Dealing with difficult people

Life often throws curveballs at us, and we deal with them the best we can. However when the curveball is in the form of difficult people, it is a different ball game. When the most obvious way out of avoidance is not an option, it’s time we figured out how to tackle this curveball.

If you have people in your life who are tough to handle, read on for some tips to make life easier

  1. Understand the relationship between you and this person. How you deal with a difficult co-worker will be different from how you deal with a difficult relative, parent or sibling. Understanding the importance and dynamics of the relationship will give you an idea of how you would want to approach the situation.
  2. Understand Them. Sometimes what we see as different (hence difficult), is simply a way of being for the other. Not every different is difficult. Invest some time in understanding their point of view. It makes the other feel heard and that always helps moving forward.
  3. Don’t Take it Personally – It’s not you, it’s them. Everyone is caught up in their own issues and are trying to sort them out and this can influence their behaviour. Knowing this gives you a freedom of sorts. When someone is being rude or tough to handle, chances are their reactions have nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Just this one realisation helps us to be more empathetic.

  4. Establish and acknowledge boundaries. Boundaries are very important and have to be explicitly expressed and maintained. Once done, if the other continues to disrespect the lines you have drawn, actively distance yourself from them. When someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, they most likely do not respect you either. Give them the privilege of directly telling them they are crossing a line, but if they still cross it, you can cross them out of life.

  5. Stay calm. What matters most is how you conduct yourself. In the middle of an unavoidable confrontation, avoid the temptation to lash out in a similar manner as what you’re facing. You are two different individuals and you can choose how you respond. Stand your ground, stay polite and cool and remember that it is more important to keep your peace of mind than it is to be right.

  6. Not all people are your problem! The best part of learning about people who are difficult to handle, is knowing that it is not your job to teach them, fix them or help them out. It is not your responsibility to show them the better way of life. You can always simply walk away, mentally if not physically.

  7. Know what you want. Being clear in your mind of what is important for you is the key. Know your values as this helps you to establish boundaries. Know the desired outcome from a situation so that you can focus on that when the other person derails the interaction by being difficult.

  8. Keep the Focus on the present. This is the bottom line, to keep the conversation in the present. Don’t get pulled into the past or swept away into  the future by the other. By focusing on the present we focus on the task/situation at hand.

  9. Self-Awareness. Take dealing with difficult people as an opportunity to enhance self-awareness. What about the other person’s behaviour is triggering you ? This is a valuable insight into knowing what is important for you and also knowing your own unacknowledged insecurities. When seen like that every difficult person becomes a learning moment.

  10. Practice Kindness. Above all, keep kindness in your heart. We don’t know the other’s journey or story. Maybe something in you is triggering an insecurity in them. Be polite and seek to understand.

We cannot avoid people who will be difficult for us to handle, however we can definitely learn a lot from them. 

Clarity about one’s own values, boundaries and expectations makes us see difficult people only as different people. And this shift is a game changer, don’t you think. Let’s connect to get clarity about ourself to deal with others better.

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