An easy guide to tackle difficult people


How often have you encountered an unreasonable person that has left you grinding your teeth? And how many times have you played that conversation over and over in your head? Dealing with difficult people can be extremely frustrating because it is a story that has ended badly, with a sense of an unfinished business. This frustration and anger can be very taxing. There are times when one can just avoid these situations or walk away from them. These tips are for when you can’t, when you’re at ground zero in the battlefield, and when the only way out is through it.

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Stay calm

To handle any situation, you need to be able to think – and to think, you need to keep your cool. Raising your voice only incites anger in the other person, and their raised voice in turn feeds your anger. It’s a vicious cycle that feeds on itself, so nip it at the bud. Before saying anything, ask yourself if there’s a better way to say it. Calmness can be contagious, so if you can manage to remain calm, there is a chance that the other person will mirror it. Temper disguises the problem at hand because it is a problem in itself. But with that out of the way, you’ll be able to rationally address the situation.

Be objective

It is important to separate the person from the problem. This can be quite tricky because it is the person and their irrationality that you’re dealing with. Recognising your opinions of them and how they are affecting your judgement is the only way to distil the issue. The person is being unreasonable about something, so recognise that ‘thing’ and isolate it form the person. Being objective reduces your chances of offending the person and letting the situation get out of hand. Of course, staying objective also means not taking the matter too personally yourself.

Don’t go off track (or let the other person)

If you think about it, difficult people are difficult because they’re trying to control the situation. So tackling them effectively means holding those reins in your hands. But how do you do that? By not letting the conversation go off track and by bringing it back when it does. The other person will digress simply because irrationality walks like a drunk. When it is you who brings the focus back on the issue at hand, it will be you who is in control.

Establish your stance

People are adamantly difficult when they believe they can get their way with you. Establish the fact that they can’t – not by being adamant yourself but by being firm in the stance you take. Polite, calm, yet firm. When you convey these qualities, the other person becomes aware of a certain respect they demand. This puts a pause on the situation and will slowly steer their attitude from defiance to cooperation.

Think of the bigger picture

Sometimes, conceding is the wisest thing to do if it means it will help you in the long run. When you have something to gain from the person, yield now but tackle later. In the due course of your confrontation, you will have gauged the situation. If you feel like there’s a better time or place to handle it more effectively, hold that door open for the person and walk through it yourself.

The permutations and combinations of difficult people with difficult situations are so numerous that sometimes it’s impossible to be prepared. But applying these tips and states of mind to every situation will make them more instinctive and a part of your personality – and before you know it, you’ll be handling difficult people like a pro.