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How to deal with difficult people: 10 no-bullsh*t tips

Image Credit: Shutterstock - By Jack Frog

There’s always one person in your life that’s difficult to deal with.

Whether it’s a family member, a colleague, or a friend, it’s important to understand how to deal with difficult people.

Because let’s be honest:

Toxic and evil people can seriously affect your peace of mind.

So if you want to finally learn how to deal with difficult people, check out the below 10 tips:

1) Listen

I know, you’re thinking that listening is the last thing you want to do with a difficult person.

But it’s the first step to take.

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Why?

Some people are difficult because they’re used to not being listened to. Nobody respects their opinion and tries to understands them.

You’d be bitter too if other people treated you like this!

So wipe away your judgments and focus on genuinely listening. Put yourself in their shoes. It’s amazing what a small amount of empathy and respect can do.

By genuinely listening, you separate yourself from everyone else that treats them badly.

When someone feels respected, they’re less likely to act toxic. According to psychologist Elinor Greenberg, it is extremely soothing to narcissists when you demonstrate that you understand and empathize with how they feel.

Author Roy T. Bennett offers some wonderful advice:

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

2) Remain calm and don’t argue

It’s very common to get angry when dealing with a difficult person. After all, they won’t agree and they’re upsetting you personally and emotionally.

But getting upset about it will only add fuel to the fire. If they’re a narcissist, they might even thrive on your emotional reactions. They love control and it mean’s they’re getting to you.

Take a deep breathe and keep your emotions in check. Don’t give them the upper hand.

“Hell hath no fury or contempt as a narcissist you dare to disagree with, tell they’re wrong, or embarrass… What is really at the core of narcissists is an instability in their ability to feel and sustain feeling bigger, larger, smarter and more successful than everyone else which they need to feel stable. Narcissistic rage occurs when that core instability is threatened and furthermore threatened to destabilize them even further.”  – Mark Goulston, M.D., Rage – Coming Soon From A Narcissist Near You 

So, how can you calm down in the moment that they’re annoying you?

Remember to slow down, be patient and watch your reactions. Remove yourself from the situation and simply observe what’s going.

This perspective will help you remain less emotional and improve your ability to make better decisions.

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3) Don’t judge

It can be easy to make quick snap judgements about a difficult person.

But these judgements hinder your interactions with them and thwart you from understanding them. You’ll get angry before they’ve even said anything.

Instead, give them a chance. As we mentioned before, listen to what they have to say. If you think that they’re wrong, acknowledge their opinion and explain why you think it might not be correct.

Sometimes all a narcissists really wants is respect, so if you give it to them, they may not cause you many problems.

And remember, if someone is acting difficult, there’s likely a reason for it. Perhaps something happened to them in their personal life. Or they’re fearful of what could happen in that particular situation.

No, they shouldn’t take it out on other people, but don’t give them a reason to, either.

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If you don’t judge them, it gives them the benefit of the doubt, which is maybe all they need.

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

4) Look them directly in the eyes

If someone is being particularly difficult towards you, and it’s obvious that they won’t relent, then you’ve got to stand up for yourself and not relent, either.

Look them directly in the eyes and let them know that they’re not causing an emotional reaction in you. You’re a stable and strong individual, and it doesn’t matter what someone else does to you, it won’t affect you.

Negativity can feed on itself, so don’t bite back by arguing, judging or storming out of the room. Be still, keep yourself grounded and look at them directly. Be completely present. Don’t forget who you are and don’t get lost in negative energy.

When they realize that you’re not affected by their behavior, they’ll either stop talking and walk away or the conversation will take a more positive direction.

Actually looking someone in the eyes directly shows them respect and also shows that you won’t back down.

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Science backs this up. There is amble evidence that eye contact is highly compelling. A study found that even newborns pay more attention to faces with eyes looking directly at them than to faces with eyes looking away.

5) Learn when to be silent

Some difficult people can be impossible to speak to.

When you’re in a situation with someone who just won’t listen to what you’re saying, don’t force the issue.

Sometimes there’s no point. It will only escalate the situation and it will make you more frustrated as well.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is just to be silent. Keep your considered thoughts with you and share them at a better time when you know they’ll be listening, or when you’re with someone else.

Focusing on them hearing and considering your opinion can result in two difficult people unable to accept what is. Don’t fall to their level.

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6) Don’t demand compliance

If you tell someone that they must be calm or that they must keep their voice down, then it will make them even angrier. No one likes being told to what to do, especially when they’re in a bad mood.

So instead of demanding that they do something, ask them why they are upset and listen to their answer.

It’s much better to have a productive conversation, rather than being demanding. Otherwise it’s two difficult people lost in a conversation that will go nowhere.

7) Practice self-respect and know your individual rights

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Isn’t that a beautiful quote from Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh?

Sometimes we can be so desperate to gain acceptance from others that we get upset when someone doesn’t give it to us.

But being so affected by what other people think of you is never healthy.

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According to Buddhist philosophy, happiness comes from inside you, rather than anything external.

Accept yourself, love yourself and don’t worry about other people that are difficult to deal with. When you know who you are, it doesn’t matter what other people say about you.

Here is a great quote from spiritual master Osho on why you shouldn’t let other people’s opinions affect you:

“Nobody can say anything about you. Whatsoever people say is about themselves. But you become very shaky, because you are still clinging to a false center. That false center depends on others, so you are always looking to what people are saying about you. And you are always following other people, you are always trying to satisfy them. You are always trying to be respectable, you are always trying to decorate your ego. This is suicidal. Rather than being disturbed by what others say, you should start looking inside yourself…

Whenever you are self-conscious you are simply showing that you are not conscious of the self at all. You don’t know who you are. If you had known, then there would have been no problem— then you are not seeking opinions. Then you are not worried what others say about you— it is irrelevant!”

(If you’re looking for specific actions you can take to accept yourself and live a happier life, check out our best-selling eBook on how to use Buddhist teachings for a mindful and happy life here.)

8) See them for what they are

If you find yourself repeatedly being verbally or emotionally abused by someone, then it’s time to be honest with yourself.

If they’re not changing despite your best efforts, maybe it’s time to stop trying to change them.

Narcissist abuse is no joke and can seriously take its toll on your brain:

“When suffering consistent emotional abuse, victims experience a shrinking of the hippocampus and a swelling of the amygdala; both of these circumstances lead to devastating effects.”

Of course, the question of whether to end a relationship with someone can only be answered by you.

But if they’re taking their toll on you, and they’re not responding to your efforts to get them acting decently, then you need to consider whether it’s worth it anymore.

We all need to take responsibility for our own lives, and if you leave them, it might be the catalyst they need to take responsibility.

9) Build rapport

I realize that this tip may not be that popular, but if this difficult person is someone you encounter regularly, you might want to make an effort at building rapport.

Why?

Because when you connect with someone on a personal level, they’ll be less likely to treat you poorly. You might actually make a friend as well.

How can you build rapport?

As we’ve mentioned before, listen to them and show them respect. Go out to dinners or lunch with them.

And most importantly, don’t let them cross a line in being difficult with you. By getting to know them, you’ll also be able to set your boundaries more easily.

“For most women, the language of conversation is primarily a language of rapport: a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships.” – Deborah Tannen

10) Ignore them

If you’re tried everything and they’re still treating you horribly, then it might be time to ignore them.

You’ve done what you can. Get on with your own life and interact with them on an as needed basis.

If you have to interact them a lot more than you’d like, then it’s time to have an honest conversation with them. Let them know that you simply won’t stand for how they are treating you.

In Conclusion

Dealing with a difficult person is never easy, but if you show respect, listen, and don’t judge, your interactions might turn out to be a lot more positive.

What’s more, by knowing who you are and remaining calm, you’ll avoid escalating the situation to the point of no return, and nothing they say or do will affect you emotionally or personally.:

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Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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