Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

How To Deal With Difficult People


We all know them. It might be the co-worker who always stops talking when you walk in the room. It might be your boss, who loves to make jokes at your expense in front of others, or passes your work over repeatedly. It might be an unpleasant neighbour, or even a partner. Difficult people are all around us – that is, people who don’t want what we want, and aren’t afraid to tell us so.


Get Rid Of The Stress

Difficult people can be a real drag on your spirit and sense of well-being. It’s really important to try and eliminate the stress they cause you by approaching the problem in a number of ways over time. It may not be an instant effect, but in time you should find that the techniques begin to work for you. Be warned, many of them require a little bit of courage, and the ability to bite your tongue, which are incredibly daunting requests for some people. Isn’t it natural to want to defend yourself, after all? And isn’t the reason you haven’t dealt with it before that you lack courage?

Don’t Engage In Negative Conversations

It might sound like a long-term strategy, but it does work. When there is gossip at work, try not to get involved in it. Just keep your peace and decline to comment, with an “Oh, I don’t know anything about that…” or an absent-minded, “Hmmm…” when people try to draw you into discussion about a colleague. However tempting it is, you will come to regret workplace gossip. If you are seen as someone who won’t engage in negative chat about anyone you will gain respect from your colleagues, and remain on good terms with all of them, making it less likely that you will become a victim of bullying yourself. Just take a back seat, and don’t join in. Don’t confide too much personal information about yourself to work colleagues either. It could make you vulnerable.

Try To Understand People

Often difficult people are trying to mask an inadequacy. Men who are rude and bossy may be incredibly unsure of themselves underneath the veneer, and quite fearful of being found out. Their tough exterior could be a ruse to keep people away. Difficult people are often unhappy inside, but can’t seem to manage without negative behaviour. Whilst it doesn’t help you deal with them, understanding why difficult people behave in the way they do can help you keep it in perspective, and prevent you from blaming yourself for tricky situations that arise. What do you think? Is your neighbour boasting about her new organic mattress and super cool new handbag because she wants you to feel bad, or because she’s actually unsure of herself and needs something to make her feel better than you, or superior in some way? Perhaps she feels like she cannot compete with you in other ways.

The Only Thing You Can Change…

…is your own reaction. Think about that statement very carefully, as the power of it may take a long time to sink in. If you are always upset by your Boss ignoring you when you take work in, just decide not to be upset about it any more. Let it go. Breeze in and breeze out again, rather than scowling and tutting under your breath. Perhaps he enjoys aggravating you with repeated difficult behaviour, because he is sure of the same response. Change that response and you remove the pay off. Imagine yourself on the surface of a pond, just skating on by the difficult thing being thrown at you by others. Be breezy, show you’re not intimidated and you will prevent the difficult people in your life from getting an emotional pay off from aggravating them.

Be Assertive

Assertiveness can seem impossible at times, but try to find a good self-help book that deals with it, as the techniques can be incredibly effective. One simple technique, when in a difficult discussion, is to simply acknowledge the other person’s point of view, but keep re-iterating your own. Don’t engage in a slanging match, just stick to your script. For example, if you work in a clothing store and you have a difficult customer who wants to return an item which she has clearly worn and damaged, you could try saying, “I understand that you want a refund, but I cannot give you one. It’s against the shop’s policy to refund goods which have been damaged”. Keep to these two points, “Yes, I can understand you are frustrated, but there is nothing I can do. It’s the shop’s policy, and I cannot help you.” Just stick to your guns and soon she will see she is going to get nowhere. She’s hit a conversational brick wall, and tried it on with the wrong shop assistant. Nothing she says elicits anything other than this response from you, and it’s clear you’re not going to budge. She can then flounce off, saying she’ll see you in court, which is when you know that you have won the argument. Remember, acknowledge and repeat your position, over and over. Don’t worry if it sounds odd. It’s highly effective.

Know When To Move On

If you find yourself in constant conflict with a difficult person, try to decide if there is any way you can distance yourself more permanently. If it’s a ‘friend’ who gossips about you, or puts you down, let them go. Stop returning their calls. If it’s a partner, ask yourself if it is fair for them to cause the stress that they cause. Wouldn’t your life be much happier without it? Even if you understand why he behaves in the way he does (see ‘Try To Understand People’, above!) is it really fair on yourself to have to live with it? If it’s a boss, see if you can be moved to another section. Some relationships will never improve, and the only way is to cut loose and let the difficult person in your life just get on with it. You’re way too busy to be held back by all those negative emotions. You only have one life – so live it in the happiest way you can, while you can, and leave those difficult people behind.


Guest Post by Amy Watts

Amy is a freelance writer from England who supports a number of good causes through her writing and also strongly believes in organic produce everything from her organic mattress to vegetables.


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