As a workers’ compensation lawyer, by the time clients come to me they have often already had a series of frustrating interactions with their employers, insurance adjusters and sometimes even medical professionals. Clients come to me feeling stressed by these experiences.
My adversaries are not always easy to negotiate with, and over a long career I have honed in on a few methods that seem to work best for me. When meeting with clients, I try to pass along my methods so they can better navigate some of the new and confusing situations they have been thrust into as a result of a workplace injury.
Recently I came across some advice from Psychologist Jay Carter, who offers tips that closely mirror what I pass on to my clients. The following are some of his tips for dealing with difficult people:
See it for what it is. Rather than internalize the criticism or dwell on what you might have done to deserve the attack, recognize that the nasty person has personal issues.
Get away. Exit the room or the conversation calmly, efficiently, and without saying anything you’d regret.
Diffuse with humor: This is a variant of the old saying “you catch more flies with honey then vinegar.” If you humanize yourself to your adversary, they may want to go out of their way to help you. Self-deprecating humor is often an innocuous way to accomplish this.
Silent confrontation. Rather than fire back or get into a row, just maintain eye contact and give a calm smile that indicates you know what your tormentor’s doing; eventually they’ll feel so uncomfortable they’ll stop or leave.
Come again? Asking someone to repeat their nasty remark I’m sorry, what did you just call me? Forces them to own up to what they just said and many people, embarrassed, will water it down the second time around.
Don’ts: Don’t taunt, name call or get physically violent. Also, never tell an invalidator he or she is wrong; it starts a war.
So, there you have it. The next time an adversary wants to be difficult, try these out.
Leonard T. Jernigan Jr. is the founder of the Jernigan Law firm, a highly experienced firm representing injured workers across North Carolina. An acclaimed attorney, author, and law professor specializing in workers’ compensation, Leonard T. Jernigan Jr. is listed in Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers.
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