This is my third article regarding how to deal with difficult people. This week’s personality type is what I refer to as a Wolverine.
These wolverines initially appear calm when they approach you or you approach them. There is no obvious hint of the molten lava that lies just underneath the surface, waiting for a fissure to open so they can explode. But that explosion will occur suddenly and without warning.
While most people who lose their temper are able to bring themselves under control within a few minutes, the wolverine’s explosions can last for over an hour. During that explosion there is uncontrolled ranting and raving (key word – “uncontrolled”).
In nature, real wolverines are noted for their powerful jaws, sharp claws and thick hide. The person with a wolverine personality uses words (name calling, slurs, vulgar comparisons and accusations) that cut like a razor. Yet they seem impervious to pain.
In a work setting these are the people who are loud and abusive. They may seem receptive to supervision or correction, but don’t be fooled. They are apt to explode with the quickness of a lit match being dropped onto gasoline.
How should you handle a wolverine?
- Provide a lot of feedback to them. Be sure you are specific with your feedback, letting them know of your concerns and your interest in theirs.
- Let them see you making notes about their concerns. Literally have a pad and pen and make notes during their rant. This sometimes gives them pause as they realize that what they say could be used against them later.
- Make a conscious effort to respond to the increase in volume of their voice by lowering yours. The louder they get, the softer you get. That’s as much about keeping yourself calm as it is about disarming them.