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(MANAGEMENT) "Goat Hiding" And Other Management Techniques


From high-strung airstaff to strong-willed top sales billers, radio managers have always juggled a wide variety of personalities and egos. And in todays leaner office setting, add pressures from overworked and, to many minds, underpaid support staff. Communication skills expert Pamela Jett offers some terrific tips on how to manage and defuse difficult situations and people who sometimes prove to be only different from you!

Why are some personalities especially difficult to deal with in the workplace?

In addition to all the stress and pressures professionals experience, there are two main reasons some personalities can be especially difficult.

First, they arent really difficult personalities. They are different from you personalities. We all tend to view the world in our own distinct way and communicate in our own style. We process information and interact with others in ways that are congruent with our values, beliefs, priorities, and principles. When our style is similar to the style of the people we work with, things run smoothly. When we interact with people who are radically different from us, we often assume they are being difficult. More likely, they are simply behaving in the way that makes sense to them.

Savvy professionals take a step back when dealing with a difficult person and ask themselves, Is this person simply behaving in their own style? While this doesnt stop the behavior, it goes a long way toward understanding and better interaction.

The second reason difficult people are difficult is because it works for them. Experience has taught them that if they yell, people will give them what they want. They are proof of the adage What gets rewarded gets repeated. The key to dealing with these people is to recognize that while you cant change them, you can train them that difficult behavior doesnt work.

What are the most productive things to say when everyone else is losing their composure? What should you never say?

Listen without interrupting. Use a technique called boundary statements. A great boundary statement has three parts: acknowledgement, willingness, conditionality. For example, This is important, and I want to talk
about it. Not this way. You might have to repeat your boundary statement several times, but they will learn that you wont engage until they change.

The worst thing to say to someone losing their composure is, Calm down, or, You shouldnt feel that way. That will only trigger defensiveness and increase difficult behavior.

What is goat hiding? Why is it an important skill, and how does one use it?

The notion of goat hiding comes from the late, great Zig Ziglar, who taught me that they cant get your goat if you dont tell them where your goats tied up. Dont let difficult people see you sweat. Even if you are upset on the inside, do what you can to stay calm on the outside.

How can one maintain composure when dealing with the pressures of managing multiple personalities?

First, breathe! While that may sound simplistic, many forget to breathe under pressure, or engage in very shallow breathing. Take a few deep breaths to give your brain enough oxygen to think and communicate clearly.

Second, access the logical processing center of your brain, as opposed to the emotional one. Many of us automatically respond emotionally when others are angry or trying to upset us. It is a great idea to do some math in your head (like multiple-digit addition) to intentionally access your logical processing center. Counting to 10 does not work because it is habit; we dont have to think. Try doing some quick math that requires you to think. This helps move you to your logical processing center and makes it easier to use your good communication skills. An audio program on this topic, What to Say, is available at my website,

Finally, use coping statements. Say to yourself, I am calm, or, I am a professional, to remind yourself not to fly off the handle or say something in anger or frustration that you will likely regret.

Staying calm, cool, and collected when others are spiraling out of control is perhaps one of the most important skill sets to polish when we work in a fast-paced, stress-filled environment. It is also important to actively work to build communication skills so you will have more options, like the tools above, to use when dealing with difficult people.

Reach Pamela Jett at or 866.726.5388.
Deborah Parenti is EVP/Radio for Radio Ink.

(3/17/2013 9:21:26 PM)
Not once does Pamela suggest the option of adjourning to the parking lot and bringing along a shovel - and a good thing, too.

- Ronald T. Robinson

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