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‘Difficult People’ Category

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

Quick Tips for Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Study Shows Ignoring a “Jerk” Causes Less Stress Then Reacting

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

A study found that by reacting to a person, rather than ignoring them, causes more stress and distraction that lasts far longer than the actual event.

I was honored to be a communication expert in this article at Woman’s Health where the theme is “when to hold’em, when to fold ’em” or when do you do something about a behavior and when do you let it go. In this article I answer the age old questions of what to do if:

The situation: A woman cuts you in line at Starbucks

The situation: Your boyfriend / husband leaves his dirty clothes strewn over the floor for the hundredth time

The situation: Someone keeps texting in the middle of a movie

The situation: While you’re walking down the street, a dude hollers, “Hey baby, lookin’ good!”

The situation: Your slacker coworker asks you to help him finish his quarterly report

The situation: A close friend shows up an hour late to your birthday dinner

The situation: During holiday dinner, Uncle Marvin says, “You look really tired.”

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

What Do You Do with a Negative Co-Worker

Monday, May 30th, 2011

The WhinerNegativity or The No Person is one of the ten behavioral types we described in our book, Dealing With People You Can’t Stand, How To Bring Out The Best In People At Their Worst (Brinkman & Kirshner, McGraw-Hill, 1994, 2003, 2011).

Negativity and its first cousin Whining are particularly insidious in an organization. That’s because those behaviors tend to spread like the flu through a team and before you know it, everyone is doing it. Even worse, it can become a team habit.

The difference between whining and negativity is whining is a feeling of being helpless, the victim of people, circumstances, or ironically the present circumstances not measuring up to their own high standard of perfection.

Whereas negativity is hopeless. They have given up in the face of the same thing. In fact negativity is really fossilized whining, it goes on and on and on and finally they say, “what’s the use why bother.”

When people get negative they have all the sureness and arrogance of a Know-it-all seduced by the dark side of the force. 😉

The first thing to do is knowing what not to do. Do not bother trying to tell them it’s not so bad or offer a solution. That causes them to go deeper into their quicksand of how bad it is. This is called a polarity response. Two-year-olds and teenagers can have a polarity response as a developmental phase. And when people are negative they have polarity. (Interestingly enough when people are whiny they do not have polarity.)

So if you want to have a little fun and mess with their head then jump into their quicksand with them and playfully start splashing around saying, “You’re right, it’s hopeless, why bother, nothing will work, we might as well just end it all right now.” And they’ll respond with, “Well you’re right but all we have to do is this…” Like magic they will talk solutions to you.

Another thing you can do with negativity is harness it for the greater good. I remember a woman telling me about her husband Bob who was terribly negative, always what’s wrong, nothing ever right. She said the Cub Scouts are planning a trip to Washington DC and the organizers wondered if anything go wrong so they decided to invite her husband Bob to a planning meeting.

Sure enough Bob ripped the trip apart in generalizations but as they kept asking questions they got him to be more and more specific. Then they said, “Thanks a lot Bob, see later,” and sorted for themselves what was an exaggeration and what should be attended to. This is called giving yourself an attitude adjustment by not letting the negative person be a wet blanket as well as using them as a resource.

For more click on the “Whining/Negativity” category on the left.

And certainly the book “People You Can’t Stand…” will also be a useful resource:

It is also available in audio book: or as a download at the iTunes store or at

Tis the Season to Deal with Relatives

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

I recently was interviewed by Woman’s World magazine on Dealing with Relatives. I believe the article is in the current issue. Here is a link to access a PDF version or simply click on the graphic.

But wait there’s more!!!

In case you haven’t gotten it yet here is a 90 minute audio-seminar I did last year on Dealing with Relatives. It covers Martyrs and Judges and defusing your reactions. And speaking of defusing, while you are at the Relatives web page check out the hypnosis audio. It will defuse your triggers with Relatives from the inside out so they can do what used to drive you crazy and it won’t matter to you anymore. I have gotten great feedback over the year on it’s effectiveness. You’ll find it all at:

Email, Will You Go with the Devil or the Angel?

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Athena Online, a division of IMS (Institute for Management Studies) has a tremendous library of learning videos by some of the great business experts of our time, including me 😉

I definitely recommend them as a resource. Below is a sample of the quality work they do. It’s an introduction to multiple other videos of me explaining when to use email and when to bail and tips for avoiding misunderstandings.

*Video:athena online – dr. brinkman devil/angel of email

In addition IMS which sponsors seminars in 26 cities around the globe is launching “Leveraged Learning”, where after the live seminar you have access to multiple resources to solidify your learnings and turn them into action. Definitely check out the Leveraged Learning video here.

MacMillan Publishes Audiobook of “Dealing with People You Can’t Stand”

Friday, August 20th, 2010
Dr. Rick in the studio

Dr. Rick B in the studio

The Doctors Rick were in Blackstone Studios (Ashland, OR) this summer, recording the audiobook version of their international best selling book (20 languages), Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst.

It will be available on iTunes,, and this fall and in stores by the end of the year.

Dealing with Criticism

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

The dictionary defines criticism as: “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes “. And although we have an expression called “constructive criticism”, that type should be called “constructive feedback”. Criticism coming from disapproval is not meant to be constructive. The first thing to always keep in mind is that when people criticize, they are the ones with the problem not you. They have an issue with something and are projecting it on you.

The second thing to do is not engage in the content of the communication. Keep the focus on them, not you. You do this by speaking to “intent” and not “content”.  Intent is the purpose behind a communication. Content is the communication itself.

So if someone makes a rude comment about how you look, the actual comment she makes is the “content’. The reason she is making it is the “intent”. Intent can be positive or negative.

The best thing to do is project positive intent. That means you act like she has good intentions even if she doesn’t.  An example of this would be, “Why thank you for caring about how I look. That is so sweet of you.”  You have now accomplished a two fold purpose. One, if she is out to get you and you can’t be gotten, it messes it up for her. Second you have trapped them into the positive intent. It is unlikely they will say, “No  stupid, I’m trying to cut you down. Sheesh what an idiot you are.” Instead they will not deny your positive projection and will be forced to go along with the positive direction you set.

What if the criticizer is a parent? With parents, projecting positive intent is absolutely, positively the way to go. If they say you are fat, thank them for caring about your health and well being. If they want to know when you are getting married, appreciate them for caring about your relationship happiness. These kinds of positive projections will melt a parent. Parents in general  feel under appreciated by their children. Usually when you positive project on a parent they roll over and start kicking their leg like a dog getting it’s stomach rubbed. They will forget all about what they were criticizing you about and bask in your appreciation. Then you can just change the subject.

For more great stuff on parents and all relatives I refer you to Dealing With Relatives (Brinkman & Kirschner)

Reductio ad absurdum (Or how I bested a Know-it-all and had him feel good about it)

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Here’s a story from one of our readers. Who when in the sixth grade came up with a successful strategy for dealing with his Know-it-all teacher.

Time: 1963 (Sixth Grade)

The official Know It All was my sixth grade science teacher, Mr. Sears.
Having Watch’ed Mr. Wizard since before I could read, and having read all the science books in the kids section of the public library, and an Army training manual on electronics, I knew a lot too.

Although Mr. Sears made mistakes, he did not like being corrected by me. In retrospect asking him, “Will the wrong answer you just put on the board be on the test?”, was probably not the most diplomatic strategy.

So I invented another solution. It’s called “Reductio ad absurdum.”

Mr. Sears puts something wrong on the board.
In my head I derive a next step based on what he has on the board. Because what he has on the board is wrong, the next step will also be wrong.  I raise my hand.

Mr. Sears: “Yes, David.”
David: “Does that mean ..(the obviously false statement)….?”
Mr. Sears: “No, David” (I haven’t bested him. He bested me. He’s happy.)
David: (Innocently), “Doesn’t (obviously false statement) follow from that (pointing at what he wrote incorrectly on the board)?”
Mr. Sears: “What? That? Oh, that’s not what it should say.”

The result; Mr. Sears thinks he Knows-It-All and student David, isn’t smart enough to already know that (obviously false statement) is false. Therefore he’s smarter than David. He’s happy.

But wait there is more. The class is no longer misinformed. I have the satisfaction of knowing I corrected Mr. Sears without him even knowing it. He’s not embarrassed. I didn’t embarrass him. I’m very happy.

Once I figured this out, it worked for the remainder of the year.

Remember Conscious Communicators, it takes two egos to have a problem with Know-it-all behavior. If you can put your ego needs aside temporarily then you can do what it takes. Young David found satisfaction inside while still accomplishing his goal of correcting information and having his teacher feel good about it. Well done David. You get an A+.

Good Communication? Who’s Got Time!

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

At a recent seminar a participant asked me, “In the real world how is there time for all this blending communication stuff?”

This is an interesting question. I didn’t realize I was not living in the real world. Perhaps I made one too many Star Trek references during my program and he figured I was living in the 24th century, in a Star Trek universe where human beings communicate and cooperate for everyone’s greater good. I made a mental note to reduce the Star Trek references.

However my first response to him was that he must be realistic about how much time good communication takes.  By not taking the right amount of time to communicate he was creating difficult behaviors. Once he invests time in his communication with others, he’ll see his relationships work better.

My second response was to point out that blending doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. The key is blending with the right stuff. It’s what I call precision blending.

Here are a few tips on how to do precision blending with some difficult behaviors.

When a Tank is attacking, you should blend with their desire to make something happen fast. Anything that gives them the feeling the situation is under control and there is forward progress will blend with them and get them to back off.

When people engage in Know it All behavior you have to blend with their ego and the reasons they think what they think. Validate how much they know, find out what is important to them, and show them how your idea satisfies all their criteria.

When people act like Think They Know it Alls (meaning they don’t really know), you will also blend with their ego but give them an opportunity to go along with your idea.

If people are being agreeable, but you don’t know where they really stand, your dealing with Yes/Maybe/Nothing behaviors. Your blending is aimed at having them feel safe and secure and that no matter what they tell you, nothing will change in your relationship to them.

When people are Whining or Negative, they are feeling helpless and hopeless respectively. Your communication should be aimed at getting them to be specific and then to think solutions.

Always remember that good communication isn’t about lots of time, but rather about being precise. Live long and prosper. 😉

To Let Go or Not Let Go of a Relationship?

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

A reader writes in: “I have cut a sibling out of my life. How can I come to a resolution that I accept and feel good about without having to deal with that other person?”

Perspective is the answer. Some people come into our life for a reason and some for a season. No relationship is really forever. Some relationships are not worth the time and energy they take from you and leaving is a valid choice.

On the other hand if you are not feeling good about this rift in your family, maybe there is a part of you that would rather have it another way. If you look at the bigger picture of the world in conflict, of countries threatening each other, of one group mortally hating another group, it really comes down to the same principles that happen between individuals. When people feel a need to be right that they are wronged, it perpetuates conflict. Peace as a collective begins with peace as individuals and each one of us counts.

Having the ability to make peace is a great skill to have as a conscious communicator. The ability to get past differences and polarization will serve you in many interactions. This situation can be an opportunity to develop your communication muscles in that regard.

The Whine-Up and the Pitch

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

The following is from an email I received today and is a terrific example of harnessing whining for the greater good. When people whine they are feeling helpless. To make matters worse when people whine they do it in large generalizations; “everything is wrong, nothing is right.” But specifics of a problem are the first requirement for problem solving. In the following example the new director empowered his staff by giving them a way to no longer be helpless and instead facilitate change. Thank you David for sharing this.


This is about a person nobody could stand, and what he did about us whiners.

A new director took over at an organization’s summer camp, after 7 years of terrific camp growth and success under the previous director. During the winter there had been griping and outright rebellion over some new personnel policies and practices the new guy wanted, and in most cases succeeded in putting in place. (He was a Tank that attacked our roles in our beloved camp.)

Call that “The Whine-Up.”
Now the pitch.

At the first full staff meeting at camp before the campers arrived, he announced firmly:

“If I find out any of you have been complaining to each other, I will fire you on the spot.
However, if you come to me with your complaints, I will thank you.
Complaining to each other accomplishes nothing.
Complain to me, and we can improve things.”

Of course he was exaggerating in every way, but he did set a tone of care and interest that lasted. He went from being a person nobody could stand to being a person we would try to cooperate with.

Time: June 1969
Place: Camp Yavneh, Northwood NH
New Director: Abe Yanover

Thank you,
David A. Kra

Which Behavior is Most Difficult?

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

I am often asked by people and reporters which behaviors are the most difficult to deal with. And the answer is, drum roll please: difficulty is in the eye of the beholder. If you don’t know how to handle a behavior, it will be challenging for you. For someone else, the same behavior that gives you problems wouldn’t even show up as a blip on his or her radar. I remember doing a seminar for a company and 74 out of 75 people were there to learn how to deal with one “tank” vice president. However, the 75th person stood up and she said, “I don’t see what the problem is you people have with him. He’s a no brainer to deal with.” She was wired differently, she had the right attitude, and knew the right things to do to deal with his behavior so she didn’t perceive him as difficult.

Now here’s where being a Conscious Communicator comes in. If you know people who have what you want, ask,” How do you do it?” Find out two things. First, what they do behaviorally; how do they act, what do they say, how do they say it, etc. Second, what’s going on in their head; how they view the situation, how they feel, what do they tell themselves? Then plant seeds of success by imagining having that attitude and behavioral set with your problem person.

Chronic Negativity

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

A reader writes:

Hey Dr. Rick–I appreciate all of your suggestions on dealing with people you don’t like (but are stuck with :) What does one do with someone who simply likes to complain about how life has basically ended up the way it has for her?

This is a classic case of chronic negativity with a secondary whining infection. It could be terminal. You’re going to have to ultimately save yourself. Staying and suffering with her is not an option. It will rob you of energy and only give her someone to whom she will complain even more.

You will need to draw a line. Tell her you like her, you want to support her, but you are not going to listen to how bad things are. If she wants to complain or be negative, that’s her choice but you won’t be around for the ride. If you hold that line, she may be inclined to talk about something that is not complaining or negative. Thank her and appreciate her when she does.

There is so much more to say on this subject that your question inspired a podcast and there is also a previous one that focuses on this behavior from a different angle. Visit