7 Ways to Deal With Difficult People

Even When You Want to Pull Your Hair Out and Scream

Have you ever had to deal with someone who made you want to pull every single hair out of your head and scream at the top of your lungs? Do you have to deal with a person like this on a regular basis? How does it feel? When it happens to me I feel like curling up into a ball, in a darkened room and never coming out again...

There’s no way to totally avoid difficult people. They’re going to be in your social circle, your workplace, or even your family. In order to maintain harmonious relationships, preserve your sanity, and just survive, here are 7 ways to deal with difficult people.

Stay Calm

No matter how much a person drives you crazy, you can’t lose your cool. Learn some strategies to help you stay calm when you feel the anger and frustration coming on. Count to ten (in French), visualize something peaceful, or use affirmations so that you can handle the situation in a calm and controlled fashion. You can unload your stress later in a healthier way.

Be Kind to Difficult People

Difficult people don’t always want to ruin our lives. They may not be aware at all that they cause so much trouble. When dealing with someone like this, assume they have good intentions. Be patient and forgiving. It’s not easy, but try to imagine the struggle they’re having so that you can deal with the situation calmly.

Look for the Hidden Needs

Often when someone is being difficult, it’s because of some unmet need below the surface. It may not have anything at all to do with the interaction you’re having. Sometimes, you can figure out what this need is, provide something that will meet it, and defuse the situation. For example, they feel undervalued for the work they do for their boss. If you can take a moment to show a little appreciation, they may become easier to deal with.

Listen to Difficult People

Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them. Listen to the person without being judgmental and show them some empathy. This alone could be enough to defuse the situation and make the other person more reasonable.

Ask Questions to Clarify

Don’t pretend you understand just to get rid of someone. This will likely cause more problems ahead. Instead, ask questions to clarify. If you’re in the middle of a conflict, asking open-ended questions can uncover what’s lying underneath the undesirable behaviour.

Seek Support

If possible, talk to colleagues or others who have dealt with this person in the past to get some perspective. There’s a good chance others feel exactly the same way you do, but they may already understand the behavior or have a tactic for dealing with that person. At the very least, they can listen to you and empathize. It’s much easier to handle a difficult situation when you feel supported.

Talk to the Person Privately

Talk to the person privately when you’re in a calm, patient frame of mind. Express to them how their words and actions make you feel. Don’t blame or seek a solution. In this case, you’re not actively trying to stop the problem behaviour. You’re simply letting the person know the effect it’s having. You’re giving them a chance to examine their own behaviour and possibly change.

And if these Don't work? Defuse Difficult People with Humour

Turn the difficult situation into a joke and laugh it off. By making it light and humorous, you may be able to draw the other person’s attention to their behaviour without being confrontational or emotional. Hopefully they'll laugh it off too.

Learn to Say No Means There Will be Less Difficult People in Your Life

Get better at saying “no” and turning down opportunities that will bring you into contact with difficult people. Sometimes, our natural inability to say no is the cause of conflict.

Once you’ve figured out the most effective strategies for dealing with a difficult person, take note of what worked and what didn’t. Examine what worked in some situations, but not in others. There’s a good chance you’ll run into a difficult person like this again in the future, so be ready.

Want more help with Difficult People?

Check out this low-cost course kit to help you manage difficult people better. 

About the Author Sarah & Kevin Arrow

Sarah & Kevin Arrow have worked in digital marketing since 2006. They share their thoughts and tips here on this site. They'd love to help you become more visible. Book in a call or ping us a message - we're waiting to hear from you!

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