Strategies for Dealing With Difficult People

Strategies for Dealing With Difficult People

Man with dark hair yelling and pointing his finger in anger with white text reading “dealing with difficult people”

A question I am frequently asked is “How do you deal with difficult people”

There is not a “one size fits all” answer to this question. I do believe there are no difficult people, just people whose perspective differs from ours.

Labeling a person as “difficult” implies that their thoughts, ideas, suggestions and methodologies are not aligned with ours. It’s quite likely they actually view us as the difficult party.

The only tool we have to view the world is our perspective – the meaning we place on events. It’s our differing perspectives that serve as the catalyst for strong disagreement. Unfortunately we usually see it as being indisputable, irrefutable facts that bring upon unwelcome behavior. Then we label a person as difficult, or worse.

Difficult is Subjective

It is most likely that every one of those “difficult people” have allies who fully concur with their opinions and behaviors.  That suggests we need to accept that our label is nothing more than our own subjective interpretation.

In these situations, we need to knowing our outcomes. That means determining what we wish to accomplish in our dealings with these folks. Getting our needs crystal clear is crucial before we commence communication if we want success.

Labels Hurt (the Process)

Our chances of resolving issues and settling our differences with these difficult people is made more challenging by the label we’ve given them.

Each time we label a person, we prime ourselves to behave in a certain way when in their presence. The label limits our behavior to a pre-established set of behaviors that we have trained ourselves to believe are necessary for successful interaction with these people.

When we label others, we are inadvertently labeling ourselves. We are setting ourselves up to interact with them in ways that are completely different from our interactions with others wearing different labels.

All this means is that for as long as we leave the label “difficult” dangling around the neck of another person, we are also wearing a label that boldly reminds us to conduct ourselves in a certain way.

And we will continue to deal with that person in that manner until we replace the label with a new one.

We all have, or have had, people in our lives who we have found challenging.  My own experience has taught me that there is no tried-and-true method of dealing with such people in a manner that will always deliver to us the results we want.

But, if we choose to view such people as simply having differing and opposing viewpoints, we may well be broadening our awareness of the many choices we have in dealing with them.

And the more choices we are aware of, and deploy, the less likely it will be that we become the ones labeled “difficult.”

Difficult people may not always be as difficult as they seem. They may just be struggling with a way to deal with us.

Till we read again.

Photo of Rael Kalley,Habits coach in calgary canada

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