they said they were going to do.

Functioning only from others’ words means we stay in a predictable, logical reality where we can record and “prove” what people have said. By including what we perceive in their energy, we move into different territory and can get a sense from where they are functioning and what is true for them, even if we cannot “prove” it in a traditional way.

To be in this second space, we have to be willing to give up control, to let go of our expectations of how we think our discussions should turn out and subsequently, be willing to trust our instincts. As a result, instead of reacting to the situation, we can move on to create more possibilities.

Preparing or thinking on your feet?

People often like to prepare what they are going to say and not vary from this script, even when they notice the other person is resistant or unable to hear what they are saying.

The alternative to this is to have an idea of what you would like to say whilst paying attention to the other person or people. How are they responding? Are they paying attention, or are they bored? Based on these cues, you adjust your words and the ideas you present.

Using the latter approach requires that you be really present and alert. You also have to be willing to relinquish strict control of the direction of the conversation in favour of paying attention to what the other person is saying. The advantage to this is that you may achieve mutually desired results.

Making people feel good or making people feel?

Some people will focus on making another person feel good whilst others will be more interested in making the other person feel – and by this, I mean giving space for the other person to think and feel the way they do without reacting nor resisting, while tuning in with that other person, sensing where they are and responding accordingly.

What can be difficult for people with this approach is that they perceive it to take more time and effort, as well as requiring skills which they don’t believe they possess. The benefits of really being present with someone is that they not only feel heard and understood, they get clarity and a sense of ease. This genuine connection is much more likely to create the outcomes you desire.

So, what is true for you?

What I see is that by being willing to sense the energy as well as hear the words during interactions, and by being willing to be present with what is unfolding rather than following a predetermined course of action, something greater can be created. If this appeals, I suggest asking some simple questions before you meet the other person: “Do I have an agenda here, or am I open to possibilities? What words can I say that this person can hear? What possibilities are available here that I have not even considered yet?” and allow yourself to receive the information, to get a sense of what will be a contribution to you and the other person and what you desire.

 

What if your way to communicate could be more efficient, easy and create more of the success you desire by including the reality of the other person, what you sense at the energy level and by asking simple questions?


Edith Paul is a Life Coach, inspirational speaker and certified facilitator of several Access Consciousness® specialty programs, including Right Voice for You. A committed educator and compassionate community volunteer, Edith has been teaching Mathematics and English to adults for more than a decade and has been an Al-Anon support representative in her local community. She travels internationally, extending an invitation to the curious to trust their internal knowing.


Have your employees lost confidence in their ability to do their work?

Perhaps the company is working with fewer resources on bigger projects.

Maybe employees have had to take on more responsibilities.

Or perhaps the company structure has changed due to a re-org or new leadership.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve noticed employees are less engaged or less productive, they likely could benefit from more confidence at the workplace. As a leader, you possess the skills and some might argue, the obligation, to encourage your employees’ confidence. Not only will they be happier in their jobs and more likely to be retained, but in challenging situations, their increased confidence will help ease transitions, reduce tension and increase motivation. Here are my five suggestions for how to increase confidence in your employees.

1. Open lines of communication

Keep the lines of communication open with all employees, at all times. According to The Carrot Principle by Adam Gostick and Hester Elton, your very best performers are also often the most insecure people in the organization. Talk with employees about their work environment, even those exhibiting no signs of stress or lack of confidence. Don’t assume you know which employees will benefit the most from this conversation. Have it with all of them and have it often. Specifically address:

  • The company: What’s important to the company at this time? What are the business objectives?
  • Their role: How does he/she make a difference? How do his/her efforts align with the business objectives?
  • Their motivation: What’s in it for him/her when he/she does make a difference?

2. Set Clear Expectations

Ensure employees understand what is expected of them. Link these expectations to benefits for the company as well as the employee personally. A best practice is to write them down and regularly review to measure progress and course correct when necessary. Confidence in the workplace involves trusting and believing in the leaders. In turn, make sure you understand what the organization and your manager expect of YOU.

3. Be Conscious about Recognition

It is important to notice and recognize when employees meet their personal goals or achieve steps toward meeting goals. Recognition does not have to be expensive or take a lot of time – sometimes a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. It’s important to be specific about the behavior or result being recognized and to connect it back to the company’s goals. It’s also important to give recognition evenly and consistently. Strong leaders will find something to recognize in each employee based on their daily job performance and contributions to the overall business goals.

4. Encourage Idea Sharing

Encourage employees to share their ideas and create forums where these ideas can be easily exchanged. Be fully in the moment during these sessions giving your employees and their ideas your full attention. Adopt the philosophy, “There is no bad idea in idea sharing.” Listen closely and take opportunities to build rapport across the team, group or company. Having a voice and having it heard is important in boosting confidence.

5. Reduce negative talk

As I recommended in Increase Your Self Confidence in the Workplace, changing the little voice in your head that says, “You can’t do that” or “You’re not smart enough for this” into more positive thoughts eventually helps your brain change the interpretation of the situation. As you become more optimistic, you build self-confidence about your abilities to handle the work. Similarly, replacing negative talk with optimism will help employees build more confidence in their abilities to do their job and motivation to work toward the team and company’s goals.


Taking these simple steps will help boost employees’ self-confidence in their ability to do their job well and feel confident about their value to the organization. By building their confidence, you will make a difference in your employees’ commitment to their work and establish more positive outcomes for the company.

An unknown source said, “With confidence, you can reach amazing heights; without confidence, even the simplest accomplishments are beyond our grasp.”

What amazing heights will you help your employees reach today?

 

Linda O’Neill is the vice president of strategic services at Vigilant, a company dedicated to helping companies in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and California solve their most complex employment issues. Linda is a certified executive coach and organizational development expert who works with Vigilant members companies to create high functioning organizations, at the individual, team and systemic levels. Linda is graduate of the University of Oregon, BS in journalism and public relations.


As a woman, it can be particularly challenging to make yourself heard within an organization. Females can sometimes be less assertive than men, and may not speak up as much in meetings or other group settings. This is why presentations – whether it’s a weekly work-in-progress meeting, a monthly sales report or a keynote speech at a conference – are so important. They give you the chance to demonstrate your authority, confidence and professionalism to your colleagues, thereby confirming your reputation as a thought leader within your business. Unfortunately, presentations are for many women a handicap rather than an asset – and PowerPoint slides could be part of the problem.

There are several reasons why you tend to rely on PowerPoint, but many organisations are moving away from it in their meetings so you need to move with the times. With this being said, let’s bust the 5 myths about relying on PowerPoint in your presentations, and show you how to get everyone sitting up and paying attention.

Myth no. 1: ‘PowerPoint helps me structure my presentation’

When preparing for a presentation, many people take a back-to-front approach, diving straight into PowerPoint and putting all of their content onto slides first, and worrying about the structure later. ‘Having all the content in front of me helps me organise my thoughts better,’ you might tell yourself. But this approach can lead to presentations that meander around the core message, and can leave the audience feeling unconvinced or, even worse, confused. There are, in fact, several steps you should take before you even turn on your computer, to make sure your presentation is as powerful as possible.

The very first thing to consider is your audience: who are they? And what are their pain points? It’s important to do your research – if you’re presenting to a potential client, you might check out their website and LinkedIn page; if you’re presenting at a conference, you might ask about the typical demographic of the attendees.

Once you have a good idea of who you’re talking to, the next question to ask yourself is, ‘What is my core message?’ What do you want your audience to do or think as a result of your presentation? You should be able to summarise this in a single sentence – this then becomes the overarching theme of your presentation.

Once you know your audience and you’ve got your overarching theme, only then can you begin to think about your structure. But don’t reach for that power button just yet – I recommend good old-fashioned pen and paper for this step. Think back to your audience’s pain points and try to address these. Ask yourself, ‘Why should they care about what I’m talking about? Why is what I’m talking about important to them?’ Consider what information your audience needs to be persuaded to your point of view, and try to condense this into two or three key points if possible – no more than five. Your audience may struggle to retain more than 5 key points after your presentation.

Then consider what information you have to support your key points. This may be facts, statistics, examples, analogies or recent stories – try to relate to your audience here, as this will make your message resonate more.

A useful way to organize your structure is using a logic tree, which forces you to stay on-message.

Once you’ve decided on the best structure, you can then think about how many PowerPoint slides you might need to make your case effectively – or whether you need them at all!

Myth no. 2: ‘The more information I fit onto my slides, the more knowledgeable I will appear’

Trying to fit as much information as possible into a presentation, or ‘content cramming’, is a very common mistake. You may think it makes you look like more of an authority on the subject at hand, or that you’re ‘covering your bases’ by addressing as many points as possible. But, the reality is, people’s mental capacity is limited, and all that content cramming achieves is cognitive overload, thereby diluting your message and influence.

Content cramming: a big no-no

As The Colin James Method®’s co-founder and facilitator, I’ve seen it all and honestly, I believe content cramming is the refuge of the insecure. There is a constant stream of information bombarding your audience every day, they don’t need more… they want you to help them create meaning from the information and work out how to apply it to make a difference in their world.

Knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to include, and this is where knowing your audience comes in. When considering whether to include something, ask yourself, ‘Does my audience care about this?’ If the answer is ‘No’, then get rid of it. This helps you to present relevant and useful insights to them. It’s also a massive confidence booster to know that you’ve got information that will help people to avoid a pitfall or gain some advantage.

Myth no. 3: ‘PowerPoint slides help me remember what to say’

You have likely heard the phrase ‘Death by PowerPoint’, and treating your PowerPoint as a script is a sure-fire way to a slow and painful demise for you and your audience.

You may think that reading from your slides is a good way to reinforce information; this, however, has the effect of distancing your audience rather than engaging them. You may also feel like it is a good way to make sure you don’t miss anything important, but think about this: if you can’t remember your presentation, and you’re the one who is familiar with the subject, how can you expect your audience to?

Breaking down your presentation into bite-sized chunks will not only help you stay on point and communicate your core message with confidence, but it will also help your audience digest what you have to say.

Myth no. 4: ‘PowerPoint slides will distract people from my less-than-stellar presentation skills’

If you’re not feeling super confident, it can be tempting to hide behind your PowerPoint slides, so to speak. But your delivery will heavily influence how your presentation will be received. If you don’t appear confident, people will assume you are not confident about your message and will be less likely to be persuaded by what you have to say. And all the flashy graphic effects in the world aren’t enough to mask a poor delivery.

The only solution? Learn the skills of a good presenter and practise, practise, practise.

Once you’ve got your structure down pat, practise delivering your presentation out loud. Avoid trying to write out a speech word for word, which can make you sound unnatural and stilted; instead, use your key points as prompts and imagine trying to speak to your audience directly. You’ll find after a few dry runs that you’ll start to sound knowledgeable and unscripted.

While you’re practising, think about your voice: your pace should be measured, your pitch should be low and calm, and you want to be able to project your voice to the back of the room. Think about your body language too: try to make eye contact with everyone in the room at some point, use the available space to keep up energy and attention, and use hand gestures to visualise your points.

Myth no. 5: ‘Presenting information visually on PowerPoint slides helps with audience retention’

This is not necessarily a ‘myth’, but it’s not the gospel truth either. PowerPoint can be a great tool for presenting visual information – but it may not be the best one for your particular presentation.

When you’re considering the point you’re trying to make, try to think outside the PowerPoint box. Is it best illustrated by drawing a diagram on a flipchart or whiteboard? Could you use a prop? Could you ask the audience to participate in an exercise or discussion? Being creative with how you communicate can have a marked effect on audience engagement and retention.

If you do want to use slides, we find that they work best if they support your verbal presentation with evocative images, numerical graphs and tables, or video clips.

Try it for yourself!

As Sheryl Sandberg writes in Lean In: “Feeling confident – or pretending that you feel confident – is necessary to reach for opportunities. It’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.” So take these tips, and seize the opportunity to make a lasting impression at your next presentation. You could even challenge yourself to present without the crutch of PowerPoint slides – you might be surprised by the results!


Erica Bagshaw is an entrepreneur, Executive Coach and Co-Founder of The Colin James Method® and Inner Profit Pty Ltd a vibrant leadership development company in Australia. She has spent the majority of her career growing and developing close client partnerships. She loves sharing her expertise on the all things communication.