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20 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

Updated on December 10, 2010

 We all have to deal with difficult people in our lives on a regular or semi-regular basis. We have to work with co-workers who are grumpy and antagonistic. We have to deal with teenagers or elderly people in our lives who are frustrated with the limitations of their stage in life and who are difficult because of it. We have to deal with spouses and friends who react emotionally to situations and who cause us difficulty because of that. Handling each of these different situations requires a different approach depending on your relationship with the person and the type of personality that the person has. However, there are some tips that you can learn to use to deal with any of these different types of difficult people in a way that makes the situation easier for yourself.

Here is a look at 20 top tips for dealing with difficult people so that you can stay sane!

1. Get in touch with yourself. The better that you know yourself, the less likely it is that you’re going to react to the negative people in your life. This grounding of the self inside of your own center will come in handy no matter what difficult person you’re dealing with or what the situation is like.

2. Learn to spot the problems in advance. Anytime that you’re dealing with the same difficult people again and again, you can begin to notice signs and patterns that indicate that a difficult time is coming. This will allow you to prepare for the best way to deal with the situation.

3. Refuse to engage in arguments. It takes two people to argue so learning how to simply disengage from the argumentative situation will be a great tool for many of the difficult times that you encounter with others.

4. Smile freely. Although it will annoy some people that you’re so happy, most people are going to find it less easy to be difficult if you’re smiling and being kind to them.

5. Pick your battles. You may need to engage in disagreements with difficult people from time to time but be smart about picking your battles so that you’re only getting into heated situations when it’s actually worth it to you.

6. Recognize and honor the differences between the two of you. Many of our issues with difficult people come from the fact that they have very different beliefs from us or very different ways of communicating. Look for what those differences are and then honor them in your mind. Cherish what makes you unique from them.

7. Respect others in spite of your differences and problems. A key thing to remember in dealing with all negative people is that it’s important to try to respect everyone’s right too be who they are. Treat them in a respectful manner even when you don’t feel like it. Eventually they will likely return this respect.

8. Learn to set boundaries. Although you should respect others, you should also demand that they respect you. You don’t do this by asking them to but instead by creating healthy boundaries in all situations so that they can’t infringe upon you unfairly.

9. Create more fun times. The more positive times that you can share with difficult people, the less difficult that they will be. Plan fun dates with your spouse during which time you don’t discuss your problems. Invite your nasty co-worker out to lunch. Infuse life with fun; it’s contagious.

10. Ask yourself why these people are being difficult. Having insight into the emotions behind the difficulty will make you more tolerant of others. Put yourself into their shoes and see what’s causing them to act so nasty.

11. Refuse to be defensive. Many of the things that come across as someone being difficult are really more neutral than we imagine. We just tend to take things personally and blow things out of proportion. Refuse to assume that their issue has anything to do with you unless you’re told otherwise.

12. Ask how you can help. When someone does blame you or attack you for something, simply ask what you can do to change the situation. Their request may be fair or they may find that they don’t even have a request. Either way, you’ve put the ball in their court and asked them to come up with a solution to their own problems.

13. Don’t gossip or complain about the person. We often gripe about the difficult people in our lives with others. Unless you’re truly discussing the situation with an eye towards finding a solution to the problem, all that you’re likely doing is getting yourself worked up and creating more negativity around the situation. Stop doing that and you’ll find that some of the bad feelings dissipate.

14. Check your own emotions. Check in with yourself and find out what’s going on for you as you deal with difficult people. Don’t react to them. Instead, take some time to journal or process what’s going on with you so that you can approach them calmly.

15. Improve your own communication skills. The better that we get at articulating what’s going on with us, the easier it’s going to be to deal with difficult people.

16. Learn basic tips for dealing with specific groups of people. Teachers working with difficult teens, foster parents dealing with angry kids, spouses who are going through a tough time because of a job loss … these people should all locate specific resources for dealing with the difficult situation at hand.

17. Brainstorm solutions to the problem. Get creative with your own list of ways to resolve each specific situation or negative relationship. Make a list and see what works. Ask yourself what you can do to change things. Keep on trying to come up with better solutions.

18. Don’t assume that your way is the right way. Even if you come up with great solutions, remain open to the possibility that you don’t know everything and consider the input of the difficult person as well.

19. Walk away. In many cases, there may not be an easy solution to an immediate situation with a difficult person but if you’re in a position to walk away then you can at least get a break from the intensity of the situation.

20. Let go of grudges. Many of us hang on to grudges towards the people that have been difficult in the past. This makes it hard to move on to a better relationship with them in the future. Learn to forgive and let go and work from this point forward.

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  • profile image

    Zhen qian 3 years ago

    My friend Tom express his great many words to me make me and him completely happy men.

  • profile image

    ABC 3 years ago

    One more thing to add.. show difficult people that you are very happy and blessed and they cannot stop you from being happy....This works girls try this..

  • profile image

    Bobo29 4 years ago

    Thanks for sharing those insightful tips. I am a language instructor and I have to interact with a grumpy old student every Friday morning. As an older student, she feels entitled to constant attention without thinking of others or her peers. I feel that being older doesn't necessarily mean you only have rights. In my view, you also have a few obligations. Anyhow, I hope to be able to survive this term with your wise tips. Thank you!

  • artist101 profile image

    Sherrie Westerfield, Cpht 4 years ago from Hobart,In

    Thank you for sharing, very useful article, well written.

  • profile image

    Happy 5 years ago

    Glad you guys could help! :)

  • MelChi profile image

    Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

    All 20 tips are great pieces of advice and really helpful tips. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • profile image

    Elle 5 years ago

    Could it be because the worlds population is increasing and we are living closer to others that would normally cause conflict? We forget sometimes that we are basically animals at the end of the day, we are amazing creatures which have accomplished most amazing things and we have evolved primates but do we expect too much of ourselves and one another and from life? We all love to live a peaceful straightforward life with nice, respectful people around us but does it and can it exist?

  • profile image

    subin 5 years ago

    hey very thanks for ur tips

  • profile image

    henny eliza 5 years ago

    great addvice, thank you!

  • profile image

    Anon 5 years ago

    I practice all off these tips every waking moment. After thirty years, I am exhausted. I don't want and I wont become a nasty person, but I need a day off having to always be the smiley, polite, helpful, forgiving person. I dont want to become a difficult person myself or upset anyone. Just, please, sometimes I need some understanding too.

  • profile image

    ruth 5 years ago

    Great advice but i dont think i can apply some of it.it would be too hard for example to take a difficult person for lunch

  • dailygirl profile image

    dailygirl 5 years ago from Texas

    Point 7 was right on. I have to deal with a difficult person, but it's a subtle difficulty, which can make it worse at times. No matter what I treat that person with respect because I want them to see that no matter what, decency is important.

  • jellygator profile image

    jellygator 5 years ago from USA

    Great hub! I've voted it up and included a link to it on my latest hub at https://hubpages.com/relationships/Arguments-Are-t...

  • profile image

    5 years ago

    Great tips. Is it okay to give up a friendship if you are at risk of being influenced to becoming a negative person?

  • jeyaramd profile image

    jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

    These are great tips for dealing with difficult people. The most important thing is that we should be in peace within ourselves. And realize that we have the strength to accept and internalize any negative energy. As such, we have to realize that the worst harm we can cause to ourselves is through being our own minds.

    If we are able to understand humanity from the perspective of the other person. We would be able to relate with their argument. This does not mean that we agree with their argument, but we understand the mechanisms underneath their frustration or anger. We do not have to make that a part of our lives. Sometimes, people are frustrated with their own lives and take out that negative energy on you for reasons of no particular importance. Perhaps, you were the tipping straw at the end of their day. Maybe, they did not like the fact that you were so calm and collected and were envious of your happiness. We have to realize that the world does not revolve around us. And their frustrations may be more internal than external. So, next time someone is rude, realize that they may have an imbalance of energy within themselves. That is, more negative energy than positive. Somehow, they are not able to contain themselves. That is a lack of weakness if anything.

    This does not mean that we should tolerate negativity. But, understand that its not always a direct attack at us. Perhaps, smiling and walking away might be the best solution. Some arguments are just not worth it. Always remember to not bring yourself down to a lower spiritual level. Its better to be a bigger person.

  • crockpotcooking profile image

    crockpotcooking 5 years ago

    I have a significant experience about dealing with boss who is very difficult. These 20 tips a great. I was not aware of some of it, now I have a few more aces up my sleeve :)

    However, everyday rush and work issues we encounter make it very complicated to stay alert for dealing with difficult people in a smart way (like these 20).

    One's health is of the most importance, and, when it is about boss and work, the only way would be to find another job.

    That is what I am trying to do now :-/

    Very good hub!

  • natures47friend profile image

    natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

    Wonderful tips in this hub! I have used one of them, that is why I have hardly any work hours...could not take the abuse and misery of a client I was helping with home support and I walked out. Hurt my bank account..before Xmas too...but I am a lot happier...It was stress creating. I had complained to the boss and we did not have to go to someone like that and she did nothing...so eventually....I did!

    It works, but that I think you probably meant on a more personal level...lol...

  • wanzulfikri profile image

    wanzulfikri 5 years ago from Malaysia

    20 tips that everyone can apply. Difficult people beware! We have weapons to fight against them by reading this hub (Note to self: stop being defensive) :D

  • pharmacist profile image

    Jason Poquette 5 years ago from Whitinsville, MA

    I'll use these tips when encountering difficult customers in the pharmacy. Great advice. Thanks!

  • profile image

    seedplanter 5 years ago

    Excellent hub, Kathryn! I have the most problem with #3 and #11. You've given me a lot to chew on here.

  • vicwlk profile image

    vicwlk 6 years ago from Virginia Beach, VA

    Great Tips!

  • profile image

    Life Logician 6 years ago

    Can you come deal with my difficult people for me?!?!

  • profile image

    Jeff_McRitchie 6 years ago

    This Hub is full of great suggestions, especially the one about avoiding arguments. Voted up!

  • profile image

    vandana sharma 6 years ago

    ya,great ideas .thanks to ur great mind,that create

    these idea's to tackle ideots.thanks once again

  • profile image

    vandana sharma 6 years ago

    ya,great ideas .thanks to ur great mind,that create

    these idea's to tackle ideots.thanks once again

  • maxravi profile image

    Ravi Singh 6 years ago from India

    wao.. just loving your hubs more and more.thanks for this one.voted up!!

  • kesinee profile image

    Sranunta Lamduan 6 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

    Useful and vote up!!

  • texasgirlfw profile image

    texasgirlfw 6 years ago

    This is very useful. I work in a large company with many difficult people. I will use this advice.

  • profile image

    fashion 6 years ago

    Very interesting and well written.

    It is difficult to live with difficult people.

  • Jessi10 profile image

    Jessica Rangel 6 years ago from Lancaster, CA

    I liked this hub. As a freelance writer, i meet all kinds of people, and some are not so-nice all the time! this is informative!

  • dallye profile image

    dallye 6 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

    Great informative hub! Very well written.

  • profile image

    break up books 6 years ago

    You are right, a lot of people hate their jobs merely because of the people that they have to work with! Co workers can make your life so miserable and drain all of the positive energy out of you. That is why I decided at an early age to work for myself and to work from home so that I would not have to deal with people. I think we underestimate how much stress and negativity certain people can have on our lives. Great hub by the way!

  • Sun-Girl profile image

    Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

    Great and very informative article which i so much learn from and i love for sharing this intelligent article and tips.

  • thedutchman profile image

    thedutchman 6 years ago

    What makes these tips great? It's straightforward, practical and relatable. You can do one or a few of these tips and consequently, you'll get desirable results. Also, another tip in preventing frequent friction and tension with difficult people that we deal in a daily basis is through a vacation. Visit this hub http://hubpages.com/hub/Going-To-France-In-The-Off...

  • profile image

    Multiman 6 years ago

    Great ideas

  • KatieCohen profile image

    KatieCohen 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA

    really good hub. I liked that a lot. Thank you

  • kapil agarwal profile image

    kapil agarwal 6 years ago

    hands upp!!!!

  • profile image

    scott carbonara 6 years ago

    Short, clear and practical. Great tips!

  • Wishing_Well profile image

    Wishing_Well 6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

    Thank you. Just what I needed ;-)

  • suejanet profile image

    suejanet 6 years ago

    Thanks for these tips. I have quite a few people to use them for.

  • craigmissuea profile image

    craigmissuea 6 years ago from USA

    Facing tough people is very common in the present time. You have given smart tips to tackle them.

  • profile image

    helene.bliss 6 years ago

    This is really great. All your tips are wonderful and I will surely use this in dealing to people that seems too difficult to be with.

  • Sunnyglitter profile image

    Sunnyglitter 6 years ago from Cyberspace

    This is a great article.

  • profile image

    Silly 6 years ago

    Very good points. I can walk away. My difficulty comes when its my boyfriend who always picks best mates who act jealous of you having a relationship and cause problems, they seem like people who cant get a girl so like to be with him. It is hard to disengage without causing your relationship problems. These guys love that because then you are out of the way.

  • kpprobst profile image

    kpprobst 6 years ago from Columbus,. Georgia

  • kev8 profile image

    kev8 7 years ago

    Good article!This may sound like a stupid question but how can you know that you are not the person being difficult and not them??

  • profile image

    Tbld 7 years ago

    That was great...

    I have some really difficult group of friends..who cause me so much trouble whenever we gather for conversation or dinner.

    I go home stressed thinking why couldn't I handle those people? I thought I better add a period to the relationship then thought a comma would be nice!

    After reading the article I have an idea wat shd I do now with them..

    Thank you..

  • NNazir profile image

    Nauman Nazir 7 years ago from Pakistan

    Thank you for this article..

    This is really cool and awesome..

    Thank you, again..

  • profile image

    Ken Moncrieff 7 years ago

    Reading this hub has rattled my cage - I will apply some of the remedies. A very informative article.

  • belliott profile image

    belliott 7 years ago

    Great common sense advice. Nice hub.

  • Minnetonka Twin profile image

    Linda Rogers 7 years ago from Minnesota

    Excellent information. I will use this when I deal with an older sibling. Hee hee, but really. UP and AWESOME

  • RoseGardenAdvice profile image

    RoseGardenAdvice 7 years ago from San Francisco

    It all boils down to respect. Respecting one another is the key to a good relationship. Thanks for the tips ... pretty useful.

  • profile image

    tanushree 7 years ago

    your tips are really good and hope this can help others in improving their capabilities to deal with difficult people thanku

  • profile image

    kay25 7 years ago

    Great tips and admirable solution on the said problem.Thanks for the imformation that you have shared. More articles to come and God bless....

  • tim-tim profile image

    Priscilla Chan 7 years ago from Normal, Illinois

    Great hub! Good points. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shil1978 profile image

    Shil1978 7 years ago

    Useful hub, this, one to bookmark.

    You've put in a lot of effort on this and it pretty much covers this subject comprehensively.

    Thanks for this informative hub!!

  • profile image

    Erny 7 years ago

    Great Hub I found that I need to learn to pick my battles it saves on having many arguments.

    I tend to be argumentative most of the time so I am getting myself worked up with issues that does not worth at all.

    thank you indeed for your tips I will put them into practice.

  • online scam check profile image

    online scam check 7 years ago from United Kingdom

    Great points! if we all follow this rules, the world will be a better place.

  • marcel285 profile image

    marcel285 7 years ago from New Zealand

    great tips!

  • Burungi profile image

    Burungi 7 years ago

    you are right on the spot my girl I have a mother in law or that is a royal pain in my ass. A lot of times I have to take a step back and say is it really worth my time to show how much her existance bothers me. She is a self righteous jesus freak that needs to get a clue but I am not going to give her the license to ruin my holiday much less my life/

  • tonyhubb profile image

    tonyhubb 7 years ago

    Very good tips, thanks!

  • farrah carter profile image

    farrah carter 8 years ago

    Great ideas! Most of the time, I find that I just want to be difficult right back to him (the difficult person in my life). Thanks for the tips!

  • stricktlydating profile image

    StricktlyDating 8 years ago from Australia

    A simple thought to put in your mind when someone is difficult is "How fascinating"..Don't say it, but think it to yourself and you'll find some humour in keeping your cool.

  • Shekhar K profile image

    Shekhar K 8 years ago from India

    Great hub. This is something I always wanted to learn as I overreact to situations at times. Thanks for the tips.

  • Gloria Cowdery profile image

    Gloria Cowdery 8 years ago from Canada

    You have a lot of good ideas on the steps that need to be taken. Very insightful!

  • dllhubpages profile image

    dllhubpages 8 years ago from Southeastern US

    Great list, I sent a link to this to my daughter who has a really difficult mother in law.

  • hot dorkage profile image

    hot dorkage 8 years ago from Oregon, USA

    Good ideas. This is a stumble for sure.

  • Jennifer Bhala profile image

    Jennifer Bhala 8 years ago from Upstate New York

    All great ideas. Anything anyone does is in the pursuit of happiness. If we could all remember that and understand that some people are closer to their happiness than others. Our own attitude towards ourselves and others plays a huge role in how many arguments and difficult people we come in contact with.

  • LowellWriter profile image

    L.A. Walsh 8 years ago from Lowell, MA

    Great ideas. Thank you for answering my request! :o)

  • Triplet Mom profile image

    Triplet Mom 8 years ago from West Coast

    Great tips! I always choose to pick my battles it saves on having too many arguments. Sometimes it is a waste of energy to even engage.