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Understanding what it takes to work with difficult people

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Most of us know what it’s like to work with a difficult person.

But few know what to do about it.

That’s where Robyne Hanley-Dafoe comes in. She’s an expert in dealing with sensitive and awkward situations.

Robyne Hanley-Dafoe

Hanley-Dafoe is an award-winning psychology professor known for her theories on resiliency and navigating stress. Her tips and insight, she says, can improve relationships professionally and personally.

“If the goal is to continue to work with this person, you definitely need to address it,” she said. “We need to learn how to have difficult conversations, how to talk to people so they don’t just shut down.”

Hanley-Dafoe learned a lot about stress and finding resiliency to work through it after she experienced a horrific accident at the age of 16.

She was a lost, high school dropout and believed she would never excel academically.

In February 1996, she was driving alone in a blizzard when her car went off the road and plunged into an icy river at midnight. She knew she would die there stuck underwater in the car.

But she chose to take action and managed to free herself, first from the seatbelt, then through the car window, and finally onto the ice with help from a quick-thinking passerby.

She survived the ordeal and decided to go back to school, graduated high school and completed several university degrees.

“Your life is not defined by your current situation,” she said during a phone interview with The Journal.

“Mine is a story of problem-solving and a story of hope …Our truest self is revealed in moments when we can either give up or get up.” And it often comes down to our resilience.

Hanley-Dafoe believes parents teach resiliency from a very early age. But those who aren’t taught can teach themselves later in life.

“Bad stuff happens to all of us and we can learn how to bounce back and never give up,” she said. “It’s the ability to make a masterpiece out of the brokenness of your life.”

Hanley-Dafoe is coming to Sarnia on Friday, Sept. 20 to present a keynote and workshop hosted by the local Workplace Wellness Committee.

Committee chair Cynthia McColeman said she’s heard Hanley-Dafoe speak and her tips are practical and can be applied to all work and life situations.

“She gives you tools on how to have difficult conversations and she does it drawing on her real-life experience,” said McColeman. “It’s well worth the time.”


WHAT: A morning presentation and workshop about resiliency and dealing with difficult people at work. Hosted by the Sarnia-Lambton Workplace Wellness Committee.

WHEN:  Friday, Sept. 20.  7:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.  Breakfast included.

WHERE:  Lambton College Events Centre, 1485 London Road.

TICKETS:  On sale now. Go to and click on Resiliency Sarnia. $40 plus HST






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