*     Don’t let people mess with your monkey.

Making nice and being the Good Samaritan aren’t the only skills you need in your interpersonal repertoire. Sure, those skills are essential for success; but you also have to hang tough at times. For example, is there someone driving you up the wall with their suggestions, advice, and superior attitude? They have solutions to problems you don’t have, answers to questions you didn’t ask, and suggestions for how to handle things you are handling just fine. Their favorite sport is nosing into your business.

Instead of seething inside or giving into the urge to tell them what they can do with their suggestions and opinions, next time, smile and say, “Isn’t that my monkey?” Whatever their response, say, “Thank you; but my monkey gets upset if anyone but me tries to handle him.”

*     Consider the advice before discounting the advisor, read the message before turning away the messenger.

The expertise and insight of the know-it-alls of the world are boundless; and the K-I-A’s are ready to provide advice and input anywhere, anytime, for anyone. A K-I-A was there to point out to Noah there may be a flood, to T. Edison playing with electricity might be shocking, and to Neil Armstrong pulling off his helmet and yelling, “Where’s the party?” could take his breath away. There may have even been a K-I-A around to tell Moses to be sure to get it in writing.

The K-I-A openings have an annoyingly familiar theme: “Have you thought about¼?” “Did you notice¼?” “You may want to¼,” and the old stand by, “If I were you¼.” Well, thank you very much; and while you are getting the inflection on your sarcasm just right, don’t forget W. Churchill’s admonition “Even a fool’s right sometimes.”

*     Whether you have a chance to explain your reasons or can only walk away, don’t let arguments get out of hand.

Do you sometimes find yourself in the middle of intense arguments quickly getting nowhere? If so, the instant you realize what’s happening, stop talking, wait five seconds, and then calmly ask, “What do you want the outcome of this conversation to be? What is your goal?”

Ask a few more questions to be sure you understand and to help you determine whether you can support the goal. If so, explain how. If not, say, “Your goal isn’t one I can support. If you want, I will try to help you understand why I can’t.” If the person wants to listen, state your reason as clearly and as briefly as you can. If not, let it go.

*     Stand up, speak up, shut up, and sit down.

It’s important to know how to make your point when that is what you have to do. A good way to see how to say what you have to say is seeing how you shouldn’t say it. For example, this isn’t the way to go.

“This may sound stupid, but¼.” What a way to inspire confidence! Nonetheless, if you think it may be stupid, everyone needs to give it the stupid test before giving you and what you say any serious consideration. Starting with, “As A. Einstein once said¼,” is probably going too far in the other direction; but at least you and your comments don’t have to pass the stupid test. Better is to succinctly make your point and then let it stand on its own.

*     Be sure all deals you make are two-way-streets.

Hanging tough means you deal assertively with people who thoughtlessly make unnecessary work for you, don’t do what they agree to do, or repeatedly interfere with your activities. Tell them, “I didn’t understand our deal. Your behavior tells me our deal is to do whatever we want to do. Now that I understand, I’ll quit considering your feelings, your interests, and what you want. If you’d like to renegotiate our deal, I’m open to talking but not optimistic about the outcome.” Now, keep the deal you just made.

*     Don’t let having followed the book excuse anyone from personal responsibility.

An assertive approach is certainly appropriate with people who always play it safe and take no personal responsibility for anything. They don’t care whether problems are avoided or projects succeed so long as they can say, “It’s not my fault. I did it by-the-book. I did it right; but it just didn’t work out.”

Instead of pulling your hair out, the next time say, “My problem is this. We got the wrong outcome. How will you achieve the right outcome?” Now, hang tough until things turn out right.

*     Don’t buy into or react to other people’s bad attitudes.

A special approach works best with Doom and Gloom masters, people whose reaction to winning the lottery would be, “Now I have all those taxes to pay.” D/G masters have nothing nice to say about anyone, talk only about why things won’t work, and quickly point out whatever they don’t like; and they like virtually nothing.

If you are fed up with their negativity, smile and say, “You probably would describe the tooth fairy as a thief.” Now, no matter what the D/G master says next, don’t respond. The game is over; and you won.

*     Hold yourself and others to at least as high a behavior standard as you hold for children.

Attitude pollution often comes up with people who are inflexible, unwilling to compromise, and certainly not team players. Whatever they call it, bull-headed is bull-headed; but it gets worse. At least people who clearly say, “No!” and hang tough are being up-front with you.

Much harder to deal with are those wimps who say, “Yes,” and then contaminate everything with their negative attitudes. In a five-year-old, whining and pouting are irritating but understandable. Fortunately, most parents insist on their children’s behaving more socially appropriately.

*     The solution to the problem merely changes the problem.

An especially annoyingly negative type is into, “Problems, problems, nothing but problems. It’s one damn thing after another. Things aren’t ever going to straighten up around here.”

You can say, “Maybe you just don’t get it. Problems reproduce; and solutions are the aphrodisiac. Solving a problem merely creates a new problem with its own set of circumstances and unique opportunities. That arouses the solution glands and stimulates the problem solving urge; and the cycle repeats itself. It’s one of those erotic compulsions that has to be satisfied.”

*     Don’t let other people turn their poor planning into your emergencies.

An especially frustrating version of driving you up the wall is played out by types who try to pass off their problems as your emergencies. “We have an emergency!” You ask, “What’s the emergency and why do we have it?” With heightened urgency you are told, “It’s a long story. I don’t have time to give you all the gory details right now; but You have to¼.”

With only slight skepticism, you ask, “Is this the same kind of thing that was the big emergency last week and two weeks before that?” “Well, sort of like that; but¼.” You then say, “Your lack of planning doesn’t make this my emergency. Your plan, if you had one, was figuring I’d cover your backside.”

*     Leave no doubt in anyone’s mind faultfinding won’t cut it.

You may have come across a totally exasperating type who delights in pointing out someone else screwed up? They like saying things like, “If things were done right the first time, we wouldn’t have to waste our time straightening out other people’s messes.” Their favorite sport is to Faultfind about something, anything, and then criticize someone, anyone.

The next time you have to deal with one of these irritating types, say, “Whether you are right or wrong, what will you do about it today? Right now, what I need from you is a solution.”

*     Simply tell warriors what you think the outcome will be, don’t be intimidated, and let the chips fall where they fall.

There are inevitably those days when the warriors are doing their share of pushing you to pulling out your hair, if you still have any after the last time they drove you up the wall. They are ready to go to war over anything and would, as Grandpa used to say, argue with the good Lord himself (or herself, depending on your point of view). Get the picture? Though they would never admit it, the truth is they are afraid, insecure, and driving harder-and-harder to keep anyone from finding them out.

If you can see this fact, wait for an opening and say, “My point is¼; so if you persist, I think the result will be¼.” That’s it. Arguing it more gets you no where.

*     Simply tell committee types what you expect and then hang tough until you get it.

Committee types are afraid and insecure but use an unusual strategy to protect their egos. These charmers bend over backward to avoid offending you. They blow with any breeze coming along and won’t actually take a position on anything. Wishy-washy? Well, maybe, you could look at it that way, but then again¼.

Be prepared, though. When you call them on their behavior, and you must call them, a flood of self-righteous indignation and resentment will come pouring out since they take anything negative as an assault on them personally and maybe even on Mom, baseball, and apple pie.

*     Don’t let people explain away their incompetence as just one of those things.

Hanging tough is critically important with people who just dive into things before checking with anyone about what is expected. They figure they can do any job whether they have a clue how to do it or not. They like to refer to their style as “winging it.” If all goes well, all goes well; but if not, it’s other people’s mistakes, extenuating circumstances, unavoidable conditions, and maybe even acts of God. “I did a great job; but you know how it goes.”

Sure you know how it goes. It’s going down the tube. That is why you leave no doubt in their minds you only accept excuses you can verify factually and their performance must stand up to objective evaluation.

*     You sometimes need to just turn the page and get on with getting on.

There are those infuriating types who only have your best interest at heart. They are only trying to help, or so they would have you believe. They say really helpful things like, “Don’t cry over spilled milk and what’s done is done and you have to just suck it up and do what you have to do and don’t forget it’s too late to shut the barn door¼.”

If you find their sensitive advice less than totally supportive and helpful, say, “Sure, right! Thank you very much. That’s just the right advice to sooth the troubled mind. You have apparently overdosed on the reality therapy you have been getting from that psychiatrist you obviously should keep seeing. Maybe you can reduce your sessions to three times a week.”

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