Sunday Musings: Difficult People

I am currently reading “Dear Mr. Buffett: What An Investor Learns 1,269 miles From Wall Street.” The author is Janet Tavakoli, a well known structured finance and derivatives consultant.

She writes about her “meeting with Warren Buffett on the eve of the greatest market meltdown in history” and how meeting him changed the way she looks at global financial markets.

During their initial meeting, Mr. Buffett talked about something that really resonated with me, and which has been an important part of my business dealings for a long time.

He suggested to Janet that “she is in a position that she should not have to deal with difficult people. There are so many good people to work with that it isn’t necessary to spend time with those who do not recognize the value of your services.”

“Difficult” people! What an eloquent way to put it. I am sure that in your work environment or business dealings, you may have even a more appropriate word for some of the people you encounter but, for this discussion, let’s be polite and use the word “difficult.”

How do you deal with them? In my business, I try to use the old bar adage that I “reserve the right to refuse to serve anyone.” While most potential clients assume that they are picking an investment advisor, I am doing the selection at the same time by making sure during the interview that there is a fit, a common ground and a similar line of thinking.

If there are excessive demands via 40 email exchanges covering the same thing over and over, along with several hours of personal meetings and/or phone calls, I realize that I have encountered a “difficult” person and use my right to refuse to enter into a working relationship.

This very thing happened to me recently when, even after my refusal to work with that person, two more emails came in elaborating how right he had been all along. There are “difficult” people everywhere, even when you least expect it.

For example, you’d think that providing a free service designed to help share experiences and processes about investing, such as my blog (and those of many other bloggers), would invite only readers who appreciate the work and effort, but not so.

Recently, there have been some downright vicious comments, apparently by “difficult” readers with nothing else to do and probably not much of a life going on.

Needless to say, these were not published. The good thing is that these are exceptions, since 99% of those following my blog and newsletter are gracious enough to show their appreciation.

If you are in the fortunate position to have a choice of whom you wish to deal with, heed Mr. Buffett’s words; if not, how do you deal with “difficult” people?

About Ulli Niemann

Ulli Niemann is the publisher of "The ETF Bully" and is a Registered Investment Advisor. Learn more
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