Dealing With Difficult People

By Mikita Orosz

Think about your last encounter with a “difficult” person. Did you stay composed or did your anger blur your judgment to the point of emotional havoc? Most people feel immediate regret after losing their temper. So, how can you keep your cool the next time?

We’ve all encountered difficult people. The… Blamer, Control Freak, Antagonist, Gossiper, Complainer, Know-It-All, Space Cadet…the list is endless. But, before we judge others as “difficult”, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that to some capacity we are all difficult to deal with. No matter how nice we think we are, or how amenable and wonderful we tend to be, there’s someone out there who would label us as “difficult”. From someone’s perspective, you may be the Know-It-All or Control Freak who “pushes their buttons”.

In dealing with difficult people, consider these 3 empowering choices.

Acceptance – Unconditionally accepting others without judgment creates peace in a relationship. Acceptance however, doesn’t mean to allow yourself to be used or be taken advantage of.

  • Keep our ego in check. Realize that people are unique in their attitudes, perceptions, experiences, and belief systems. Allow others to express their uniqueness.
  • Don’t take their opinions or actions personally. Understand that their opinions and personal truths are shaped by their own perceptions. What the other person believes as truth may be diametrically opposed to your own ideas of truth. Rather than searching for and insisting upon your truths, learn to detach from your opinions.
  • Reframe the situation to see things from the other person’s perspective.
  • Be forgiving. Look for the positive characteristics in others and acknowledge that the person who’s disappointed you still has the capacity for kindness. They aren’t completely evil.
  • Be empathetic. Realize that they are just trying to meet their own needs just as you are doing what’s best for you. They aren’t against you, but for themselves.
  • Consider that the other person is also unhappy and experiencing internal turmoil.

Make Positive Changes – Instead of expecting the other person to change their ways in order to improve your relationship, focus on making sustainable changes within yourself. Altering the way you treat someone will automatically change the dynamics of that particular relationship.

  • Be aware of your “buttons” and remember that if you manage your buttons, it’s impossible for others to push them.
  • Decline to accept someone’s anger. The Buddha once told an angered man “Your gift to me in this moment is anger and I refuse the gift. So your anger stays with you.”
  • Pay attention to your body’s reactions as you’re being hooked into a conflict. Is your stomach tensing up? Are you feeling flushed? When your ego is provoked, physiological changes occur in your body to prepare you for fight or flight. Before your emotions escalate to heightened levels of anger and hate, find positive ways to respond to your body’s early warning signs.
  • Drop the argument. Rather than getting into a shouting match, don’t argue back. It’s impossible to continue an argument when there isn’t someone to react. The key is to be calm and kind as you inform the other person that you’ve opted to stop arguing. Don’t be dismissive.
  • Be accountable and responsible. Ask yourself “How am I contributing to the conflict?” “How can I be a part of the solution?
  • Change your ineffective style of dealing with conflict. Rather than follow your habitual pattern of reacting to conflict, interrupt your old habit by using an alternative response. For instance, if you’re accustomed to using profanity to express your rage, the next time you’re angry, don’t curse at all. Instead, use more descriptive words to convey your feelings. By changing your language, you’ve interrupted your old behavioral pattern and hopefully replaced it with a more effective response.
  • During confrontation focus on how you’re breathing. Take slow, soft, deep breaths. You can’t yell when you’re breathing softly.
  • Communicate clearly and be a good listener. Before you defend your position, first make sure that you understand theirs.

Remove yourself from the situation – In some ways it requires greater inner strength to let go of a negative relationship than to stay and defend your stance.

  • Let go. Walk Away. Move On. Everyone has a limit and when you can no longer tolerate a situation it may be time to end a relationship or perhaps to separate for a period of time. Completely “letting go” of a relationship means separating from it without harboring resentment or animosity.

Difficult people may bring out the worst in you, but they are also responsible for helping you gain insight, self-awareness and emotional growth. Difficult people are invaluable teachers who instill in us the virtues of forgiveness, empathy and patience. Look upon each negative encounter as a personal challenge to test your strength in character and as a measurement of your emotional maturity.

About the Author: Mikita is a certified life coach, facilitator, speaker, columnist on SportsLink Magazine, avid community volunteer, aspiring pro-photographer, and inspiring stay-at-home mom. Fueled by her desire to manifest optimism and positive energy, she co-founded HeartMindMatters, a relationship coaching company and LifeCoachSuperstore, a company that creates motivational products. While HeartMindMatters allows her to empower clients in the areas of Separation/Divorce and Family Coaching, LifeCoachSuperstore challenges her artistic and entrepreneurial spirit. Prior to relationship coaching, Mikita spent 10 years as a top producer for a Wall Street executive search firm. She lives in Florida with her husband, four children, two stepchildren, dog, lizard and two frogs.


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