You Can Deal with Difficult People

Let’s face it, unless you are a hermit living on some far off mountain top you are going to have to figure out how to deal with others and not everyone plays nice. Difficult people in particular can leave you feeling completely out of sorts. Your feelings can be hurt and you can find yourself stewing in anger long after he or she has gone on about their merry way to making someone else’s life miserable. But you can deal with difficult people in a way that will leave you feeling empowered and immune to their toxicity if you remember just a few key points.

Difficult people are that way because they have an unfulfilled need or problem that you might not easily see. They may seem to have it all together, but if they were that together, they wouldn’t be so difficult would they? When you can remember the person you are dealing with has some problem or unfulfilled need, and it more than likely has nothing at all to do with you, you can learn to respond to them in a different way.

One of the best methods of dealing with a difficult person is to validate him or her whenever possible. Even if you don’t agree, you can be validating and that will immediately calm anyone down. For example, if your difficult coworker comes into the office and starts complaining, you can validate him or her by saying “I bet that makes you really angry/upset/frustrated”. As soon as they realize that you notice they are feeling that way, they will relax. Honestly, it works like magic.

If the criticism or complaint is directed at you, you can simply say “Oh, I didn’t think of it that way, I will keep that in consideration, thank you”. Then change the subject completely or walk away. That is neither agreeing nor disagreeing, only validating that they have an opinion and you will think about it. It also avoids an argument and arguing with a difficult person is a fool’s game, just don’t do it.

Another way to deal with difficult people is to avoid connecting with them. Difficult people are in pain and they will lash out at the people they feel closest to. Be friendly, nice and keep your distance as much as possible. As they see that you validate them, which is a deep human need and act kindly around them, they will begin to relax. They may start to make more of an effort to connect with you if they want to and you can certainly reciprocate. Just remember they are difficult, so it could be similar to befriending a viper. In other words, tread carefully and keep your protective gear on.

Finally, the most important thing to remember when it comes to dealing with difficult people is you can’t change other people, places or things. If they choose to change it will be because they wanted to and your interference in that process is not recommended.

Recipe for How You Can Deal With Difficult People

  • Give them validation
  • Keep your distance
  • Avoid attempting to change them

This recipe is extremely effective and can be used with any difficult person you have to interact with.

An important note about this is never allow a difficult person to become abusive towards you. Set firm boundaries, such as complaining to Human Resources if it’s a coworker. If it’s a family member, leave until they calm down and agree to treat you with respect and follow that up with professional help. Take whatever measures you need to protect yourself. That is never an argument that is your right. You can be kind, yet stay firm in what is or is not acceptable to you. 

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