We all know them, those difficult people who seem motivated by seeking to spread misery. Unfortunately, whether in our personal or professional lives, or both, each of us will periodically encounter someone who fits this description. My job is to give you some strategies so that you can effectively deal with these miserable characters. First let’s define the difficult person.
Definition of people with difficulties
Some people are overly sensitive, demanding, suspicious, insecure, or needy. However, if you treat them well, many of these people can become assets within your inner circle. These people may have had negative experiences in the past that compromised their abilities to trust and connect. However, they can be turned around. If they understand that you value and accept them, they can become intensely loyal friends and allies.
On the other hand, the truly difficult person will delight in keeping you off balance by acting badly. These difficult people seem immune to good manners, honest communication, and caring. These difficult people generally fall into six categories; with some difficult people exhibiting qualities from two or more categories.
Here is my list of the six categories of difficult people you may come across.
o The Bully is angry, abusive, abrupt, aggressive and unpredictable. The Bully will try to intimidate you into doing what he wants. He will explode over small things, threaten and push you to retreat or overreact.
o The Sniper shoots randomly and performs subtle attacks. Their “humorous” put-downs, sarcastic comments, disapproving looks, and innuendoes are a form of psychological abuse.
o The Victim is a complainer who is afraid, has little faith in himself and others, and believes that the world is a hostile place. His negativity, resentment, and disappointment in his life throw cold water on every idea and crush any hint of optimism.
o The Guilty avoids taking responsibility and instead uses a self-righteous, accusatory tone, finding fault with everything and everyone. The Fault-Finder is much more interested in blaming than finding solutions.
o The Smarty is an expert who presents himself as a bulldozer with an aura of personal authority that is condescending, imposing, and pompous. The know-it-all knows what’s wrong with every aspect of your life, and she’s happy to tell you.
o The Cheat uses deliberate deception to misrepresent facts to their advantage; their actions may border on or include theft.
Here are some strategies you can use to effectively deal with difficult people.
o First, assess the situation. Is he really a difficult person or someone who is hungry, tired or having a bad day?
o Set boundaries and limitations regarding what you will and will not tolerate.
o Seek understanding of true motivation. Be willing to listen carefully, even if someone initially seems out of place. Allow the difficult person to vent and feel heard. (Set a time limit for this exchange.)
o Express your views only when you can avoid the battle for good and evil. Don’t defend yourself or use reason to try to beat a difficult person at their own game. He’s been practicing his skills his whole life, and you’re an amateur.
o Difficult people often have an insatiable appetite for more. Know when to stop trying to appease and move on.
o Don’t try to change the difficult person. You can only change your responses to her behavior.
o Sometimes, we have to cut our losses and move on. It may be worth the loss to get rid of the difficult person.
o Take a detached and impersonal view. The difficult person’s misbehavior has nothing to do with you, so don’t interpret his behavior as a personal attack or get emotionally invested or caught up in the cycle.
o Give the difficult person the last word because you will have the last word.
o Find a common goal, intention, or “enemy” that you share with the difficult person. Now, you can be on the same team.
o Take an unpredictable action to get his attention: drop a book, stand up, or firmly call his name.
o Respond to hits and attacks with a question: “You seem to be making fun of me, right?” The response may be denial, “I’m just kidding,” but nonetheless, challenging these attacks will reduce them in the future.
o Insist on a problem-solving approach, with complaints and suggestions for resolution in writing.
o Do not discuss their negative point of view. Instead, he responds with his own optimistic expectations.
o Require the citation of specific details rather than the use of sweeping generalizations.
o Make “I want to find solutions that work for both of us” your mantra when dealing with a difficult person. Remind him that your goal is to find a mutually acceptable solution.
Dealing with difficult people takes practice, so don’t give up or get discouraged. Although these strategies won’t change the difficult person, they will challenge their ability to interfere in your life.