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Challenge Day 24: How to Deal with Difficult People

Editor’s note: This is part of 30-day challenge series written by Hanane Anouna.   You can follow along and read the full series here.

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“We have a communication problem.” Have you ever had to use this statement before? Why do you think communication may go smooth with a category of people but a tough mission with others? Why you manage to get along with some and not with others?

Most issues of communication are not always about what we say but how we say it, which proved to be the key to effective communication.

 This is what the Process Communication Model (PCM) is all about. This model proved that it is not about easy or difficult people (excluding pathologies) but only people with different structures of personalities and psychological needs. Understanding the characteristics of their personalities and these needs can enhance the way you communicate with them and reduce misunderstandings.

What Is the Process Communication Model

The Process Communication Model (PCM) was created by the American Psychologist Taibi Kahler (1988) and offers a powerful tool to understand how and why we communicate. NASA and many other institutions used his approach to evaluate and identify candidates that have the appropriate traits of character that enabled them to succeed in such high-pressure missions. 

What Are the Benefits of the PCM

The benefits can involve both the person and organizations, companies or universities. This tool helps:  

  • (Re)discover your own personality and know more about your qualities and psychological needs.
  • Learn about the style of communication of other people and how to interact with them.
  • Help reduce misunderstanding and conflicts.
  • Predict the person’ distress behaviors and in problem-solving and decision making.
  • Improve the way you communicate.

Who Is Concerned by the PCM

This model is incorporated in the process of recruitment by many organizations. It is used by educators, counselors, professors to communicate with teachers and students, which enable them to better deal with difficult cases. It is also a great tool for managers, speakers, leaders in their fields, or anyone who has a daily concern to switch from talking to communicating with others.  

The Structure of the Six Personalities

The PCM recognizes six personality types. Each person has a basic type of personality, called the base type, which does not change as we are born with it; and elements of all the six types. The structure of these elements changes from one person to another and depends on the stress level of each person and life experiences he or she is going through, which determine his or her phase base.

 These personality types have different perceptions, behavior patterns, needs, and motivators that can impact the way they will interact, and communicate with others.

This means that in every organization, within the same team, in every classroom or meeting, you will find people of every personality type.

The Six Personality Types

1. Harmonizer:

They are compassionate, sensitive and warm. They represent 30% of the population, 75% among them are women.  Their primary perception goes through emotions. They value relationships and interactions with others. They are easily identified based on their words, “I feel, I like, I am happy.” their tone of voice, the body gesture, and their facial expressions.

They have a constant need to be appreciated for who they are not for their work.

When this need is not attained or not satisfied in a positive way, they will try to over adapt in order to please others. They will often say yes when it means NO to them.  They may lose confidence in the process and end up frustrated with strong self-criticism, which can lead eventually into conflicts or a complete rejection of the environment they are in.

2. Thinker:

They are responsible, logical and organized. They represent 25% of the population, and 75% are men. They perceive the world through thoughts and they prefer a structured and clean environment based on clear rules. They are perfectionists in everything they encounter. Their communication style is based on “how, what, where, only facts and information.” And this is how they categorize things and people.

 They need to be recognized for their work and achievements.

When it is not satisfied, they get trapped easily in details and start using big words, which add more to their frustration. They can also stop delegating as they are think that others lack the competencies and the skills. They end up losing control of logic and start blaming others.

3. Persister:

 They are dedicated, observant and conscientious. They represent 10% of the population, and 75% are men. They view the world through their beliefs and opinions. They value trust as they categorize people on the basis of their belief system. You can identify them easily by observing the kind of words they use, often words that reflect “values, commitment, trust and respect.”

 They need to be recognized for their work and for their opinions and values.

When it not the case, they become rigid, and critical focusing more on what does not function, which make them lose trust in others.

4. Rebel:

They are spontaneous, creative and playful. They represent 20% of the population, 60% are women. They perceive the world through reactions as they react immediately when they like or dislike people or things. They value humor, spontaneity and fun activities. They either “I like, I hate.”

 They have a constant need for fun, attention, and challenges to thrive and succeed. 

When they are under extreme control or authority, they make an effort to adapt in the beginning but after that they will start complaining and feeling bored. This can turn into provocative behavior, that may cause rejection.

5. Dreamer:

They are imaginative, reflective and calm. They represent 10% of the population, and 60% are women. Their primary perception is based on imagination. They value privacy and solitude.  Their words looks like “I imagine, I need to reflect.”

They don’t take initiatives as they need clear directions to move into actions. They need space and privacy to reflect before they act.

 When they don’t manage to have them, they stop being motivated, and they may even isolate themselves from others and in extreme cases they end up depressed.

6. Promoter:

They are adaptable, persuasive & diplomatic. They represent 5% of the population, and 60% are men. They perceive the world through actions. They value initiative and their main concern is how to make things happen. They act before thinking. For them, “Go for it, and make it happen.”

 They are action oriented and need excitement, stimulating experiences.

When deprived, they will stop supporting others, and creating conflicts. They may even become manipulative and they will start breaking the rules or quit.

To avoid conflicts, and better communicate with others, you will have to understand the characteristics of each one and their psychological needs.

If you don’t get along with some people, you understand now that it is not about you but about them.

How Can You Apply the PCM?

How can you use the PCM to adapt your content or communication?

I use the PCM to plan the content of my seminars and classes to make sure that it fits all personality types.

I make sure my presentations combine between facts, data, and logic. I use anecdotes, storytelling and emotions to help others express their own. I can be funny sometimes, which allow me to connect better with those in need to create humor or fun situations. Deep questioning and personal reflections are part of the process to inspire future actions.

You may have noticed that it is easy to communicate with people when you know how to tap into their real needs. You cannot communicate with the promoter using authority or direction but this style of communication fits perfectly the dreamer who needs more directions.

You cannot always use logic, facts and data to interact with the harmonizer as you need from time to time to stop and ask about him, simply to socialize and make him or her feel important.

Not everything is about logic. We are humans and some may need more consideration than others. Your words can either empower or discourage.

Take time to reflect on yourself to find answers to your conflicts as they may not be real conflicts but simply a lack of understanding.

About Hanane Anoua

Based in Morocco, Hanane Anoua is a certified life and executive coach, mentor, entrepreneur, and passionate writer with more than 13 years of professional experience. You can connect with Hanane on LinkedIn here.


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