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How to Deal with Difficult People

Remember these tips next time you're faced with a frustrating person you just don't know what to do with.


  • Step 1: Know the types Know the types of difficult people, and determine which type you're dealing with. Common ways to be difficult include passive-aggressiveness, open aggressiveness, constant complaining, and destructive criticism.
  • Step 2: Realize whose problem it is Understand whether this is even your problem. Difficult people are usually being that way because they're unhappy about something else.
  • TIP: Do not take the person's behavior personally.
  • Step 3: State your feelings State your feelings, clearly and directly, and don't be afraid that the difficult person will think you're angry. Anger isn't always bad. It can be a signal that something is wrong. At the very least, you will alert the difficult person to your feelings.
  • Step 4: Avoid the difficult person If they continue being difficult, limit the person's access to you. Walk away from the situation. Do not waste your energy trying to win a fight.
  • Step 5: Listen After you've taken a break, if they still want to talk and are willing to have a civilized discussion, listen carefully to the other person. Wait until they are finished talking, and then express your own feelings.
  • TIP: Try to empathize with the difficult people in your life, which can help you maintain a sense of control over the situation.
  • Step 6: Learn from mistakes Stop talking about the situation once it is over. Learn from the situation so you can prevent it from happening again.
  • FACT: Did you know? In 2007, Duke University's law school began offering a workshop called Dealing With Conflict and Difficult People.

You Will Need

  • Thick skin
  • The ability to be forthright
  • Space
  • Listening skills
  • Patience
  • Empathy

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