• Dr. Ryan Corte

How To Deal With Difficult People | 10 Tips To Best Handle Difficult People

Updated: Aug 17

So how do you deal with difficult people? Here are 10 tips on how to deal with negative and challenging people that I’ve learned through years of serving the public.

Types of difficult people

Difficult people are everywhere and come in many forms. They can be negative, whiney, know-it-alls, aggressive, bullies, control freaks, needy, etc.


Unfortunately, we run across them in all facets of life. So how do you navigate these relationships and conversations?


As somebody who serves the general public, I've done a lot of research on how to handle challenging individuals.


Here are 10 tips on how to best deal with difficult people.


1) Stay calm

I know this is challenging to do. When you’re faced with a difficult person, your fight or flight response kicks in and you want to either fight or run away.


Don’t react! Instead, stay calm and remain present. This is the best way to start off an interaction with somebody who's really getting on your nerves.


2) Listen

Close your mouth and actively listen. Otherwise, how are you going to respond if you don't know what they're saying, why they're frustrated, or why they're being difficult in the first place?


Listening gives you a lot of context on how to best respond.


3) Be compassionate

As you're listening, be compassionate and try to understand them.


I always tell my team that you never know what somebody's going through. Maybe they’ve had a tough day, week, month, or year. It’s quite possible they’re on an emotional rollercoaster and you’re the one on the other end of the tracks.


If you're not compassionate, you're not taking the time to actively hear them out and understand where they're coming from.


4) Kill them with kindness

When you respond to a challenging person, kill them with kindness. Be gracious throughout the entire process.


Why? When you respond to a difficult person in a kind, non-threatening way, it defuses the situation.


5) Reflect on yourself

Are you overreacting or having your own internal struggle?


Is there something you could do that would make the whole situation a lot easier?


Is this something that is not a one-sided situation?


Take the time to reflect and figure out if you’re part of the problem and what you can do to fix it.


6) Control what you can

There are a lot of things in life we can't control.


If you were wrong, apologize or make the situation right.


If you know there's a way to reach a common ground with a challenging individual, take the steps to do so.


If you’re experiencing a work-related issue, talk to your boss or higher-up. Have a conversation with them about exactly what’s going on so you can review possible solutions.


7) Talk to someone you trust

In repeat scenarios, take the time to reach out to someone you trust and talk to them. This could be your family, friends, or even a therapist. Whoever it may be, run your thoughts and ideas past them on what's going on and how to best respond and handle the difficult person.


Consulting with those you trust can provide you with a lot of great insight and can be extremely valuable when handling difficult individuals.


8) Ignore them

If you’re unable to handle the situation but you still have to be around that person, ignore them.


While not my favorite approach, if you ignore a difficult individual they often get the point and stop bringing their problems to you.


9) Cut them out of your life

Unfortunately, there are certain difficult people that you just have to cut out of your life.


For example, let's say you had a childhood friend who you hung out with a lot. Over time, their relationship with you became more and more toxic. And while you try your best to save the relationship you discover it’s impacting your family and mental health. This is a person you should cut out of your life!


Of course, it's not easy to cut certain people out of your life. On the other hand, there are a lot of circumstances where it's actually quite simple. To do so, make a conscious effort to no longer spend time with them or avoid circumstances where you have to encounter them.


10) Set boundaries

If you’ve tried to reason with someone and can’t cut them out of your life, set boundaries. I find these individuals are often family members or extended family.


Setting boundaries is a very healthy and normal way to distance yourself from difficult people you have to still encounter.


For example, if it's an extended family, set certain times where they are allowed to come and visit. If it's a colleague, block off periods of time for taking meetings or phone calls where you have to respond or interact with them.


Final thoughts

Learning how to engage with and manage difficult people is a valuable skill in life.


What strategies do you use to best deal with difficult people? Let me know in the comments below.


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