There is at least one difficult person in everyone’s lives. It may be a colleague, a family member, or a friend. Sometimes, you can simply walk away and obliterate those people from your life. In many cases, however, you have to face the fact that you have to continue dealing with those people.
These people may exhibit behavior ranging from being rude to downright insulting when they are in “that” mood to always being late and not being apologetic about it. Some are stubborn as a mule and won’t budge once they’ve made up their mind about something – even if they’re wrong.
According to Psychology Today, difficult people can be whiners, bullies, the short-fused, the judgemental, and even sociopaths.
If you have these people in your life that you can’t get rid of, what do you do then? How do you deal with them and keep your sanity intact? Here are some things you can do.
How to deal with difficult people in your life
At the center of it all is how you react. You cannot control what the other person says or do, but you have control over what you do.
In order to be able to diffuse a potentially explosive situation, stay calm. If you can’t do that at the moment, step away and take some time for your emotions to settle down before you spend time with the other person.
Pay attention to your body language
When you’re calm and ready to deal with any particular issue with that difficult person, pay attention to more than your words. We all know that choosing the right words and the right tone is essential to proper communication. However, body language speaks just as loudly as verbal communication.
To be honest, this is one of my biggest weaknesses. I have this what I call my “resting face”, which often doesn’t mean anything negative but is often misconstrued as either being “shut down” or aggressive – and everything in between. As such, I have been working on body language, but boy it has been a long and winding road, and I don’t think I’m even halfway there.
When you have to talk to a difficult person, however, remember to exert more effort in making sure that your body language is not aggressive as that will only exacerbate the situation. Here is a good article on how to improve your body language.
Choose your battles
When an issue arises – it’s bound to happen over and over again – then you have the “fight or flight” situation. This is a built-in system in human beings (although studies have also shown that it can be learned) which is triggered when we feel threatened.
So, when faced with a confrontation, do you fight or do you flee?
That’s a decision you have to make quickly depending on the situation. If it’s too heated and you know you are not in the right frame of mind, then better flee. Choose your battles. Not everything has to be drawn out. Sometimes, you have to let things go. Then that difficult person just might realize a thing or two about himself.
Focus on the issue at hand, not the person
Difficult people have struggles of their own. They may be depressed and just don’t want to admit it. They may need psychological help but won’t seek it. Perhaps the way they deal with their struggles is to take it out on everyone around them.
One way to deal with this person is not to focus on him. He will take that as a personal attack, and you can just imagine how things can go downhill.
Instead, focus on the issue or problem at hand. Choose your words so that it’s the issue that’s highlighted as something to be discussed and solved. Phrase your words so that you don’t come across as pointing fingers at the person.
Don’t let yourself be bullied
All of the above will help in communicating with difficult people and perhaps make your relationships better. However, in some cases, people won’t change – or they can’t unless they seek professional help.
When you’ve done all you can and you know that you’re not being treated right, stand up for yourself. Just because you’re being kind doesn’t mean you ought to give the other person the freedom to treat you badly.
Don’t let yourself be bullied. That will only make the other person feel that he is right and that he can continue behaving however he wants to.
Say what you have to say as courteously as possible, then walk away. You may not be able to stop seeing that person at work or in social gatherings, but you don’t have to engage them.
It’s not easy. It is, in fact, a gargantuan task, but for your sanity’s sake, FLEE if you have to. There’s no shame in that.