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Simple Ways To Deal With Difficult People
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Guest Columnist

One of life’s frustrations is having to deal with difficult people. Everyone has to interact with them. There is no escaping these troublesome individuals. You can encounter them in virtually any situation.

You call your credit card company and customer service is rude. Your boss keeps changing priorities and then reprimands you for not getting things done. Someone you supervise always has an excuse for being late. You have trouble getting an insurance claim resolved. You call a government office and it’s impossible to find a person who can help you. A relative or friend always drops by without calling and doesn’t get your hints that it’s often inconvenient.

When dealing with difficult people, your words and actions affect the outcome. You play a role, so you need to be proactive. Don’t start out assuming there will be a problem. Expect that all will work out. Positive expectation is a powerful force. Focus on what you want to accomplish. Don’t get sidetracked into irrelevant arguments. You can’t control difficult people but you can control your reaction to them. No one can take advantage of you without your permission.

Regardless of how difficult the other person is, don’t lose your cool. Once you do, it’s virtually impossible to achieve your objective. Although it can be challenging, be kind and considerate. Treat everyone with respect. Remain calm and rational. Don’t get defensive or lose your temper. You don’t want to burn bridges or say things you will regret.

Address the actions of the difficult person or the issues. Don’t insult or get personal. Don’t make it an issue of pride, dignity, or image. An attitude of “I don’t have to take that” is not productive.

Know yourself and what sets you off. Visualize not reacting to those things you are sensitive to. Many difficult people thrive on pushing your buttons in order to set you off. When they fail to get the reaction they want, they move on. Just because someone acts, you aren’t obligated to react.

Break the pattern. Do what the other person doesn’t expect. Don’t get dragged into a shouting match. When someone yells, lower your voice. Speak slowly. Whenever you react in kind, the situation escalates.

Don’t just complain, suggest alternatives. Lead with questions rather than by making statements. For example ask, “If you were in my position how would you feel? What would you do?” Give people a choice. “I can either do this or that.” Or, “You can either do this or that. What do you prefer?”

Don’t internalize what a difficult person does. Feelings of bitterness, anger, and resentment are toxic to you. Some difficult people even take pleasure when you react in this way. When these feelings start to take hold, let them go. There’s no benefit to allowing difficult people to control your emotions.

You can’t change difficult people. Recognize people for who they are and work to change your reaction to them. Trying to change someone else is an exercise in futility which causes you stress.

Difficult people can try to make you feel bad about their problems. They will use their problems as an excuse for their behavior. Don’t make their problems yours. Everyone has issues that must be dealt with. Problems do not justify inappropriate behavior.

Whenever possible, avoid difficult people altogether. Politely excuse yourself by mentioning that you have other commitments or tasks to attend to. Avoid being drawn into arguments or contentious conversations.

Dealing with difficult people is frustrating. Learn to alter your reaction. Keep your objective in sight. Practice the strategies listed above. You will greatly improve your effectiveness while reducing your stress.



Bryan Golden is the author of “Dare to Live Without Limits.” Contact him at or visit