People are like a box of chocolates...
Difficult People Workshops

Reframing Perceptions About Difficult People

Reframing perceptions

Reality is in the eye of the perceiver. If I see you as a difficult person and a trouble-maker, then that is my reality. Regardless of your intentions, how I interpret what you do and say is based on how I frame the situation. I can frame it in a way that makes you the guilty party, and me an innocent victim. How I respond to the situation depends on how I frame it.

In our working with difficult people seminars and workshops, we teach participants how to reframe their view of people and behavior so that they can be in a position to create positive change. If I frame a situation of conflict from a victim perspective, naturally I will avoid or retaliate. But if I frame it from a leadership perspective, I will take positive action to improve teamwork. "Difficult people" can be reframed as fellow team members who have some difficult behaviors to address - as opportunities to improve teamwork, rather than as problems or obstacles.

Looking for Positive Intentions

The High Road

If I don't like your behavior, it's easy for me to assume negative intentions behind what you're doing. The low road is when I let my negative assumptions lead the way, and I react negatively to what I have decided you mean with your behavior.

Our training focuses on taking the high road in working with difficult people. The high road assumes that a person has positive intentions behind their behavior, and isn't aware or doesn't realize that their behavior doesn't match their intentions. The high road path leads me towards actually asking you about your intentions, and working with you to achieve win-win solutions in line with those intentions.

Using the "As-If" Reframe as a tool for Working with Difficult People

As-if reframe

If I assume you are a difficult person with bad intentions, even when you do something good I will tend to frame it with cynicism - as if there are bad intentions behind your good behavior, for example.

We teach workshop participants to reframe difficult people and their behavior as if they have positive intentions, but we just don't understand them. The as-if reframe is a filter that leads you to communicate, ask questions and successfully negotiate behavioral change.

Bringing Out the Best in People


The goal in working with difficult people is to bring out the best in them. If you react to them with negativity and disrespect, you will trigger the very behaviors you don't want from them. Our focus is on learning to lead difficult people toward positive behaviors. It's a skill anyone can learn.

Increase Your Personal Power: Become Un-Insultable

Your personal power is your ability to influence the behavior of another person. Reactive behavior may influence others - but not in the way you want them to go. Personal power is the ability to influence others toward the outcomes you want - to cultivate cooperative attitudes and enhance teamwork.

When you are offended or insulted by a difficult person's behavior, it puts you in an unresourceful state and makes you more likely to trigger further behaviors you don't want.


If, on the other hand, you can master the skill of un-insultability, you can learn to manage your own states and stay resourceful. In a resourceful state, you can draw on the skills and tools our workshop provides to achieve the behavioral outcomes you want.

Your Response Determines the Difficulty Level


Your own knee-jerk reactions to the behavior of a difficult person not only puts you in an unresourceful state, but also sabotages your ability to get the outcomes you want. Our workshops teach participants how to neutralize emotional reactions and convert them into effective responses that reframe perceptions and lead to positive behavioral change.


Does Your Team Need a "Working with Difficult People" Workshop?

Every team has at least a few people who exhibit difficult behavior from time to time. That's not a problem as long as the members of the team as a whole are skilled in neutralizing difficult behaviors in order to work together effectively. But if these skills aren't present, difficult behavior may be met with equally difficult reactive behavior - which in turn usually results in hostility, avoidance, stonewalling, and other symptoms of team ecology problems. If this is the case with your team, you may need a working with difficult people workshop.

Difficult People

We're On the Same Team

Regardless of the fact that some people are difficult to work with, everyone is on the same team; and it's counterproductive to allow walls of hostility to grow in an organization. Our workshops focus on the one team concept, and in this way the programs serve as team-building sessions. You can send your difficult people to a public seminar on interpersonal skills, but our approach is to get the whole team in a room together and get them thinking and functioning as a team. The exercises, activities and discussions we conduct then allow us to deal with the real situations your team is experiencing, and we can provide new methods of working out the difficulties between team members so that the walls of hostility can be removed.

team resources

Every Person on Your Team is an Expensive Resource

Taken together, your human resources are probably one of the largest expense items on your budget. Employees are expensive to a business - so it follows that a business can't afford to let productivity drop because employees can't get along with each other. If the cost of a working with difficult people workshop seems to be an expense, just consider the cost benefits of improving communication and teamwork.

If you invest in training for your people to perform their job functions, then consider the function of their skill in working with difficult people: we would call that an equally-important job function. Our workshops provide practical skills training that results in greater productivity from your most expensive and valuable resources: your team members.

Working with Difficult People: Skills Training for Your Team Members

Our working with difficult people workshops will teach your team members how to:

People skills
  • Take responsibility for their own behavior and communication
  • Stop avoiding conflict and confront difficult behaviors
  • Stop gossiping about and start communicating with the difficult people on their team
  • Confront difficult people without being confrontational
  • Negotiate a resolution to conflict
  • Negotiate behavioral change when behaviors are creating problems for the team
  • Make a behavior change request and negotiate a behavior change agreement
  • Avoid blaming and behaviors that create defensiveness
  • Plan an effective strategy for a difficult conversation
  • Manage their emotions during conflict
  • Neutralize hostility and defensiveness during a difficult conversation
  • Develop the skill of "un-insultability"
  • Improve self-awareness and acknowledge their own contributions to conflict
  • Establish the context of teamwork in difficult conversations
  • Ask directed, open-ended questions rather than trying to control the conversation
  • Listen during conflict using reflective listening techniques
  • Keep difficult conversations on track, focusing on teamwork and positive change for the future
  • Respect team members and speak respectfully to them in spite of their difficult behavior
  • Frame the behavior, and not the person, as the problem
  • Avoid taking personally the comments and behaviors of difficult people
  • Recognize and neutralize their own negative, knee-jerk reactions to difficult behaviors
  • Reframe difficult people and difficult behaviors as opportunities for building teamwork
  • Know how and when to properly escalate behavior problems to higher-level management
  • Assess their own competencies in dealing with difficult people
  • Manage their self-development in improving interpersonal skills
  • Develop leadership skills and begin seeing themselves as leaders
  • Take responsibility for the ecology of the team
  • Stop complaining about people and become an agent of positive change
  • Develop and maintain a positive attitude about the people they work with
  • Change their mental models about communication and teamwork
Conflict negotiation

Conflict Negotiation & Resolution Skills

In our working with difficult people training seminars and workshops, the critical skill set we teach is conflict negotiation and resolution. This skill set is so important that we offer a complete set of tools for effective negotiation, and ensure that each participant fully understands how to use those tools by the end of the training session.

The resolution to a problem may be an agreement about a change in work processes, a change in behavior, or both. Unfortunately, most people in the workplace handle conflict based on their habits - that is, they react automatically to conflict according to how they're accustomed to reacting - and they may be reinforcing bad habits.

Once you begin practicing the skills and behaviors of effective conflict resolution, using tools that show results, your confidence in handling difficult interpersonal problems increases dramatically. The more you practice these techniques, the better you get, and the more confident and competent you become. This confidence and competence automatically diminishes the tendency to avoid conflict or to react in ways that sabotage a relationship. Our focus is on building the skills that will improve the conflict resolution competency of your team members.

The Skill of Developing Mutual Respect

Developing mutual respect

Disrespect is rampant in teams and organizations. We consider respect to be a necessary skill for working as a member of a team. Countless times we hear people in our workshops say, "I have lost respect for him/her." This business of losing respect seems to be based on an unconscious belief that respect is something that must be earned. The problem with this belief is that it is based on projection: it can cause a person to learn to disrespect anyone whose behavior doesn't match up with what they think it should be - based on their own interpretation of what that behavior would signify if it came from them. Our model is "Respect the person, deal with the behavior." You can deal with the behavior in several ways - by accepting it, negotiating behavioral change or escalating the situation through the chain of command - none of which require losing respect for the person as a coworker or colleague.

Treating people disrespectfully is in itself a behavior problem, and it arises from an attitude of disrespect. If you want to correct a behavioral problem in another person, you are most effective when you can respect the person and work respectfully with them to discuss the problem and negotiate a change. If you lose your respect, you have lost a critical tool you must have in order to effectively work with difficult people. We consider respect to be a skill, and we teach workshop participants how to gain and maintain respect for others in spite of their behavior. We begin with the slogan: "Forgive other people for not being you." You would never behave that way. But in a diverse workplace, teams are made up of many people, whose perspectives and thought processes are not the same as yours. Our extended slogan is, "Forgive other people for not being you, but confront their behavior and effectively negotiate behavioral change." We couple this with our definition for effective communication: "The effectiveness of your communication is measured by the response you get."

The goal is to develop relationships of mutual respect. This is so easy when it just happens - and it's so hard when there are difficult behaviors to deal with. But the fact that it's hard doesn't mean you can't do it. If you approach the other person with disrespect, you will probably never arrive at a mutually respectful relationship. If, on the other hand, you approach the difficult person with respect and effectively use negotiation techniques to deal with difficult behavior, you will be more successful in correcting difficult behavior while fostering mutual respect at the same time. It is a skill that must be learned and practiced; and this skill is central to the focus of our working with difficult people seminars and workshops.

DISC Behavioral Style Assessments

Behavioral Style Assessments: Working with People of Different Styles

Often, a "difficult person" is one who thinks and behaves differently than you do. This situation is often referred to as a personality clash. We often include behavioral style assessments as a component of our working with difficult people workshops, in order to help team members work effectively with people of different styles.

The DISC Behavioral Style Model is a highly effective tool in helping people to understand, and work with, differences in style. Prior to the workshop, each manager completes an online survey and receives a 20-page personal DISC assessment describing her/his behavioral style. The assessments are surprisingly accurate, and they are especially helpful in a team training environment, where participants can see charts showing the styles of their team members. For more information about how we use DISC assessments in our working with difficult people training sessions, please visit our DISC Training Workshops website at

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence Skills

Plenty of people with high IQs are not very intelligent in the way they handle their emotions. And when they have to work with difficult people, their lack of emotional intelligence becomes clear. Fortunately, emotional intelligence can be learned and developed: it is based on a group of four skill sets that, with practice, can be mastered by anyone. And we focus on these skills in our working with difficult people seminars and workshops.

The four skill sets that comprise emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. For a detailed overview of these skills and how we teach them, please visit our Emotional Intelligence Workshops website at

Role play

Training, Discussions, Group Exercises & Role Play

Our working with difficult people workshops are conducted by Roger Reece, who is a seasoned manager, trainer, facilitator, mediator and coach. Roger's training sessions are filled with stories, case studies and illustrations from Roger's 40 years of experience in working with difficult people in the workplace. Roger uses open discussions, small group exercises, team building activities and role play to make training lively and engaging.

There is no limit to group size, but if you are interested in combining the training with group coaching, we recommend small groups of 20 or fewer participants. That being said, we have conducted full-day working with difficult people workshops for as many as 1500 participants.

Onsite Training or an Offsite Location

We can conduct your working with difficult people workshop at your location, in a conference room or assembly hall; alternately, you may find an offsite location more effective, so that participants are less likely to be pulled away during breaks. We can coordinate with you to conduct your workshop at whatever location you choose. We can structure your workshop in a half-day, full-day or multiple-day format, based on the depth and scope of the training you are interested in. Contact us to schedule a free telephone consultation to discuss your objectives and the various options we can provide for meeting those objectives.

We don't offer public seminars where you can send one difficult person for an attitude adjustment. Our experience is that workshops are most effective when they include people from the same organization, and where the focus is on getting everyone in the room to become a more effective team. If you have one difficult person on your staff whose behavior you would like to improve, please visit the coaching page of this website as well as our Workplace Behavior Coaching website at

Improve Morale, Build Teamwork, Raise Productivity

The purpose of our working with difficult people seminars and workshops is to help your team develop the awareness, skills and motivation to overcome the behavior barriers that can diminish teamwork. Whether you schedule one workshop, a series of workshops or a combination of training and coaching, we can work with you and your team to improve morale, build teamwork and raise productivity. Contact us today to take the first step.


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