5 Strategies for dealing with difficult people

April 07, 2014

This is Miss Peace.
She works for Company Y.  

She gets so stressed when it comes to going to work. Her boss is a difficult person. Meditating every morning is her way of dealing with difficult people. But inspite of all the meditation, Miss Peace still finds it tough to pull herself together and is still tensed.

What do you think Miss Peace should do? Is there a better way for her to deal with difficult people? Miss Peace brace yourself and read on!!

This is Mr difficult. As the name itself suggests he is difficult.

He is  Miss Peace's boss. 

He can be a real nightmare and he is quite aggressive towards his employees. 

Peace says he's not bad hearted but impatient and has a dominant nature. 

This is Rosie. She's 8 years old. 

Being the only child to her parents, she gets her own way with everything and is spoilt.

She is very fussy and throws tantrums when it comes to food.

Often disobedient and rude to her nanny.

This is Martha. 

She has been taking care of Rosie for two months now. But she now looks distraught.

"I can't handle this child anymore". She says she has tolerated enough and can't take it anymore. She feels the only solution for her, is to get away from Rosie. 

Do you think we can help Martha deal with difficult kids? We sure can!!

You must have realized by now that my blog post is based on difficult people and how to deal with them. No matter how much you try or wherever you go, difficult people are everywhere. The difficult person can be a family member, a colleague, a neighbour or a friend. We need to accept the fact that difficult people are part of life. Regardless whether you agree or not, we can all be difficult from time to time.  

How do you react towards a difficult person?

Do you run away from them as Martha?
Do you sit and meditate as Miss Peace? or
Do you feel like strangling them?

Some people can be troublesome, others aggressive and get on your nerves. The natural reaction is to get away from them. Does running away minimize or eliminate difficult people? NO!

Would  you run away  from your child who's being difficult? I bet you won't.
Likewise you should not get away from difficult people. 
We all need to learn to face them and use appropriate methods to deal with them.

Over the years I've encountered my share of difficult people and still do. 
I believe each one of them have been a test to me and a great teacher. I've been pushed to my limits on several occasions, dealing with those who wouldn't cooperate, those who promise to show up and don't,  those who don't want to take your views into consideration. Eventually losing my cool. But my reaction wasn't rational and never solved the problem at hand.

Here are some strategies I figured out in the past few years. 
These help me better deal with difficult people:-

PLEASE remember difficult people are NOT BAD people.
They are simply people with DIFFICULTIES.


Most of the time, people act irrationally owing to difficult circumstances they come across in their lives. Try to see things from their perspective. Is your boss authoritative? Has he yelled at you this morning? To make peace with the situation, think of it this way - Probably he's stepped out of bed on the wrong foot, had an argument with his wife this morning, or his wife bosses over him so much that he feels he has prove his authority towards his employees.

Did you know a lot of  people have the "Kick the Cat" disorder?
For instance :- Your boss told you off because you were late to work. You are now obviously unhappy. So you take out your frustration over the next person at hand who happens to be your colleague. Your colleague being understanding tells you "I know you've had a bad morning, but don't be mad at me for no reason...please don't kick the cat".

In such cases it's important to show empathy and consideration towards the difficult person. You can help pacify the agitated person and  calm the situation.

2. USE THE SANDWICH TECHNIQUE (Praise, criticism, Praise)

This is a technique I learned since I joined the Toastmasters Club. 
It is used while evaluating speeches. 
The Sandwich technique can actually help dealing effectively with vulnerable situations and people.

Imagine you have a friend (Lina). She's nice and helpful but sometimes is mean and calls you names. You don't appreciate this behavior of hers.

How do you deal with this friend? It is not like you can 'unfriend' her like you would on Facebook because you are both studying together and meeting each other  on a daily basis.

Well. Use the sandwich technique. Approach Lina in private, start a comfortable and friendly conversation and gradually come to the point..."Lina you're a wonderful friend. But at times I feel hurt when you are mean to me. Nevertheless, I cherish our friendship as you're a good hearted and helpful friend".  At this stage you've expressed your feeling while being nice. The criticism has been sugarcoated between two phrases of praise. 


We tend to take difficult people too seriously. We indirectly allow them to drain our energy. We worry about their mean behavior towards us. We ruminate for days on end thinking about their hurtful comments. What's the point of tormenting yourself over things that are out of your control?

Stop worrying and start living. Focus on things that make you happy and remember difficult people react the way they do mainly because they're dealing with their own personal issues. Be patient and let go. Give them some space to sort out their problems. 

Remember, life's far too important to worry about those who shouldn't matter in the least.


This can be difficult especially if a family member, friend or neighbour constantly behaves rudely and angrily towards you. It may just be the last straw that breaks the camel's back and pushes you to lose your temper. Your reaction is natural but the outcome can be disastrous. You must have heard people say "burn anger before anger burns you". 

Allow the angered person to vent and unwind. Once they stop talking, be firm and make your point cautiously using non threatening words. If this technique doesn't seem to calm the angered person, just leave them to themselves for a while, come back later to sort things out. 


Use of body language means a lot when dealing with a difficult person. If your posture looks dominant, it may deteriorate the situation without you realizing it. Your threatening posture, high pitched tone, rude looks or aggressive hand gestures, can prompt the difficult person to become unmanageable. This doesn't mean that you have to behave with uncertainty or submissively. You simply have to carry yourself firmly in a non authoritative manner. 

For instance try :- 
Talking to the person using a welcoming tone. 
Modulate your voice accordingly.
Speak to the person, or child at eye level. 
Avoid giving rude looks. 
Refrain from keeping your hands on your hips or in your pockets 
Choose appropriate words in accordance to the situation you are faced with.
Stand at a reasonable distance to the person in question (so you can avoid a blow, if one is throws at you)
Make use of positive affirmations.

The next time you encounter a difficult person try using the above strategies.
Do you have other effective methods of dealing with difficult people?
You are most welcome to share those here:)

Oh! By the way Gill Hasson has written a helpful and informative book on how to deal with difficult people. Take a Look

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  1. vry helpful...feel somewhere connected

    1. Am happy you can relate this one Sanjay:) that's exactly what I aim for on my posts.

  2. This one is a thought-provoking process.
    I can actually relate n implement it as welll.....

  3. This is a wonderful thought-provoking process...i can actually relate n implement the techniques listed...thank u

    1. It's my pleasure that you found it worthwhile:)


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