July 9, 2014 12:01 AM EDT

I’ve posted a great deal on working with difficult people and how to make people like you.

What new research and expert advice can we use to better deal with difficult people?

 

The Feedback Sandwich Doesn’t Work — This Does

Nobody likes delivering bad news. Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer recommends having someone else do it whenever possible.

But what about when it’s unavoidable? Don’t do the old “feedback sandwich” of positive comment, negative comment, positive comment.

Research shows it’s better to be briefly negative and then offer an extended list of positives.

Via The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What We Can Learn About Ourselves from Our Machines:

(More on effectively giving feedback — from the guys at Pixar – here.)

 

How To Respond To Impossible Questions

“Which dress should I wear tonight?”

Via The Art of Civilized Conversation: A Guide to Expressing Yourself With Style and Grace:

“What did you think of my violin solo?”

Via The Art of Civilized Conversation: A Guide to Expressing Yourself With Style and Grace:

“Does this make me look fat?”

Via The Art of Civilized Conversation: A Guide to Expressing Yourself With Style and Grace:

“Do you like the present that I gave you?”

Via The Art of Civilized Conversation: A Guide to Expressing Yourself With Style and Grace:

(More secrets to clicking with people here. )

 

How To Go On The Offensive — Without Being Offensive

You want to get them on your side to avoid conflict. But how?

Repeated studies show that flattery works.

Via The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What We Can Learn About Ourselves from Our Machines:

But avoid “fixed-mindset” praise; if you tell people their success is inevitable because of innate qualities it can be devastating when things don’t work out.

Via The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What We Can Learn About Ourselves from Our Machines:

People like others who they feel are “on their team” or who “do something just for them.”

When dealing with hostile or belligerent people, you can leverage this to make them feel closer to you.

Via The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What We Can Learn About Ourselves from Our Machines:

(More on effective influence methods from persuasion guru Robert Cialdinihere.)

 

When You Are Forced To Argue

They won’t let it go. How can you deescalate without disengaging?

As always, the key is listening. And good listening means the other person knows you listened.

Here’s a great four step process for arguing — with minimal breaking of furniture.

Via Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking:

(More on how to win every argument here.)

 

A Final Thought

Remember that the key is never what you said, it’s what they heard.

And if you want to make things better, ignore what they said and focus on what they meant.

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Related posts:

How To Make People Like You: 6 Science-Based Conversation Hacks

6 hostage negotiation techniques that will get you what you want

How To Win Every Argument

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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