We very often have to deal with, so called, “difficult” people in our everyday life.
These are people whom pretty much everyone who interacts with acknowledges that they are full of negativity – even toxicity – and they are, subsequently, very tough to constructively collaborate with.
I am sure you can think of many examples of such individuals, who perhaps are right now in your life and whom you cannot escape collaborating, dealing or being with.
In this vein, I trust you will find the 13 suggestions that follow to be of help in your dealings with this kind of people.
1. Do Not Allow Others’ Negativity to Affect You,
Before, During And After Interacting With Them
The more you worry about your upcoming interactions with difficult people, mentally processing scenarios over scenarios of how the y could play out, the more you make yourself upset for no reason, perhaps even igniting the notorious “self-fulfilling prophecy” mechanism.
It is equally frustrating and meaningless to ponder on your encounters pursuant to their completion, thinking things like: “I should have said this at that point instead of that; why didn’t I?”.
Avoid falling for this trap; it has no learning or transformational value for you, since it is invested exclusively in strong feelings (about yourself or the other person) that can only perpetuate the difficult situation instead of resolving it.
Finally, on the perks of remaining equanimous during your exchanges with difficult people, see the next point.
2. Focus On Dealing With The Object Of Your Interaction,
Treating Everything Else As Mere “Noise”
It helps even more if you define specifically and clearly what the object for the particular interaction with your difficult peer is.
By establishing the scope of such interaction in advance and making it clear and mutually understood that no deviations from it will be tolerated, you set the stage for a meaningful and productive exchange.
Then, as the latter unfolds, you make sure you “keep your eyes on the ball” (its preset “agenda”), and treat any, non-excessive, emotionally negative reactions from the other side as mere “noise”, that you immediately deflect, as if you were made from Teflon.
If, however, this “noise” exceeds a certain limit, you should stand ready to suspend or terminate your interaction.
Eventually, if you have no option but to do so, it is very important you remain 100% factual and non-emotional until the very end.
3. Realize That Your Dealings With Difficult People
Provide You With A Huge Learning And Growth Opportunity
You may eventually fail to establish a working relationship with such an individual, however in any case your learning and growth opportunity is immense.
In fact, the most impossibly difficult such a situation is, the higher the potential for your learning and growth shall be (to the point of proving to be a… master class in handling your feelings and effectively dealing with others, no matter who they are or where they are coming from).
Just to clarify that your learning and growth in these cases of interacting with difficult people relates to your:
a) acquiring knowledge on the “mechanics” and “tools” of dealing with such a situation, as well as
b) developing a “third party-like”, detached observational capability of yourself and your reactions.
4. Do Not Try To “Fix” Others
It is a waste of time.
Every human being learns and grows only when THEY are ready for it.
Moreover, a perennial rule of life applies here as well.
To employ an “loss of aircraft cabin pressure crisis” analogy;:
“You need to first make sure you have put your mask on, before you proceed with helping others”.
5. See If You Can Find What Makes The Difficult Person “Tick”
This requires a bit of patience, as well as penetrating insight and investigative spirit on your side.
It also helps if, by nature, you are genuinely interested in other people.
Here, you aim at understanding what the X factors that trigger unpleasantness or anger in your difficult counterparts are (and thereafter avoid them) or which the things that they like or that relax them are (and try to reinforce them).
The latter is more difficult to identify, as it is hidden under heaps of default negativity, however it is also much more rewarding.
6. Exercise Sympathy And Empathy
As difficult as it may seem, try to get in the shoes of the difficult people you deal with and to see things as they see them, while also understanding the true reasons behind their behavior.
As we already said, to achieve this you must be highly observant and inquisitive.
Also try to honestly sympathise with them.
Realize that, unless you are dealing with a really extreme – perhaps falling within the remit of psychiatry or law enforcement – case, such people are constantly under a lot of stress and undergo acute spells of suffering, higher than the average human being.
If you exercise empathy and sympathy in full honesty, you will observe that this is felt by the other party (difficult people are usually much more sensitive than their “average” peers), very likely leading to a noticeable improvement to their attitude.
7. Accept That Nothing Is Forever
This too shall pass.
You will most likely not have to deal with the particular difficult person or situation constantly, for the remainder of your life.
In rare cases where it may be that you can’t escape interacting with such individuals for the years to come, or where your health and well-being are in danger due to their behavior, you should act swiftly and decisively, in order to summon the help of experts or specialists.
The latter course of action is not always easy or pleasant, yet there are situations where it is all but necessary.
8. Refuse To Cooperate When Others Are Completely Negative
Just terminate the meeting and walk away, stating clearly that your cooperation can only resume when the other side’s attitude and disposition changes towards a constructive direction.
If you cannot terminate the meeting, it pays off to be diplomatic so as to eventually achieve your goal of slowly but surely stepping away from it, even if it may be very difficult for you to maintain a neutral, unemotional disposition in the process.
The only certainty is that there is absolutely no benefit for anyone in, unnecessarily or compulsively-obsessively, prolonging an interaction in which one side is maximally and uncompromisingly negative.
9. Listen To, And TRUST, Your Intuition
Especially in the context of such difficult interactions, your intuition comes very often with the perfect answer or intervention at the perfect moment; and it is typically one that you could never plan or rehearse in advance
You just have to learn how to listen to it and trust it.
If you manage to do so, then this may create a virtuous cycle, whereby:
a) the more you know you can trust your intuition in such difficult moments, the more you relax and allow it to flow through you and determine your actions or words in each case, and
b) the less you tend to worry about such instances, anyway.
10. Be Protective Of Yourself Or Others When You Need To, But Never Be Aggressive
To give a very extreme example, even if you have to thwart a physical attack, do so like a martial arts practitioner; as decisively and as detachedly as you can.
Don’t give in and defend your red lines, but by all means make sure you keep your anger or any other such strong feelings at bay.
11. See If You Can Find Any Common Ground With The Other Side
The first step is to operate on the premise that: “yes, such common ground exists and, surely, I can find it”.
You should then make sure to involve the other side actively in this common ground pursuit.
Be open with them and gently persistent in your joint venture – insist on its bilateral character – of identifying it.
Even if initially such common ground is limited, you are prone to discover that it is only the starting point of a workable exchange; one that may grow to something even more expanded and workable.
12. Do Not Try To Appease Or Intimidate Anyone
Stick to the “agenda” and remain within the scope of your interaction as strictly as possible (see also the previous related point).
Concentrate on the facts – always remembering that the “devil is in the details” – and insist on finding a mutually acceptable solution.
Realize that attempts at appeasing or intimidating the other side are first and foremost counterproductive, as they introduce unnecessary noise into the “system”.
Thus, they are creating redundant secondary problems that complicate the situation further, and torpedo any nascent, fragile hint of a positive atmosphere between you and the other side.
13. Realize That Your True Self Always Has A Way
But you can see that, only if you first realize It; that is, realize who you truly are.
Your self-realization journey is one you cannot escape.
Why would you want to escape it, anyway?
Who would be indifferent to discover their true identity?
So hop-on, and rest assured that your transformation to the very best version of You is ante portas.
Until next time,
Accept that adversity will always be there, and that you will always be able to deal with, and learn from, it!