Seven Sanity-Saving Tips For Dealing With Difficult People

Dealing with difficult people is something we all hope to avoid, but unfortunately, we all must face difficult people whether in our workplace, social life or online. These experiences can be confronting, awkward and just wholly unpleasant. Therefore, we decided to put together our best sanity-saving tips for dealing with difficult people. So, instead of getting frustrated and screaming to the ceiling ‘Why is this person being so difficult?’ you can remain sane and handle the situation with class.

  1. Be The Calm One

When faced with someone being completely difficult, being the calm one allows you to maintain some control over the situation. Being angry or frustrated is likely to inflame the situation further. Breathe. Relax your shoulders and let the tension of the situation go before you respond. Be slower to react, allowing your stress levels to decrease first. By remaining calm you are refusing to let the other person trigger you. If your conflict is happening via email or texting, it is crucial to avoid replying when upset. Rise above the conflict and do not allow yourself to react emotionally.

  1. Practise Engaged Listening

People who will not listen to reason or let you have a say can be the most frustrating type of difficult people to deal with. When you are both intent on getting your point of view across, no one is being heard. Be the one who steps back first and actively listen to all they have to say. Practise engaged listening by ensuring that the other person knows you are really listening. Tilt your head slightly and nod as you listen, these actions give a strong non-verbal cue that you are indeed listening to them. Stepping back can quickly deescalate the tension, and you might actually find you can understand why they are being so difficult.

  1. Seek to Understand

Try to see the situation from the difficult person’s point of view. Ask yourself ‘what could they be trying to achieve by being so difficult?’ or ‘what are they trying to avoid?’. With a different perspective on the problem, you may be able to help them move towards their goal without all the drama.

  1. Get Assistance

If the difficult person is someone you are continually having problems with, it can help a lot to talk with others about the situation. Other people can have a completely different perspective on a situation and may offer some good advice on how to handle the situation better. The key is not to use these times to moan and complain to others about the person, but to try to keep the discussion focused on the actions and reactions triggered when you face this person.

  1. Steer Clear of Contempt

Is it possible that your reactions to the difficult person could be interpreted as disrespectful? Any interaction that has a hint of contempt will be doomed to failure. Be careful that you have not used a put-down or acted arrogantly towards them. Stay respectful, and you may find they follow your cue and change their path of difficulty.

  1. Focus on What You Can Fix

Narrow your focus onto the situation at hand and how you can work together to solve it. Take your focus off your emotional reactions to the actions or words of the difficult person, as these can blind us to simple solutions to the problem.

  1. Remove Yourself From The Drama

If you have done all you can to try to work with a difficult person, but you seem to face the same issues with every interaction, simply reduce your contact with this person as much as possible. Often people will use challenging behaviour as a way to control a situation or person when they feel out of control or insecure. Trust your instincts on this one. If you feel there is no way to amend this conflict, remove yourself. Choose your battles wisely. Remember that not every fight needs to be fought and you get to decide when to engage.

Difficult people are always going to be around and finding good strategies to deal with them is essential. Every interaction with a difficult person should be seen as a chance to learn better skills for dealing with them in the future.


Difficult people are the greatest teachers – Pema Chödrön