Dealing with Difficult People - Part 5

I worked in the Bell System which for decades had systematically hired people to do the same thing over and over again for 25+ years and retire with a pension. Unfortunately, when they split up the Bell System, many people had high anxiety over it. In the early 1990s, some parts of the company started down the road of Total Quality Management (i.e., improvement) while others started down the road of reengineering (i.e., revolution). The conflicts between these three groups were something to behold.

Traditionalists, Evolutionaries and Revolutionaries

I call these three types of people traditionalists, evolutionaries and revolutionaries.

  • Traditionalists want things to stay the same. They only make big changes every 15-25 years.
  • Evolutionaries want things to improve. They only initiate big changes every 5-7 years. 
  • Revolutionaries want things to be different. They make big changes every 1-2 years.

To succeed in any business, these people have to learn to talk to each other, but first we have to find out which is which. There's a simple question that will determine this for you. Ask: "What's the relationship between your work this year and last year?

  • Traditionalists will say: "It's pretty much the same."
  • Evolutionaries will say: "It's improved, enhanced, expanded, better."
  • Revolutionaries will ask: "What do you mean relationship? There is no relationship. Are you asking me what's different?

It's that easy!

The Language of Connection, Not Conflict

Once you know if someone is a traditionalist, evolutionary or revolutionary, you can connect with them more easily by using their language.

  Influencing Language


It's the same, similar or familiar way you've always done things.


This will improve, enrich, enhance, expand your results.


This product/process/whatever will make a revolutionary, new, different, breakthrough change in your results

Blue Cheer detergent came in an old familiar blue box that was labeled: New! Improved! The marketing people were talking out of all sides of their mouth!

You can to, especially if you're talking to a group: Lean Six Sigma is a new way to improve performance of the way we've always done things.

Get the idea? A new and improved way to develop rapport is by learning to speak the other person's language. You already know how to speak the language of people who are like you. Once you learn the other styles, it will start to feel really comfortable. Then you'll find new and improved ways to connect will other people and won't that be fun?

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008-2024 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, 888-468-1537, ."