Ask Dr. Brinkman

‘Dealing with People You Can’t Stand’ Category

Why Do People Act the Way They Do

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Dr. Rick Brinkman explains why people act the way they do and what you can do about it, to employees of ITV London, UK at their December Lunch & Learn.


“Dealing with People You Can’t Stand” book Cited as a Resource in Forbes

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Link to article here

Dr. Rick on Patricia Terrel Show: Conscious Communication to Bring Out the Best in People, Part 1

Monday, August 18th, 2014



1.       What is Conscious Communication?
2.       What are the top ten difficult behaviors plus 3?
3.       The behaviors are not “personality typing”
4.       Strategies for specific behaviors. The “Whining” Example
5.       Can we really change someone’s behavior?
6.       The four choices for dealing with the difficult people
7.       Addressed a question involving a condescending boss (Sniper)
8.       Closing remarks about options, zillions of opportunities to practice each day, etc.

How to Deal with “High Maintenance Co-Workers” in Your Law Firm

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Listen to this 20 minute podcast where we specifically touch on Know-it-All behavior and how to open people’s mind to the ideas of others.

The Rules of Non-Engagement for Dealing with Relatives

Sunday, December 15th, 2013


When it comes to attending family events, you always have a choice:

1. Go
2. Go and suffer
3. Don’t go

(You’ve already examined these choices in the Pre-Obligation Checklist. See previous posts.)  If you decide to go, and you choose not to suffer, then you have two more choices:

4. Go with a different attitude
5. Go with a different attitude and behavior

To avail yourself of one or both of these two choices, we offer you the Four Rules of Non-Engagement:

1. Decide in Advance
If you wait to make the decision about responding to negative or controlling comments until you’ve begun your visit, events may overtake you. Instead, make a conscious choice before you arrive about the kind of experience you’re going to have when you get there.

But it isn’t enough to make the choice not to have problems with a predictably argumentative relative. You also want to make a conscious choice about what topics to steer clear of, and what you will do if those topics come up. Consider what Carissa told us:

My mother-in-law has strong opinions about everything. Her argumentative nature is so strong that if I responded to the troubling things she said, just for the sake of discussion, I was guaranteed an argument, and more likely an attack, which almost always led to a fight with my husband in the car on the way back home after visiting her! But I now realize that I actually have a say over what ultimately gets discussed, because I can avoid the problematic topics when they come up. If I don’t take the bait, the topic eventually goes away, and usually sooner than later. Now, on the way to her place, before I talk with her, I do a little talking to myself. I tell myself exactly what I’m willing to talk about and what I’m not willing to talk about no matter what, and I stick to it. 

2. Plan for Sore Subjects

Joseane told us:

My husband’s former mother-in-law is a sore subject with my in-laws.  Mention Maggie to either of them and they spin off in anger. Next thing I know, she’s telling the same story for the gazillionth time about how inconsiderate she was, how mean she was, how absolutely awful she was.

For the longest time I felt really bad for her. I used to try and convince her that she should live and let live, that this former problem person in her life is now gone and she should be grateful she doesn’t have to deal with her anymore and let it go, but my efforts never worked and made it worse. Now when she starts talking angrily about Maggie, I just nod my head, wait till she’s done, and then change the subject to anything else! And if she asks me, “What do you think?” I know she isn’t really wanting my opinion, so I say, “Well, you know what’s best for you.” And the funny thing is, when I do that she tells my husband, “I’m crazy about that girl. She is so wise.”

You have other options too. You can speak to their intent instead of getting caught up in the content of what they’re saying. If your relative says, “You should dress up more,” you can say, “Thank you for caring about my appearance.”

If your parent asks you, their adult child, whether you’re brushing your teeth, you can reply, “Thanks for caring about my hygiene.”

By refusing to get caught up in the content of what they’ve said, you have time to breath, gather your wits, and create a cushion of non-engagement around yourself.


3. Keep Your Perspective

You are more resourceful with perspective than without it, and you feel better too! One way to keep your perspective is to find entertainment value in difficult behavior.

Ben told us:

“I find it incredibly amusing when people get weird. Sometimes I even play circus music in the back of my mind. It sort of animates their behavior, turns them into a caricature of themselves, and makes them look to me like a cartoon! Then my biggest challenge is not letting them see how hard I’m laughing inside.”

Mina told us:

“I tell myself that it beats being in a war zone, or any other horrible thing I can imagine.”

4. Use Reminders

Sometimes it’s useful to have a reminder system for your intentions. Garth told us:

Whenever we find ourselves obligated to attend some kind of family function, I’ve developed the habit of reminding myself that “all things will pass.” I get a small red stick-on dot that I put on my watch to mark the time we’ve leaving. It’s a perfect stealth reminder that helps me keep my perspective. As we are walking in the door, I look at the red dot and remind myself of the end point. If things start to heat up, I just grin and think, “All things will pass” again. 

To Summarize:

Rules of Non-Engagement

1. Decide in Advance
2. Plan for Sore Subjects
3. Keep Your Perspective
4. Use Reminders

How Do You Stop Whiners!

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Dr. Rick Brinkman gives you the secret strategy to get people out of whining and into problem solving.

When People Do Communication Training Together, the Results are Exponential!

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Dr. Rick Brinkman and his grad assistant Neelix, explain why when people do communication training together, they reinforce each other into positive behaviors and the results are exponential. They also talk about the December training opportunity.  (1 min)

Leadership and What Behaviors are Most Difficult

Monday, August 19th, 2013

I performed a webinar out of my own green screen studio for The Executive Roundtable recently. It was about the following.

Dealing with difficult people is something that everyone does on a regular basis. Leaders, in particular, may find themselves trying to manage and motivate people that they find challenging. But what makes some people more challenging than others? People often ask me what type of behavior is the most difficult to deal with. The answer isn’t that straightforward.

From my experience, here’s a list of the 10 most unwanted communicators:

The Tank

        : confrontational, pointed, and angry; the ultimate in pushy and aggressive behavior.

The Sniper

        : rude comments, biting sarcasm, rolling of the eyes.

The Grenade

        : brief calm followed by unfocused ranting and raving.

The Know-It-All

        : low tolerance for correction and contradiction.

The Think-They-Know-It-All

        : able to fool enough people that they are right.

The Yes person

        : eager to commit without thinking things through, which leads to resentment.

The Maybe person

        : procrastinates in the hope that a better choice will present itself.

The Nothing person

        : no verbal feedback, no nonverbal feedback. Nothing.

The No person

        : fights a never ending battle for futility; defeating ideas with a single syllable.

The Whiner

      : perfection is their standard, and no one and nothing measures up to it.

When people ask who the most difficult person is, I know that they’re secretly hoping I’ll tell them that the most problematic behavior is, in fact, the one exhibited by their #1 “problem” person. After all, it would validate that they are dealing with a jerk … and that they are not responsible for the problem.

But the truth is that difficulty is in the eye of the beholder: If you don’t know how to handle a behavior, it will be challenging for you. Because everyone reacts to thorny people differently, the behaviors that drive one person crazy won’t affect another person at all.

I recently spoke for a group of 75 people, 74 of whom were attending to learn how to deal with one “Tank” vice-president. A lone dissenter stood up and told her colleagues, “I don’t see what the problem is you people have with him. He’s a no-brainer to deal with.” Because she was wired differently than the rest, his behavior didn’t annoy or intimidate her.

Everyone has some skill handling certain behaviors. Other behaviors make us absolutely crazy because we’re missing the knowledge and/or attitude needed to successfully deal with the “problem” behavior. That’s where it pays to be a Conscious Communicator. By paying attention to what works — and what doesn’t — in human interaction, you can expand your communication skill set and achieve greater harmony with the people around you.

Which Behaviors Are Difficult for You?

In general, people who exhibit Get-It-Done behaviors are driven crazy by whiny or wishy-washy behaviors, because neither of these behaviors produces results. Whiners get nothing done because they are too busy wallowing in self-pity. Likewise, wishy-washy people accomplish little because they are fabulous at making commitments — and not keeping them. On the other hand, people who are friendly and desire harmony are intimidated by aggressive Tank-style behavior. People who are more expressive and emotional are driven crazy by Nothing people, who tend to be quiet and withdrawn, and vice versa.

Avoid or Play Nicely?
Avoidance can be a valid strategy when dealing with people exhibiting difficult behaviors. After all, dealing with a difficult behavior takes a lot of work, so you must ask yourself if the relationship or job is worth the energy you must spend dealing with the problem person. If it’s not worth the price, it might be easier to leave the situation … or to get the other person to leave.

Unfortunately, leaving or otherwise avoiding a situation is not always possible. Perhaps you don’t want to quit your job … or your problem person is a close relative. In this scenario, you have to change your attitude, a process that starts by focusing on how you would benefit by changing your own behavior or attitude. When you successfully learn how to handle a difficult behavior, you’re doing yourself a favor — not only this time, but every time you encounter that behavior.

For people in leadership positions, learning to successfully deal with all problem behaviors is extremely beneficial. A leader’s job is to bring out the best in others, as well as to orchestrate a successful working environment, which means you can’t afford to have a difficult behavior destroying the morale or productivity of your team. Over the course of a career, you will work with all different types of people. Knowing how to deal with all of them gives you a competitive edge over colleagues who don’t practice Conscious Communication.

Mumbai Mirror Quotes Dr. Rick Brinkman as a Communication Expert

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

I have made the big time! 😉
Actually the Mumbai Mirror is part of the prestigious Times of India group. I am honored to help.
Full Article Here

Conscious Communication in India

How Corporate Culture Can Create Difficult People’s Behavior and the Three Other Influences

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Though we are associated with “Difficult People our  book is not about personality types. We find it more effective to think in terms of behavior and what motivates it. Why when under stress does one person whine, another attack, another withdraw, while others go passive aggressive. There are four factors that influence where people go in our Lens of Understanding human behavior.

1. Organizational culture

2. Job function

3. The people around us

4. Personal programming

Organizational culture is the behaviors both good and bad, that are considered acceptable and forbidden.

When I presented seminars for IBM’s leadership series and talked about the Grenade tantrum, consistently half the IBM’ers in the room would say “I can’t imagine somebody doing that at work.” While the other half of the room would say, “Oh yes they do!”

The difference was the half but couldn’t imagine it were IBM’ers who were always at IBM. The half that said “Yes they do”, were IBM’ers who get sent to someone else’s facility. They realized their corporate culture didn’t tolerate grenade tantrums. However, Tank (attack) and Know-it-all run free as protected species.

I performed some programs for Chevron and people told me they have a term called the “Chevron Yes”. What that means is you are pleasant and agreeable on the surface but that doesn’t mean you really agree or will follow through.

A second factor is job function. I noticed professional nurses can easily get into whining because often they are on the front line knowing what needs to be done, but trumped by a Tank or Know-it-all doctor and limited by a hospital bureaucracy. The result of that equation is a feeling of being helpless. Helpless is the root of whining. (Hopeless the root of negativity.)

A third factor that influences behavior is the people around us. Whining, Negativity and Sniping are virulent and spread like the flu and before you know it everyone is doing it. Have you ever noticed how one department can have an ongoing sniping relationship with another department? The other difficult behaviors do not replicate, but they still cause problems. Put a Know-it-all on a team of people and watch everyone turn into Nothing people who won’t speak up or contribute at meetings.

Your relationship can also be a factor. If a colleague attacks you may stand up for yourself. If your boss attacks, you may be more passive.

And of course each of us individually comes wired with some tendencies to where we go in the lens when at work.

To prevent and move people into the “Cooperation Zone” of the lens requires:

1. Recognizing where people are behaviorally in the Lens of Understanding.

2. Recognizing the factors influencing behavior of job function, organizational culture and team members.

3. Knowing the strategy to transform their behavior. Communication is like a phone number. You need all digits and you need them in the correct order. There is a specific strategy to move people back into the Cooperation zone.

Dr. Rick Brinkman Talks About Dealing with Relatives on AMNW

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Dr. Rick Brinkman, co-author of the international best selling McGraw-Hill book, Dealing With People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, appears on Portland, Oregon’s AM Northwest to talk about dealing with relatives.

Chinese Edition of Dealing With People You Can’t Stand Released

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

JUST RELEASED: The Chinese long form translation of the third version of Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst.

Here is the Lens of Understanding.

Forbes Features Our Book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Forbes featured the new third version of our book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst.

You can read the article here:

Time Magazine – Dealing With People You Can’t Stand

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Time Magazine Business online quotes our book Dealing With People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst (Brinkman & Kirschner, 2012 McGraw-Hill) with advice on how to deal with tough behaviors in the business world.

Visit the Time Article here.

Dealing with People You Can’t Stand Version 3

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

I’m proud to announce the release of our book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst (Brinkman & Kirschner, 1994, 2003, 2012 McGraw-Hill). The original came out in 1994 and has sold over 2,000,000 copies with translations in 20 languages.

In the new version we added three behaviors: Meddlers, Martyrs and Judges. We also added to Whiners and No people and created a new lens of understanding. For a free color PDF download of the new Lens visit:

Drs. Rick & Dr. Ruth at NYC Book Expo