How to Deal With Difficult People

If you find some people difficult to deal with it is likely because something they do, or don’t do, triggers and emotional response in you. You feel scared, disrespected, ignored, annoyed, intimidated, angry or frustrated.

As soon as you stop focussing on them and how difficult they are, shift your attention to yourself and how you want to be and how you want to behave around them, you are in the driving seat!


It’s Important.

We come across difficult people in every area of our lives, a colleague, your teenager or toddler a customer; you’re in – laws or parents. They are everywhere.

They can make your life very stressful and make you feel negative about yourself. It can keep you awake at night saying all the things you wish you could have thought of at the time. You feel angry and resentful, anxious or intimidated. You take it out on yourself and the wrong people.

If you acknowledge that you find a particular person, or even a situation, difficult you can prepare yourself, give yourself a break, give yourself some options and change the way you interact with them.

For myself, I find people who don’t listen difficult. I know that I will have an extremely strong reaction to someone not listening to me. It triggers my feelings of frustration, powerless and hurt that I experienced as a child when I was not listened to. I feel small, unimportant and want to hide and not deal with them as it is pointless anyway.

So, it is important to learn to deal with those people that you find difficult.

Try these suggestions and see how you get on. I would love to hear how you get on and any other ideas you want to share.

  1. The Most Important Step- Shift Your Focus.

Stop seeing them as difficult people. Change your language and say “…………is someone that I find difficult to deal with”.

Though this sounds pedantic what this does is to give the power back to you. They are still difficult and I am sure lots of other people agree with you that they are difficult, but changing your sentence, changes your point of view and gives you loads more choices about how to deal with them.

Resist the temptation to criticise yourself for finding them difficult. We all find some people difficult – you are not alone in this.

  1. Respond Rather Than React

The reason you find some people difficult is because you have a strong emotional reaction to them. They ‘make’ you feel anxious, small, irritated or powerless and there is something in their attitude that is triggering off old emotional reactions, like me when someone ignores me.

In these situations the emotional part of your brain overrides your rational, logical brain and you become emotional, feel small and get stuck struggling to control your emotional reactions, rather than dealing with the situation as it is.

The next time you are dealing with someone you find difficult, stop focussing on them and how they might be and bring your attention back to yourself.

Set your intention before you interact with them.

When we are faced with people we find difficult, it is hard to think quickly and we get flooded with anger or fear. Very often we will try and modify our attitude so that we can keep the peace, following the line of least resistance or take the easy way out.

All of these are signs that the adrenaline levels (anxiety levels) are too high causing your body to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode.(Fight, fight, fear, tend and befriend).  Once this happens your emotions are definitely in control.

So set your intention to:

Control your anxiety.

Take a deep breath and really ground yourself – feel your feet in your shoes and stay connected to the ground or the chair that is supporting your weight.

Don’t expect to feel completely calm. A bit of adrenaline will be helpful, but it is important that you keep control of your bodily reactions.

Let go of the outcome

Do not pay any attention to what the outcome is – you can always go back and change your mind about something that happens in the conversation

As you become more assertive with the people you find difficult you can begin including in your intention a particular outcome.

In the early stages it is important to not have a particular goal or outcome, other than you controlling your anxiety.

There are lots of reasons for this, but for sure, when your adrenaline levels are under control you will be thinking more clearly, set achievable goals and are far more likely to be able to negotiate and compromise, find an outcome suitable for you both or simply realise that there is no dealing them as they will not meet you half way.

Stop trying to change them

Of course you can make a situation better or worse, you can give someone feedback, but ultimately they have to want to change and nothing you say or do, or don’t say or do, is going to ‘make’ them change. Remember you only ever have control over your 50% of any situation.

  1. Stop Engaging With Them

Avoid them if you can but also find a way to protect yourself and let their comments slide over you. Coat yourself in Teflon, form a bubble round yourself or find another image that works for you. Use a scarf , a piece of jewellery, or jacket as a shield to protect yourself and stop engaging with them.


Observe them.

Stand outside of yourself and observe what they are saying and how they are behaving. Be interested and curious (a fantastic antidote to anxiety in any circumstances).

Start a commentary in your mind “that’s a weird”. ” Wonder why they feel they have to speak like that to me? “That’s rude!” ” I’m not like that, or it wasn’t like that” Essentially seeing what they are doing from a dispassionate point of view.

Acknowledge that you hear what they are saying, but resist the temptation to justify, explain or defend yourself.

It may or may not be useful to remember that critical people are far more critical of themselves than they ever are of other people.

Stay very connected to your compassion and stop being judgemental of them. As they say two wrongs don’t make a right. (….and you can be the one to walk away with your head held high).

There is never any excuse for bullying or abusive behaviour. Get help and support from friends, family, work colleagues or professionals to deal with these people. It is very, very difficult for anyone to deal with abusive, bullying behaviour on your own.