Communication Skills

20+ Tips On Handling Difficult People

Handling difficult people

How To Handle Difficult People In Life (And Handle Their Negative Behavior).


Why some people are difficult to you:

They may be your rivals.

They may not agree with your views/policy.

They have a different idea of things should be done.

They feel slighted by your behavior.

They see your confidence/assertiveness as arrogant.

They think people are not giving them enough value/credit for their contribution.

They are frustrated because they haven't achieved what they wanted.

They are angry that people are paying them enough attention.

They are resentful because they think their criticism was unfair.

They are angry at something else (e.g. the company) but are directing the anger at you as you the nearest company boss they can access.

They don't trust you, at least not enough.

They are afraid of the change.

They are under too much pressure.

Or, they simply don't like you.


So you see, you can't just brush away people who won't agree to your request/order etc. You have to start by looking at the world through their eyes.


1. It is easy to deal with an actual negative behavior than a perceived negative behavior.


When someone disagrees with you plan, this is a negative behavior you can deal with by asking them to give reasons for their disagreement. On the other hand, you can't just say they are being uncooperative, which will only make them more stubborn. Look at a specific negative behavior and then address that.


2. Deal with most negative behaviors in more private settings than public.


In public we tend to take a stance and stick to it no matter what, lest our abilities be questioned. This is natural human behavior. Better talk to them in private, give an actual example/s of their negative behavior, ask for their reasons, explain the business/personal impact of that behavior and show willingness to come to a compromise/solution. Ask them about their problems. See at things from their point of view.


You must first find out how they perceive the problem before you can deal with it.


3. Don't call them 'difficult' people. Just say the situation is 'challenging'.


This is how to start not to take it personal. When you reframe it as a 'challenge', you are saying now both of you have to think about 'solutions'.


4. Calm yourself down before you calm them down.


Take deep breaths. Before saying anything strong, count to 10/5.


5.Listen first, say later

Listen to their problems, points of view, needs etc.


Use active listening. 'So you are...I didn't know that....'


When you summarize their point of view, use statements instead of questions.


'So, you want me to understand that...right?'

'What else?' (Ask this often)

'How do you see this happen?'


6. Go in with an assertive frame of mind.

Where you know your rights, and theirs, and that both of you are committed to working to a solution. Express this assertive state of mind through your actions and words. 'We have to work at a solution if we want better pay.'


7. Focus on the important things

Don't quibble about the small stuff. As far as they get to agree on the bigger issues...


8. Think long-term, not short-term

For example, don't make a deal with 'devil' only to break it later. Once bitten, thrice shy, at least.


9. Don't typecast their behavior


For example, 'Here they go again about...!'


Instead of playing the role of a victim or a victimizer, look closely into why they are asking the same thing/raising the same issue repeatedly? Why?


10. Don't make it personal.


They might throw at insult, but often we insult others for what they represent to us, part of an 'evil' group in our mind.


'All you shopkeepers are the same!'


When somebody says something like this to us, we should think, for example, how did some shopkeeper piss them off in past? Ask them about this. It might also lighten the situation.


11. Think solutions, not 'rights'.


The issue. Focus on the big issue. On the 'big challenge'.


Don't make it all about you - that you deserve better etc.


Only when you will be interested in other people's views and needs, will they listen to your needs and views.


Give and take.


12. Are you really the problem?


At times, they may be right. So look into your behaviors and actions first Did your past behavior towards these people gives them a reason to be difficult with you now? Or, are your demands too outrageous?


Did you behave with these people in past?


14. If the difficult person/s is too upset or angry to listen right now, walk away.


Give them and yourself time. More words from either side will only exacerbate the situation.


'Perhaps it's best we resume our discussion later when are in a calm state of mind'.


And try to slam the phone/hang up abruptly.


15. Keep a healthy distance from people who have consistently not listened to you.


But try to know all about the person anyhow.


16. Pick your battles and methods


You can't try to make peace with all the difficult people you come across. Prioritize and deal with issues most important with you only.


Difficult people will be everywhere. Everyone has their own scope to look at the world through.


Choose to confront (privately, preferably) and resolve issues with people whose actions are very important for you in the long term.


17. You can disarm difficult behavior with humor.


Only if you are good at looking at the funny side of things, don't take yourself too seriously and have a big picture view of the situation. Humor gets better with practice.


18. 'Stand down' a difficult person by explaining the consequences.


You need to explain to them the effects of their negative behavior. Then you can also take it up a notch by using your authority and superior skills/resources to give them an idea of the consequences. At times, when the carrot is not working, tough choices become necessary. But do it as a last resort, and only if you really have the wherewithal to back up your assertions/threats.


19. Put the focus on them by asking questions


When the other part keeps making accusations etc, we tend to get defensive quickly. We can turn the focus back on them by asking questions.


'Do you think by calling me stupid we can solve this problem?'


'Do you want people to think you can only make insults instead of looking for solutions?'


20. Change the topic and stop them from hogging the conversation


Often, difficult people will go on and on, complaining repeatedly about one problem, getting no where to the root cause, or giving concrete examples.


Get control of the conversation by simply changing the topic: 'By the way, we haven't talked about...' Or, 'By the way, the company will be out of money by...'


21. Deal with dangerous bullies in front of other people


With a normal, garden-variety bully, you can talk things out, explaining the effect of their actions in private. But some bullies are so worked up, most probably because of some deep personal issues, that they can get physical. Do the talking in public. And do it calmly. Focus on the facts, examples, and finding solutions.


Thank you for reading.
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