For the Record: Dealing with difficult people and other journalistic traits of survival
The fax had a good lead.
“IS YOUR BOSS A BULLY – YOUR CO-WORKER A GOSSIP? it asked in dark, capital letters. “DON’T JUST TAKE IT…LEARN HOW TO HANDLE THEM!!!”
The fax wasn’t actually addressed to me. It was addressed to the business editor, but I don’t get much mail, and it was a slow day, and I needed something to study so I could look busy.
The fax was advertising a one-day course called “Dealing with Difficult People (and how to avoid becoming one yourself!)”
This looked promising, though maybe a little late for me on the “becoming one” part.
The two-page syllabus explained the problems difficult people can cause.
“Do clients, customers, co-workers or bosses often ruin your workday? If so, you’re not alone.”
I thought about that for a while. The answer is a qualified “yes.” Qualified because the people themselves don’t ruin my work days. Usually it’s the work they want me to do.
I get a lot of requests for special investigations. Popular topics include gas prices and “The government made a decision I don’t like, and someone should investigate it!”
The politically correct option is to thank the tipster and look into the tip, which literally means looking vacantly at the crumpled piece of paper the tip is scrawled on for about three days. By then it’s usually lost, concealed by all the other unwanted papers scattered around my desk. I always feel a little guilty, though.
Another form of work I don’t do well is public relations. Often when people discover what I do, they have a lot of questions, such as “Is it hard to make up all those lies you print?” and “Aren’t you afraid of going to hell?”
Even my mother has criticisms, which she shared a while back after some sort of encounter with her local paper.
“The media are just awful and they slant everything,” she informed me. “They only write what they want to. And they get it WRONG.”
She forgot to add the “Except you, Chris” part, but I’m pretty sure it was just an oversight.
The fax, however, suggested the option of “assuming innocence,” a tactic that involves giving the other party the full benefit of the doubt. “When someone says something which irks you, assume they are innocent of trying to hurt you. That they really didn’t mean it that way,” the form advised.
Well, I will certainly remember that next time I get a call asking if I enjoy being irresponsible and wrong all the time.
The fax suggested lots of other interesting strategies, like not yelling back at the annoying people and controlling stress and anxiety.
The workshop sounded like a good idea, but my study of it was interrupted by someone at the front desk looking for an investigative reporter.
I decided I better go find one.
Christy Chalmers is a reporter for the record courier.