10 Ways to Deal with a Difficult Person

Dealing with Frustrating People

….Even When You Want to Pull Your Hair Out and Scream

Have you ever had to deal with someone so frustrating they made you want to pull every single hair out of your head and scream at the top of your lungs?

Do you have to deal with a person like this on a regular basis?

They could be a colleague, a customer, supplier or family member.

There’s no way to completely avoid difficult people.

They’re going to be in your social circle, your workplace, or even a chance meeting on a train, plane, cafe etc…

How you react to them is important.

The best way through life is to maintain harmonious relationships, preserve your sanity, and just survive.

Here are 10 strategies to deal with difficult people.


1. Stay Calm

No matter how much a person drives you crazy, you can’t lose your cool.

Learn some strategies to help you stay calm when you feel the anger and frustration coming on.

Count to ten, visualise something peaceful, or use affirmations so that you can handle the situation in a calm and controlled fashion.

You can unload your stress later in a healthier way.


2. Be Kind

Difficult people don’t always want to ruin our lives.

They may not be aware at all that they cause so much trouble.

When dealing with someone like this, assume they have good intentions.

Be patient and forgiving.

It’s not easy, but try to imagine the struggle they’re having so that you can deal with the situation calmly.


3. Look for the Hidden Need

Often when someone is being difficult, it’s because of some unmet need below the surface.

It may not have anything at all to do with the interaction you’re having.

Sometimes, you can figure out what this need is, provide something that will meet it, and defuse the situation.

For example, they feel undervalued for the work they do for their boss.

If you can take a moment to show a little appreciation, they may become easier to deal with.


4. Listen

Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them.

Listen to the person without being judgmental and show them some empathy.

This alone could be enough to defuse the situation and make the other person more reasonable.


5. Ask Questions to Clarify

Don’t pretend you understand just to get rid of someone.

This will likely cause more problems ahead.

Instead, ask questions to clarify.

If you’re in the middle of a conflict, asking open-ended questions can uncover what’s lying underneath the undesirable behaviour.


6. Seek Support

If possible, talk to colleagues or others who have dealt with this person in the past to get some perspective.

There’s a good chance others feel exactly the same way you do, but they may already understand the behaviour or have a tactic for dealing with that person.

At the very least, they can listen to you and empathise.

It’s much easier to handle a difficult situation when you feel supported.


7. Talk to the Person Privately

Talk to the person privately when you’re in a calm, patient frame of mind.

Express to them how their words and actions make you feel.

Don’t blame or seek a solution.

In this case, you’re not actively trying to stop the problem behaviour.

You’re simply letting the person know the effect it’s having.

You’re giving them a chance to examine their own behaviour and possibly change.


8. Take Action and Get Relief

Is there some action you could take that would provide relief?

For example, maybe you could handle your emails or other communications differently.

At the very least, the difficult interactions could then wreak less havoc in your day.


9. Defuse with Humour

Make the difficult situation into a joke and laugh it off.

By making it light and humorous, you may be able to draw the other person’s attention to their behaviour without being confrontational or emotional.


10. Learn to Say No

Get better at saying “no” and turning down opportunities that will bring you into contact with difficult people.

Sometimes, our natural inability to say no is the cause of conflict.

Once you’ve figured out the most effective strategies for dealing with a difficult person, take note of what worked and what didn’t.

Examine what worked in some situations, but not in others.

There’s a good chance you’ll run into a difficult person like this again in the future, so be ready.

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Written by 

Co-Founder & CEO of Link Management Group. An Investor & Coach to Small Business Owners, for the past 30 years I have helped startup and early-stage businesses to enter new markets and achieve sustainable growth of both revenue and profits. I have experience across a diverse range of sectors including central government, information services, software, health insurance, pet products, couture fashion, entertainment and aviation.  How can I help your organisation accelerate growth and achieve its full potential? 

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