Conflict: Difficult People We Can’t Avoid

The easiest way to deal with difficult people is to avoid them altogether but reality is that we can’t and will eventually come across someone difficult and maybe even on a daily basis like a co-worker.  So how do you deal with someone difficult? You have to be proactive.  You have to learn to stand up, don’t just sit there and take it.  You need to handle it in a calm and honest manner.  You need to act not react.  It’s not about winning; it’s about dealing with a difficult situation without making it worse.I’ve often been asked the best way to deal with difficult people. My answer is that the best way is to avoid them altogether. Of course, that’s not always difficult, so I also have given some thought to how to deal with the difficult people we can’t avoid.


These are people who are part of our lives, at least now, not by our choice but by circumstance, and we just have to learn to get along. We do have the option of not getting along, but that rarely feels good or works out well, so I highly suggest learning to deal with these people in a way that causes everyone involved the least amount of damage and turmoil.

Obviously, the two most common categories of difficult people we cannot avoid are coworkers, including supervisors, and family members. In many cases the coworkers are temporary, but family members more often than not are permanent members of our lives, and we do have to learn to deal with them, if we want to have the happy, productive lives we deserve.

If you can’t avoid a difficult person, you’re going to have to be proactive. That’s not a word I usually use, but in dealing with people who are rude, inconsiderate or even abusive, there’s no other way.

I suggest standing up when another person becomes difficult. Don’t take it. I do not suggest becoming abusive yourself, or saying “I’m tired of taking your stuff,” or anything else in anger.

This is a situation where calm and honest always wins. If, for example, the person has a tendency to contradict you in any and every conversation, you could say something like, “I have noticed you never seem to agree with me, even when I’m right. I would appreciate it if you would not contradict me so often. For example, you have argued with me four times in the last two days. Could you please not do that?”

If someone puts you down in public, you absolutely have the right to say, “If you have a problem with me, please discuss it with me in private.”

The main thing is, stand up honestly and assertively, but not aggressively. ACT, don’t REACT. You’re not trying to win. You’re just trying to deal with a difficult situation without making it worse.

You do not deserve to be mistreated, and you do not have to take that kind of behavior. But you should not contribute bad behavior to the situation in turn. It never helps and it almost always makes everything worse.

Keep your head and your temper, but don’t take mistreatment. Stand up, politely, but stand up.

And of course, if you get a chance to get away from the difficult person, and that opportunity would be in your best interest, take it.

How can you deal more effectively with difficult people today?

  • Identify one behavior you want to challenge.
  • Start taking notes so you can be honest and accurate when you speak out.
  • Rehearse what you want to say.

Thanks to ManicMama for including this post in the Carnival of Family Life, to for inclusion in the Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog Carnival, to E3 Success Blog for including this in the Carnival of Success Principles, and to MabelandHarry for inclusion in the Carnival of Leadership Development.

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