At some point in your life you will have to deal with a difficult person. It may be when you least expect it or when you’ve been warned far in advance. Regardless of the situation, following the N.I.C.E. system can help you handle a difficult person without becoming one of them.

N—Neutralize your emotions. Dealing with difficult people can be an emotional challenge. The more emotional you are, the less rational you behave. Conversely, the more your emotions are in check, the more you can be in control of a positive outcome.

I—Identify the type. There are three basic types of difficult people (and several permutations of each).
• The Situationally Difficult: those people whose situation or circumstances make them difficult
• The Strategically Difficult: those people who believe being unreasonable is effective
• The Simply Difficult: those people with an ingrained personality characteristic

C—Control the encounter. Once you know which type of difficult individual you face, you can employ the appropriate techniques to help shape and determine the outcome of the encounter. If you utilize the right techniques, you can change the fate of deals, meetings, and everyday confrontations.

E—Explore options. Even after shaping the encounter, you may still be at an impasse. The process of getting “unstuck” often requires the development of options—alternative solutions—so both sides can give and get. (This includes the option of ending without escalating, reserved for those instances in which the best deal is no deal, which can preserve the possibility of a future deal.)

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