Dealing with Difficult People – Part 5

As we continue our look at some of the more common personality types of difficult people and explore ways to deal with them, let’s turn our attention to the so-called “wet blanket.”

The “wet blanket” is the classic impossibility thinker. They seem to always doubt, question, or even criticize the idea that we can succeed at any new venture. So Pastor brings a new idea to the table and the “wet blanket” adds his moisture to the fire. “We can’t do that!” “That won’t work!” “We’ve never done it that way before.” These are the mantras of the “wet blanket.”

Now, what’s really going on with this person? Why do they meet each new idea with skepticism and seem to want to spread their doubts over the enthusiasms of others? Some of us are tempted to think that they are just tightly attached to the status quo. They just prefer what we’ve always done.

Actually, that’s not usually true. You see, the “wet blanket” was likely against our old efforts back when they were new efforts too. The issue isn’t change, it’s fear. These people are afraid of failure, afraid of bigger challenges, and afraid they won’t fit into the new day that you’re chasing. They are simply afraid…but, of course, they won’t admit that.

How do you deal with them? Well, you can try arguing with them, showing them how the new approach will be better than current efforts. But that won’t work because (as we said) they’re not truly attached to the status quo. These are different people than the ones that simply don’t want change. These people would meet a free gift of a million dollars with some skepticism. They reveal a pattern of being against nearly every new idea or at least reacting negatively to that idea the first time they hear it.

1. So, your goal with the “wet blanket” is to help them address their fears. Help them believe we can by being convinced yourself. Be honest with them. Let them see that the new idea is truly needed and that the possibilities of success are worth the risk.

2. Assure them that failure is a possibility. When the “wet blanket” believes that you see the potential for failure, he’ll relax a bit. If you’re honest about that, you take some of the steam out of his argument. You help him see that you have weighed the potential of winning and losing and are convinced that winning is more likely.

3. You may also want to remind them of the other times that they were convinced of imminent failure and success came instead. Don’t do this in front of others, but maybe a “John, remember that you didn’t think our new service idea would work, and look how great things turned out.” You’re not trying to embarrass John in front of others, but you’re helping ease some of his fears.

4. Don’t let the “wet blanket” drive your decision-making. You can’t cater to the expectations of such people. Take the attitude that 1) we’re going to move ahead, but 2) I understand your fears and I want to help you overcome them. 3) Assure the “wet blanket” that there’s a place for him in the new future.

5. Don’t let the “wet blanket” douse your enthusiasm. Sure, you want to consider their concerns and mine out any wisdom that might help, but you must believe strongly in a new day if you’re going to lead others to it. “Wet blankets” tend to have insecurity issues. Don’t let them help you develop your own.

6. Finally, point them to your church’s vision and how the new effort will help us take another step in that direction. Always tie new initiatives to the church’s vision so people can see that yesterday’s steps are leading us to the current ones.

Ultimately, make every effort to love the “wet blanket.” Don’t reject or ridicule them. Help them move past their fears and you may end up with a valuable team member. Somewhere along the way, life has taught them to fear. But maybe the new life ahead can teach them to believe!

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