4 Ways To Deal With Difficult People

Regrettably, there’s no escaping difficult people who are argumentative or negative. They are everywhere; at family gatherings, at our children’s soccer games, in the work place, and on the highways. We cannot control the behavior of other people – including the difficult ones. What we can control is how we choose to react to such people.

1. Don’t allow yourself to be baited. Sometimes other people are at an unhappy place in their lives, and want to bring others into the same negative place with them. By pushing your buttons and getting a reaction, they are then able to have an opportunity to unleash their hostility… onto you! If you know that you are involved with a difficult person, keep the conversations safe and neutral. Avoid hot topics such as religion, sexuality and politics.

2. Understand the other person’s motivations. Next time such a situation occurs, try to understand that that this difficult person has just shown you how fragile and unhappy he really is. He wants you to be in the same unhappy state of mind as him so he can continue and even escalate his negative attacks on you. These types of communications tend to become more emotional than rational. In the end, nothing is resolved but you will likely walk away with increased anger, negativity and frustration.

3. Don’t react defensively to this person. You will only get into a power struggle. Put your hurt ego aside and take the high road. Respond with calmness, respectfulness, and patience. Use assertive techniques. The difficult person may find you to be an uninteresting target of his anger and move on in search of a weaker person to antagonize.

4. Establish clear boundaries. Be firm about not allowing abusive comments to be made about you. Draw the line in the sand about such comments. If you don’t show the difficult person that you have personal boundaries, he may increase his attacks. You may wish to say, “I can see you are very upset about this, and I do not think it is a good idea to discuss it at this time. I would be happy to talk to you about it when we can talk rationally.” If the person’s anger was expressed through an email, you have the choice to not respond until you are emotionally cooled down, or choose to ignore the email altogether if you feel it will only fuel the negativity. In all situations, each response should be preceded with the thought, “will my response help defuse or fuel the negativity?”

Most people are not difficult all of the time. However, there is a percentage of the population that is chronically difficult. Negativity is like a contagious disease. When exposed to negativity, it can spread throughout your body and affect your ability to sleep, eat, maintain healthy relationships with others and can even distort your view of the world as being a positive place. In some cases, it may be important to remove these toxic people from your life as a way of taking proper care of yourself.

Eileen Lenson
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