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How do you deal with Hard People?!

Updated: Feb 15

In today's fast-paced and ever-evolving business world, effective leadership demands a diverse skill set. Among the many challenges leaders encounter, dealing with "hard people" is a common one.

The term "hard people" refers to individuals whose perspectives and objectives might not align with our own, making collaboration and communication seem particularly challenging.

In this blog post, we'll explore the art of dealing with difficult individuals through empathy and understanding, using insights from a recent discussion and referencing a video that will be introduced later in the post.

Understanding the Human Element:

It's crucial to start by acknowledging that even those we perceive as "hard people" are, in fact, just like us—humans with their own unique goals, values, and motivations. When we label someone as a "hard person," it often implies a disconnect in terms of where we're headed and where they aim to go. This divergence can give rise to feelings of frustration and roadblocks in our interactions.

The Power of Empathy:

The first step in dealing with challenging individuals is to practice empathy. It involves genuinely understanding the other person's perspective and motivations. Empathy is a critical leadership skill that can transform seemingly adversarial relationships into opportunities for growth and collaboration. When you take a moment to step into their shoes and see the world from their vantage point, it opens the door to new possibilities and solutions.

Seeking Common Ground:

To put empathy into action, start by asking yourself, "What is it that is valuable to them?" Identifying the underlying interests and priorities of the other person is a significant step towards building bridges. What do they want to achieve, and how does it differ from your own goals? By understanding their motivations, you can begin to see the world through their lens and appreciate the unique challenges they face.

Dancing in the Relationship:

Once you've gained a deeper understanding of the other person's perspective and goals, the next question is, "How do I want to dance in this relationship?" This metaphorical dance signifies the interaction and collaboration between individuals. Empathy and understanding pave the way for more effective communication and problem-solving. You can adapt your approach to align with the other person's needs and concerns, ultimately fostering a more productive and harmonious relationship.

Research Data on Empathy:

To underscore the importance of empathy in leadership, let's explore some credible research data with percentages:

  1. Harvard Business Review: A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that leaders who demonstrated higher levels of empathy were more likely to have engaged, motivated teams. In fact, the study reported that teams led by empathetic leaders experienced up to a 40% increase in employee engagement and job satisfaction.

  2. Forbes Insights: A Forbes Insights report highlighted that organizations with empathetic leadership outperformed their peers in terms of revenue growth. Empathy played a significant role, leading to a 23% increase in employee satisfaction, resulting in better retention rates, and a 17% increase in customer loyalty.

  3. Stanford Graduate School of Business: Research from the Stanford Graduate School of Business emphasized the role of empathy in negotiations. The study found that when individuals practiced empathy, they were up to 30% more likely to reach mutually beneficial agreements, resulting in stronger, long-lasting relationships.

These statistics highlight that empathy is not just a soft skill but a tangible asset that can significantly impact team performance, customer satisfaction, and negotiation outcomes. Senior leaders who prioritize empathy can see substantial improvements in various aspects of their organizations.


In leadership roles, dealing with "hard people" is not an uncommon challenge.

However, by recognizing the humanity in others, practicing empathy, and seeking common ground, leaders can transform difficult interactions into opportunities for growth and collaboration. By understanding the motivations and perspectives of those we perceive as "hard people," we can take deliberate steps to dance in the relationship, ultimately fostering stronger teams, more productive partnerships, and sustainable success.


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