Dealing with Difficult People

As a well-meaning individual, you may be tempted to try and change them. Don’t bother. It’s not going to happen. If you try, they will continue to be difficult and demanding, while you become increasingly frustrated. Now, as good as this advice is, you may think that it makes the situation seem hopeless. Fear not. There are a few tips and tricks that you can employ to combat the negativity that tends to ooze from difficult personalities.

Understanding And Reacting

The first step to coping with difficult people is to understand why they are the way they are. First, classify them. Then, choose your reaction.

There are four common types of difficult people.

1. Openly Aggressive People- When these people get mad, they yell. They’re loud, combative, and they expect the person that they are interacting with to run away or rise to the fight. Typically, openly aggressive folks are also completely irrational when they are angry. The best thing to do is to let them run out of steam before responding. Don’t worry about winning the battle of right or wrong. Your goal should be to express your views. Stand up to open aggressors, but don’t fight with them. Be confident and assertive, not aggressive.

2. Quiet People- Timid people can seem like very difficult people. They may ignore you or give you silent, sullen looks. They may respond to every question or interaction with a non-committal “I don’t know”. The fact is, they do know; they just don’t want to say. Draw quiet people out of their cocoon by asking them questions that can’t be answered with just a yes or a no. Press them for specifics. If all else fails, wait them out. Long silences may make them uncomfortable enough to say something. When they finally do start talking, make sure you listen.

3. Negative People- These poor folks are like scared children who have little faith in themselves and in the world in general. They have probably been kicked in the face by life one too many times. They are constantly discouraged, they complain, and they cause others to drown in the despair that they create. Rather than argue these difficult people out of their negative personas, be positive and optimistic in their presence. For every negative comment, make a positive one. Your constant optimism may inspire them to behave differently.

4. Snippy or Mean People- These difficult people are experts at making mean, offensive, off the cuff comments. They love to make subtle remarks and innuendoes. Unlike openly aggressive people, snippy people like to make sneak attacks using covert hostility. They use humorous insults, sarcastic tones, disapproving looks, and derisive snorts at every opportunity. Their goal is to feel superior and the only way they can do it is to make you feel bad. You may feel uncomfortable responding to them or calling them on their behavior. However, the typical snippy person does not like confrontation. If you question their behavior, you may be surprised at how quickly their attitude changes.

What Not To Do

Try not to take a difficult person’s behavior personally. Their attitude is probably habitual, not personal. At the same time, don’t try to appease them or play into their behavior. Difficult people thrive on this and they’ll keep coming back for more. Most importantly, never try to beat them at their own game. They have been practicing for years; you’re just an amateur.


Learning how to deal with difficult people can take time. As discouraging as the process may be, don’t give up. The strategies shown above will not alter a difficult person’s personality, but they will undermine their ability to frustrate you on a daily basis. Always be consistent and make every effort to not fight negativity with negativity. Remember, some people simply can not help being who they are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seven + 7 =