“Stay focused instead of getting offended or off track by others.”
― John C. Maxwell
Difficult People: How do you handle them?
I was talking to one of my friends who also follows this blog and she told me how she loved reading the articles posted here while taking her lunch and it really felt good to know that people appreciate the content I share to each and everyone of you.
Apart from loving the blog, she had a request. She wanted me to write about dealing with difficult people because apparently, she is currently in a similar situation and needed some tips on how to get around it.
We’ve all ran into difficult people at one point in our lives. I’m sure we each have our own story to tell when it comes to dealing with difficult people simply because they’re everywhere. They can be one of our friends, a colleague, a former boss, a classmate, and sometimes even a spouse or a member of our own family.
I had a friend growing up who, no matter what the conversation, always had something to say. It’s like he knows everything and no one from among our group can beat him in an argument. He was always right (at least in his own mind) and almost of all of us in the group hated this attitude of his. He won’t back down even if it’s quite obvious already that he’s on the losing end of a discussion.
This attitude instigated a couple of fights between him and our other friends but we’ve all learned to accept him for who he was until we became adults. We would still occasionally have arguments with him from time-to-time but everybody knew him already and we all learned to deal with him as years went by.
Dealing with difficult people is easier said than done. They require a different approach compared to what we usually do for other people. You can even consider it an art form because there’s a certain strategy and tactic you will need to employ and here are some of them:
Choose your battles
Sometimes an argument with difficult people isn’t even necessary and it’s not a sign of cowardice to stay away and not engage the enemy. You have to learn to choose your battles especially with someone unreasonable because they can drain your energy and worse, waste a lot of your precious time.
Before you get into a discussion with a difficult person, ask yourself. What good will I be getting out of this? What will proving my point accomplish? Is this a win-win situation or am I just feeding my ego?
People who are unreasonable can be annoying. They will try to defend their opinions no matter what just to prove to everyone that they’re right. The first thing you need to do is to just listen. Let him have the floor, give him the spotlight because this is what they usually want. They thrive on attention so let him have all the attention he needs.
Cutting him off when he’s at his most intense will cause you more harm than good. Let him vent out for around five minutes, let him get all his frustration out until he cools down a bit.
Don’t attempt to win the argument because it’s already a lost cause from the very beginning. Just listen to what he has to say and smile (but not in a mocking way of course).
Be calm and maintain your composure
Yes you will get mad, you will get irritated, you will want to smash his head against the wall but you have to maintain your composure. Try to be calm and communicate in a mild manner. You can’t fight fire with fire in this kind of situation so be the voice of reason instead.
Remember, answering back in anger and a loud voice will only add fuel to the fire which is what you are trying to avoid. Think before you speak, take a deep breath, be quiet for a few seconds until you’re calm enough to reply.
I didn’t believe all these breathing techniques before. I thought they were a bunch of crap but trust me, they do work. I’ve tried it on several occasions when I was really upset. I just closed my eyes, did some deep breathing for a couple of seconds and moments after, I was calm.
Respond instead of reacting
One of the things you need to avoid is reacting to what they have to say because it makes you look defensive. Responding, on the other hand, puts you on a more positive light. The danger with reacting is that you have the tendency to become the person you are arguing with.
Respond by asking questions but never try to correct the other person. You can also try to switch topics to take away the tension. Say things like “okay got it. “By the way”…” or “I will take note of that”. For the meantime, did you hear…”
Be polite but be firm as well
They will simply run over you at the sight of weakness but they will also see opportunities to criticize you further if you become harsh and out-of-line. Stand your ground and don’t give in. Let him do much of the talking. Listen more but speak when needed.
Difficult people can become bullies and if you let them push you around every time, they will never change the way they treat you.
Don’t get affected
Sometimes our anger is such that it consumes us even after hours have gone by and we’re already home. Learn to let go and move forward as soon as you can. What happened at work or in the restaurant shouldn’t be brought home because it will be unfair to your wife and kids. They’re not the reason for your misery and they don’t deserve a husband and father who comes home in a foul mood.
Don’t hold on to that bitterness for a long time. As the saying goes, what you see, what you hear, leave it here.
Dealing with difficult people requires patience and courage. They require strategies and tactics designed to keep up with their demeanor without encouraging them. In the end, the person who takes the higher ground always wins and that person should be you.
Over to You
How did you deal with the last difficult person you encountered? Were you able to apply some of the steps mentioned above?
I would love to hear from you so feel free to share your experiences by leaving a comment below.
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