When in doubt, don't.

~ Benjamin Franklin ~

5 Tips For Dealing With Difficult People

May 29th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 1 sec

How do you handle difficult people?

“What’s the best way to deal with difficult people?” Sadly, it’s never easy (that’s why they’re difficult). But there are some approaches to cope with difficult people in your life that will at least help to protect you. Consider these five ways to reduce your reactions and handle the hassle:

  1. Less is Best. It might seem a cop out but minimizing whatever causes the most conflict can definitely help you cope with really difficult people. The purpose is not excluding them but simple self-preservation. Given the circumstances, decide for yourself what is reasonable, being mindful of the outcomes.
  2. Yoohoo Switcheroo. What makes some people particularly difficult is that their behavior triggers ours. Become more aware of what makes you react and introduce some circuit-breaking behaviors. For instance, if you’re sensitive about keeping a clean house and your sister frequently remarks about how untidy your house is, try agreeing: “Yes, we’re filthy people really. We love it.” I know it sounds ridiculous, but changing your mental state is releasing. Instead of going down the same old path of distress, why not power out to something better?
  3. Ten Strikes and Your Out. Too often, people give up on others too quickly. Rather than getting brittle after one or two critical comments, try ten. The point is, have a plan of letting a certain amount go to the keeper before you start swinging.
  4. Ask and Take Charge. Whoever asks the questions controls the conversation. So take over with a kinder approach. If you get a loaded question lobbed at you, answer with a question. Negotiators call this the “porcupine technique” but you can use it too when dealing with difficult people. The key is to make your questions friendly.
  5. Turn it Down! Ask yourself what the worst part of dealing with difficult people is and it usually boils down to emotional conflict. They may be angry, resentful, spiteful, or selfish… and that’s before they’ve got through the door. So naturally, we react. Unless, that is, we plan beforehand. What if you took abuse from someone and chose not to be savage back? How would you feel about not getting aggressive because someone else is? And what would it feel completely unruffled by a critic’s complaints?  These aren’t easy to do. But if we recognize our own flight or flight reactions as predictable and largely unnecessary (given the grump-head you’re dealing with isn’t likely to lunge at you with a club), we can feel much more in control.

In the end, there are no easy ways; only better ones. Choose what suits you and find something good to focus on. Because, in a sense, dealing with difficult people is like a test. Do you regress, rage, or retreat when put under pressure? Or, do you take the challenge to find the best ways you can to bring out your best? It’s your call.


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