Effectively Communicate to Win over Difficult People

Winning communication begins with knowing your audience. Sometimes we end up having to deal with the persons we dread most… arrogant, hothead, irrational and/or outright crazy!

It is important to separate the behavior from the person. It will help tremendously if you actually try to be understanding of the other person’s situation rather than blaming him/her. Just tell yourself that this person might be having a bad day or may be there are some deeper emotional issues. It might not be about you.

We cannot tell the other person how to think or feel or reason. But we can control our behavior and communication to influence the desired outcome.


Communicate To Win

Did you know the “7-38-55” rule? It was first posited in 1971 by UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian. It has been famous ever since as far as communication is concerned.
It says that 55 percent of what we convey when we speak comes from our body language, 38 percent from our tone of voice, and a paltry 7 percent from the words we choose.



Speak with a Consistent Tone

Avoid the urge to get agitated by the other person’s arrogant tone. Keep a consistent and calm voice along with body language. That way you will have more influence over the other person, control the conversation and prevent it from escalating. It is a small hack, but very powerful one.

Generally people succumb to trying to shut the person up or talk over them. Don’t. It’s a natural reaction but it doesn’t work.

Actively Listen

Listening isn’t just listening. It’s letting the other person know that you’re listening.

Start by expressing a sober face and make eye contact to acknowledge that this is a serious problem (even if it isn’t).

According to Harvard Law School’s program on negotiation, active listening is a dynamic process that can be broken down into three different behaviors:


Repeat the key points that you heard and state your understanding.

It sounds like you’re satisfied with our product overall. But if I understand correctly, you need to be assured that we can increase production if the order volume increases. Have I captured your concern correctly?


Polite and genuine inquiry helps people to think through their assumptions.

You mentioned that you found our proposed price to be unacceptable. Please help me understand how you came to this conclusion. Let’s also talk about how we might set up a pricing structure that you find more reasonable.


If someone is perceiving a problem or feeling a pain, it is real to them even if it might not be the reality. Keep an open mind, give the benefit of doubt and acknowledge that there is a problem.

It sounds as if you’re quite disappointed with various elements of our proposal, so much so that you have serious concerns about whether we’ll be able to work together over the long haul.


The skillful communicator orchestrates these aspects of active listening to draw out the other party’s concerns and feelings. This softens the heart of the person you are negotiating with and opens up his/her mind to see your viewpoint and engage in joint problem-solving.

Body Language & touch

Words constitute only 7% of the communication. Body language, tone, touch and other forms of non-verbal communication constitute the rest of the 93%.

Offer full attention with your whole body oriented towards this person and express eagerness to hear.

In case of a close enough relationship, a gentle touch can do wonders. When you touch someone during a conversation, you release oxytocin in their brain, a neurotransmitter that makes their brain associate you with trust and a slew of other positive feelings.

A simple touch on the shoulder, a hug, or a friendly handshake is all it takes to release oxytocin. Be careful, as an unwanted or inappropriate touch has the opposite effect!!


Words That Work political expert Frank Luntz says,

 “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”


So carefully choose your words and stay silent when the other person is venting. Let them release the steam while you respectfully hear. As they are speaking, pay attention to the adjectives and adverbs they use.

After the other person stops talking – even if they ask you a question – pause for a few seconds, and instead of answering it, respond with: ‘Hmmm…’ (This communicates that you have listened and considered what they are saying.) Then, say more about the adjective or adverb they used.”

Try to use “I statements” to express feelings. Example: “I feel ____ when you____ because ____”.

Take responsibility for any mistakes on your side even if you are not directly responsible for it. Be honest and genuinely apologize for the inconvenience it might have caused. Empathize with their pain and express in simple words.

One key to winning people over is to make them feel good and important. Try to build on or add to what the other person is saying rather than hijacking the conversation to make it about you. Even worse is to top what the other person is saying as in, “Ah, that sounds nice, but I do it this way and it is already approved by the CEO

A better way to say would be: “Wow, that’s a great idea! Really smart and creative. We could even go one step further and try X, if you think that would work.


As always, practice makes perfect. Remember the key points and keep practicing as you engage in future conversations. You will get better as you go, and be prepared when you have to deal with one of those angry clients with unrealistic demands.

By | 2018-06-12T11:50:29+00:00 April 18th, 2015|Home Blogs, Work Hacks|2 Comments


  1. neethu nath December 3, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Can someone control the tone of their speech? I talk too slowly and people feel sleepy listening to me.

Comments are closed.