Have you ever had to deal with someone who 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?
There’s no way to totally avoid difficult people. They’re going to be in your social circle, your workplace, or even your family. In order to maintain harmonious relationships, preserve your sanity, and just survive, here are 10 strategies to deal with difficult people.
- 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. Remembering to take a deep breath usually works for me. Then, follow that up with something like counting to ten, visualizing something peaceful, or using affirmations. This will help you to handle the situation in a calm and controlled fashion. You can always unload your stress later in a healthier way — such as during a workout.
- Be Kind
Difficult people don’t always want to ruin our lives. In their mind they believe they are right and justified in their actions. Therefore, they may not be aware at all that they cause so much trouble. When dealing with someone like this, sometimes it is best to assume they have good intentions, so do your best be patient and forgiving. I know — it’s not easy, but consider exercising empathy and compassion when dealing with others. Imagine the struggle they’re having, so that you can address the situation in a peaceful manner.
- 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 with them. Sometimes, you can figure out what this need is, provide something that will meet it, and defuse the situation. For example, let’s say this person feels 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. Also, it could improve your relationship with them overall.
Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them. Listen to the person without being judgmental and again, show them some empathy. This alone could be enough to defuse the situation and make the other person more reasonable. You both might experience a little relief afterwards.
- Ask Questions to Clarify
Effective communication is key. 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 behavior.
- 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 behavior or have a tactic for dealing with that person. At the very least, they can listen to you and empathize. It’s much easier to handle a difficult situation when you feel supported.
- Talk to the Person Privately
Talk to the person privately when you’re in a calm, patient frame of mind. In this case, you’re not actively trying to stop the problem behavior. You’re simply letting the person know the effect it’s having. Express to them how their words and actions make you feel. Don’t blame or seek a solution, because this will almost certainly be met with more resistance. Give them a chance to examine their own behavior and possibly change.
- Take Action and Get Relief
Is there some action you could take that would provide relief? For example, maybe you could handle your communications with this person differently. If the meaning in emails is lost in translation, try a more face-to-face approach. Tones or gestures help to convey meaning, and can be beneficial in most cases. Or if the in-person communication isn’t working, try switching to more email correspondence instead. Just be sure to send detailed correspondence in order to avoid further confusion.
- Defuse with Humor
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 behavior without being confrontational or emotional. Just be mindful not to go too heavy on sarcasm, or the person will take offense.
- Learn to Say No
Sometimes, our natural inability to say no is the cause of conflict. Get better at saying “no” and turning down opportunities that will bring you into contact with difficult people. Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries are not only beneficial, they are a necessity.
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.