Have you observed that when anyone gets to meet a therapist they assume they should ask questions like “Can you read thoughts?” or “Does psychology really work? If so, how?” Being a lifestyle-coach with Visit, a lifestyle coaching portal, I have been asked how I convert the knowledge of theoretical psychology into practical solutions. They go further to explain their question with “Let me state an example. How would you help individuals deal with difficult people in their lives?” and my response begins with “Let me explain…”
So, let me explain how. Difficult people are everywhere. This includes everyone at some point in their lives. We all get difficult to deal with due to a situation or a bad mood. But dealing with difficult people becomes a really tough task. Let me emphasize that it really helps when you don’t take their comments or behaviour personally. Once you learn how to do this you can identify what category they belong to, and that could help you on how to deal with difficult people. Here are some I’ve listed along with ways to deal with difficult people.
Complaining — These are people who will find others to blame no matter what situation they are in. You barely find them admitting any mistake or taking responsibility for anything. They also find means of escape when confronted or end up playing the victim in most cases.
How to handle:
It’s usually best not to empathize with them. What would help is if you can state that everyone goes through tough issues every day and complaining about them does not project them as problem solvers. Trying to make them see themselves from another’s perspective usually is effective as they can see if they like the image they are projecting of themselves.
Clingy — These individuals are usually observed to want constant attention from their loved ones and rarely do anything on their own. You will see that they need another person they feel close to and are mainly insecure on the inside. This leads them to constantly demand that their spouse, child, parent, friend or colleague to give them attention. And thus they become quite difficult to deal with.
How to handle:
There is no point in denying them attention as this can upset them. When you try to explain to them that they’re demanding a lot of your time it usually ends up with the person going on a “pity party”. You can, however, try reassuring them that they can manage on their own by not making any decision for them. You can also try assigning them a responsible task to do on their own so they stay occupied and appreciate them for the effort they put in. This can be used to positively reinforce that they can do a great job on their own at times.
Controlling — This is another common issue you come across while working with difficult people. A person who is controlling by nature is usually also known to be manipulative. You find them trying to twist any situation to give them an upper hand over you. Another method they use is trying to completely win your trust so you will do as told. They may try to be dominating, passive-aggressive or use their charm.
How to handle:
Not giving in to their demands in a firm manner will help in disarming them. You can ask them questions based on a stronger argument as it usually helps. They will either back down and leave you alone or agree that you have a better point. Using humour to make your point and quickly changing the topic by making them the point of discussion can help you slip from their controlling position over you.
Critical — You can find them constantly putting others down or being judgemental about everything. No matter how hard you try it will never be good enough to get a word of appreciation from them. This gets worse when they constantly find fault with everything under the pretext of being perfectionists. They tend to have a negative impact on any issue and usually never speak of solving problems.
How to handle:
It is best to hear them out for a while. Try to maintain a positive position as this will eventually quieten them. Another method would be to listen to the issue they are referring to and speak in terms of a solution. This will usually help them see it from your perspective or leave the conversation as they don’t have an audience to hear about all the wrong in the world.
Competing — They try to constantly establish themselves as an opponent who needs to win. Their being thrives on a feeling of accomplishment that fuels their self-worth. You will notice that they will go to any extent to win. They rarely thrive alone and need others who they have to beat at work or home. They feel good when they or their work is compared to another and appreciated better.
How to handle:
It is best if you don’t feel threatened by their success or extra effort. Showing them that you are content and self-sufficient usually makes them lose interest in you as a contender. You can remain in your comfort zone and treat them in a friendly manner every time you cross paths. When they realize you are not challenging them they tend to relax around you, they become not so difficult to handle, and may even establish a healthy relationship with you.
Conceited — They are those who you always find in any conversation speaking only of themselves. They rarely ever care about the others around or their opinions. They feel great as long as the spotlight is on them throughout. Once the focus shifts they decide to move away to another place or to another person who would entertain them. They barely make time to give the other person/s an opportunity to share their views.
How to handle:
It is generally tough to make conversation with them. You may realize that they may not consider your presence or your opinion many times. Asking them questions to shift focus from them to you may be wise thing to do. Where the question is about you and eventually will shift the conversation towards you. This will still make the person feel important as you are asking their opinion on what they think about it. You can make your point following their answer with an “adding to what you were saying…” The conversation can end with a ‘thank your’ from your end for their input on the matter.
Let’s not forget that the people we find difficult may not be so for others. Sometimes it may be that they belong to another personality type. They may just be people with other priorities very different from yours. For example, a very light hearted person may never have anything in common with an up-tight kind. It really helps if you take the opportunity to see the world from their perspective as they too have a lot positive qualities. It may not be easy to notice talents or skills they possess if we view them from just one stand point.
It may be easier if you rarely meet the person you find difficult . This will help you avoid confronting the situation most of the time. It may not be as easy if you are married to him/her, they live you or if it is a co-worker. It does help to know these tips and I hope you remember them the next time you are wondering ‘How do I deal with such a difficult person?!’.
You can get access to many more practical tips on various topics from our stress management-coaches, work-life coaches, relationship coaches, etc. Get your very own life-coach by downloading Visit on your mobile!
The author is a Visit Coach practicing out of Bangalore.