Dealing With People You Can’t Stand: How To Bring Out The Best In People At Their Worst, by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner
In reading this book I was struck by a very powerful set of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I could read in these pages plenty of commentary and tactical advice on how to deal with people who drive me to distraction, and it was without question a useful book on communication . On the other hand, reading this book was painful in a sense, because it brought forcefully and unpleasantly humorous to light the fact that I am almost certainly to many people the sort of person who they cannot stand, who frustrates them and drives them to distraction. Not only is this the result of my own fairly typical prickly nature in this regard, but is an explicit aim of the book, which presents the reader with a jocular look at what to do when you are the difficult person, as I often am. There is an implication here that those who read this book are likely far better off than ordinary humanity, not only because of the blessings that come from a life that allows one to read this sort of book for pleasure or self-development, but also because paying attention to what others tend to take for granted is the first step to growth, if not the last.
In terms of its contents and structure, this book is divided into a thematic and schematic format, and contains a great deal of humorous discussion as well as anthropomorphic discussions of people in various ways. The first part of the book introduces the reader to the types of people they cannot stand: the tank, sniper, grenade, know-it-all, think-they-know-it-all, yes person, maybe person, nothing person, no person, whiner, judge, meddler, and martyr, and looks at the situations that bring out these particular unpleasant sets of behavior and the threatened intents that trigger them. The second part of the book gives targeted and focused tactics on survival through skillful communication–moving from conflict to cooperation, listening to understand, reaching a better understanding, speaking to be understood, getting what we project and expect, and changing our own attitudes. The third part of the book looks at the thirteen problematic types of person and gives ways on dealing with these people successfully through advice and humorous mock case studies, and prods the reader into reflecting on how they are the problem people in the lives of others as well. The fourth part of the book contains specific tips on how to use the book’s insights when dealing with phone and online communication.
There is no question that this is a book aimed at a professional audience, in that it deals with work and most of the examples are chosen from that sphere of life. The book does discuss how we deal with friends and in families as well, though, so the authors are clearly aware of how the principles are more widely accessible even if there is a professional focus. Although the book was painful to read, given my own longstanding and serious struggles with communication, the book is one I can recommend wholeheartedly, although I feel it necessary to note that those readers who are as sensitive as I am are likely to find a great deal in it that reminds us of our own failings as skillful and gracious communicators with others. As I believe that at least some painful reflection is helpful in growth, though, I still recommend the book nonetheless despite my own melancholy when I reflect on the state of communication in my own personal life as well as in the professional world in which I inhabit. Perhaps you will feel the same yourself after you read the book, with its strong medicine delivered with a high degree of humor and lightheartedness.
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