What would you say defines a difficult person? Is it someone who gossips? A supervisor who criticizes you in front of coworkers? A mother-in-law who disregards your request to not smoke in front of your toddler?
Difficult people are everywhere: at work, in social groups, volunteer organizations, the library, and playgrounds. They’re our neighbors, relatives, coworkers and friends.
I’m pretty sure that each of us knows a person who we consider difficult, and I’m also fairly certain that each of us has been considered difficult by someone else. We all have our own definition of who or what a difficult person is. A behavior that makes one person furious can be perfectly acceptable to another.
Here are five easy tips for dealing with difficult people. Not every tip is right for every situation or person. Feel free to add tips that have worked well for you!
- Work around the problematic behavior. If your coworker comes by too often to chat and you’re not getting your work done, explain it. She may have no idea that her frequent chat sessions bother you. If your BFF is always running late, prepare for this and leave extra time in your plans, or drive separately.
- Limit the amount of time you spend with them. If your husband’s brother is constantly complaining, leave the room, or suggest that they go get drinks without you.
- Ignore the behavior that drives you crazy. Don’t respond to the gossip when she tries to explain who is having an affair with whom. With technology, you can do things like hide someone’s Facebook postings, or stop following them on Twitter. Many internet groups give you the ability to ‘ignore’ certain members. If someone posts angry comments on your YouTube videos, moderate them or simply turn off the comment section.
- Know your limits. If you have a friend or acquaintance whose behavior you simply can’t tolerate, state your feelings to him or her. You can ask someone to change their actions, but be prepared if they refuse. You can’t change anyone’s behavior but your own. If you are not willing to spend time with a person when they’re plastered, state this. If racist language offends you and you can’t tolerate someone who makes derogatory statements, make this clear. If it’s a work situation and you feel you are being bullied or abused, talk with a supervisor or someone in charge.
- Get a handle on your emotions before you interact with a difficult person. If you’re furious, wait until you have calmed down. If you’re weepy, give yourself space to catch your breath and feel stronger. You’ll think more logically and make more sense.
As you grow and change, both your personal definition of what a difficult person is and your skills at handling interactions with difficult people will change as well.
photo from Shutterstock
Last reviewed: 19 Aug 2012
Harmon, J. (2012). 5 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People. Psych Central.
Retrieved on May 18, 2013, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/your-life/2012/08/5-tips-for-dealing-with-difficult-people/