Dealing With Difficult People

“Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power” – Shirley MacLaine

We have all experienced difficult people.  You know them as Slackers, Drama queens / Kings, Perfectionist, Negative Nancy’s, The great debaters..the list goes on.  As easy as they are to find, most will find it extremely difficult to work with these individuals.  Dealing with difficult people can take every bit of energy out of you if you are not prepared to handle the situation appropriately.  Below are some tips that can make a big difference in the situation.


1.       Empathize with them

a.       We are a product of our past; oftentimes we don’t know what is causing someone to become difficult.  When we remember how much a difficult person could be suffering, it is easier to stay focused on minimizing negativity as opposed to defending yourself.

2.       Mirroring

a.       Are you potentially displaying any negative body language others make be mirroring?

b.      Temper your emotional response

c.       If you don’t want an emotional response, don’t provide one.

3.       Listen

a.       Compassionately listen without interruptions (seek understanding)

b.      Oftentimes people just want to be heard, let them speak. (this may be a quick fix)

4.       Eye Contact

a.       When communicating with a difficult person, make sure to keep eye contract .

5.       Don’t take it personal

a.       Their very intention for their behavior could be to draw you in.  Don’t let them.

b.      Oftentimes the issue is internal however it appears as external

6.       Be a leaner

a.       No one deserves excessive emotions in someone’s tone.  Weigh their ideas with the willingness to learn.  Some of the most useful lessons learned can come from people we wished weren't right.

7.      Attracted to these people?

a.       Do you now have a stake in this?

b.     If you find that you are attracted to these people, you should take an honest look within yourself to understand why.

8.      Acceptance

a.       Have you ever?

i.      {Wish he/she could be more positive.

ii.      Consistently put yourself in situations where you feel bad because you want to help, because you want him/her to be happy.

iii.      The best you can do is accept him/her as they are, let them know you believe in their ability to be happy, and then give them space to make the choice.

9.      Keep Interactions short, logical

10.  Give up the dream of them being who YOU want them to be.

11.   Agree – Empathize – Inquire

a.      Agreeing can reduce the confrontation quickly, this doesn't mean you have to agree only that you understand (“You’re Right, this is a tough situation” or “I can see how this makes you upset”)

b.      Inquire by changing the confrontation to team problem solving

Are you still unsuccessful?  You may find that this person has a potential personality disorder and engages in dysfunctional or inflexible patterns of thought.  Don’t call them out on your assumptions and don’t let this dysfunction affect your quality of life.  By affecting your life, you may be susceptible to stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, fear, and/or physical illness.  Before you give up completely, are you asking yourself the tough questions?  Are you honestly an innocent victim?  Are you potentially contributing to the issue?  Have you done everything in your power to make the situation better?  If the thought of these questions upsets you, there is more here than you realize.  Take a deep look into your own thoughts and see if you can figure out what is going on.

Ask yourself “is the stress I deal with worth the strain on my mind and body?”  If the answer is No, consider your alternatives.   You could transfer to a different department or even speak to your supervisor or direct report.  If you chose this path, be open and honest.  Let them know that things are starting to affect you and you need help.  Try to avoid drastic moves like quitting your job or giving your supervisor an ultimatum.

My final thoughts are this –

·         Control your response

o   You can take the power of difficult people away by controlling how YOU react and respond to their workplace antics.  Ultimately, are you are going to allow them to hijack your life

·         We live in a world of victimization

o   It is common to feel like the victim however it takes true inner strength to take a step back and check our own actions

o   Are we giving off negative verbal and/or non-verbal cues that could be inducing or negatively influencing difficult people?

o   Are we being emphatic,

  Put yourself in their shoes

o   Don’t Judge

Good luck!