12 ways to deal with difficult people (without losing your cool)

We’ve all been there – a difficult person crosses our path, and we’re left feeling frustrated, angry, or even helpless. 

But don’t worry – I’m here to help you keep calm in such situations. In this article, I’ll share 12 ways to deal with difficult people without losing your cool. 

Let’s dive in!

1) Breathe deeply and maintain your composure

When confronted with a difficult person, our first instinct might be to react impulsively. 

However, taking a deep breath can help us calm down and regain our composure. 

I’ve personally found this technique incredibly useful when dealing with challenging individuals – it grounds me and keeps me from losing my cool!  

So, the next time you encounter someone difficult, take a moment to breathe deeply and remind yourself to stay calm.

For instance, imagine you’re in a meeting with a colleague who constantly interrupts and speaks over others. 

Before responding or reacting, take a deep breath, count to three, and then proceed with your thoughts. This will help you maintain your composure and avoid escalating the situation further!

2) Practice active listening

Often, difficult people just want to be heard. 

By practicing active listening, you show them that you’re genuinely interested in understanding their point of view. 

This can help diffuse tension and create a more constructive dialogue. It also gives you a chance to calm down and avoid losing your cool. 

For example, if you’re dealing with a friend who constantly complains about their problems, try to:

  • Listen without interrupting 
  • Ask questions to show your interest 
  • Display empathy 
  • Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation

By doing this, you’re creating a space for them to feel heard and valued. This can lead to a more productive conversation and may even help them feel less difficult in the future!

3) Set boundaries

If you want to deal with difficult people, you NEED boundaries. 

It helps protect your own well-being while also sending a clear message about what you will and won’t tolerate. 

I’ve found that being assertive about my boundaries can make a significant difference in how I interact with challenging individuals.

So, how can you set boundaries assertively and calmly? 

First, be clear on what your boundaries are. This will make it much easier to communicate them. 

Secondly, explain your boundaries in a calm, non-confrontational way. 

And finally, be firm. Don’t allow people to disrespect your boundaries. Let them know there will be consequences.

By setting clear boundaries, you can maintain a healthier relationship with difficult people (and keen your sanity in the process). 

4) Choose your battles wisely

Not every disagreement is worth engaging in. 

Sometimes, it’s better to let things go rather than engage in a lengthy argument with a difficult person – especially if you know you’ll never win! 

Case in point, if a coworker constantly nitpicks your work, it might not be worth arguing over every single detail. 

Instead, focus on the bigger picture and address any major concerns they have. 

You see when you do this, you can avoid getting bogged down in petty arguments and maintain a more positive work environment.

5) Keep your emotions in check

mentally strong person 12 ways to deal with difficult people (without losing your cool)

When dealing with difficult people, it’s crucial to keep your emotions in check

The truth is, becoming overly emotional can cloud your judgment and make it harder to resolve the situation effectively. 

For example, if you’re dealing with a family member who tends to push your buttons, take a step back and remind yourself not to take their behavior personally. 

Now, I know this is easier said than done…

So, one way to keep your emotions in check is to practice mindfulness

By focusing on your breath and staying present in the moment, you can avoid getting swept away by your emotions. 

Additionally, try to remind yourself that the difficult person’s behavior is likely a reflection of their own struggles, not a personal attack on you. By maintaining this perspective, you can communicate more effectively and work towards a resolution.

6) Use humor when appropriate

Humor can be a powerful tool in diffusing tense situations. 

When used appropriately, it can:

  • Lighten the mood
  • Reduce tension 
  • Put things into perspective

So, the next time you’re faced with a difficult person, try to find the funny side of the situation and see if it creates a better outcome! 

But with that in mind, it’s important to be sensitive to the other person’s feelings and the context of the situation. 

In some cases, humor might be perceived as dismissive or disrespectful

If you’re unsure, it might be best to err on the side of caution and avoid using humor in that particular instance.

7) Find common ground

Finding common ground with difficult people can help to build rapport and make communication more productive. 

Even if you disagree on certain issues, try to identify areas where you share common interests or values. 

I’ve noticed that when I focus on what unites us rather than what divides us, conversations tend to be more constructive, and certainly less tension-filled. 

For example, if you’re discussing a controversial topic with someone who has opposing views, try to find areas where you both agree. 

The bottom line is:

By highlighting these points of agreement, you can create a more open and positive dialogue, which can ultimately help you better manage the situation.

8) Be assertive, not aggressive

There’s a fine line between being assertive and aggressive. 

While it’s important to stand up for yourself and express your needs, it’s equally important to do so in a way that respects the other person.

So, how can you find the balance between the two? 

One way to be assertive without coming across as aggressive is to use “I” statements. 

By focusing on your own feelings and experiences, you can communicate your needs without attacking the other person. 

Instead of saying “You always interrupt me,” try saying “I feel frustrated when I’m interrupted during conversations.” 

This approach can help foster a more open and respectful dialogue.

9) Offer solutions, not just complaints

When dealing with difficult people, it’s easy to get caught up in pointing out their flaws and shortcomings. 

However, I’ve learned that offering solutions rather than just complaining can lead to more productive conversations and improved relationships.

To offer solutions, try using the SBI (Situation, Behavior, Impact) feedback model

First, describe the specific situation in which the problematic behavior occurred. 

Next, describe the behavior itself, and finally, explain the impact it had on you or others. 

For example, if a teammate is consistently late to meetings, instead of just complaining about their tardiness, suggest solutions like setting an earlier reminder or adjusting the meeting time. 

Here’s the thing – by offering solutions, you demonstrate that you’re committed to finding a resolution and not just dwelling on the problem!

10) Know when to walk away

set boundaries emotionally abusive relationship 12 ways to deal with difficult people (without losing your cool)

Sometimes, the best course of action is to simply walk away from a difficult person. 

If you’ve tried various strategies and the situation hasn’t improved, it may be time to distance yourself from the individual. 

Keep in mind that walking away doesn’t mean you’ve failed or given up. 

The truth is, it’s about recognizing your own limits and prioritizing your well-being

It’s essential to accept that you can’t control or change other people’s behavior, and sometimes the healthiest choice is to disengage from a toxic situation, especially if you don’t want to lose your cool! 

11) Seek support from others

Dealing with difficult people can be exhausting and emotionally draining. 

It’s important to seek support from friends, family, or colleagues who can offer advice, empathy, and a fresh perspective. 

I’ve often found that sharing my experiences and seeking guidance from others can help me feel more empowered and better equipped to handle challenging situations.

It’s also a great way to validate your feelings and not go crazy wondering if you’re being overly sensitive towards this particular person! 

For instance, if you’re struggling with a difficult boss, confide in a trusted coworker or mentor. 

They may be able to offer valuable insights or strategies that can help you navigate the situation more effectively. 

And remember, you don’t have to face difficult people alone; seeking support can make a significant difference in how you manage these challenges.

12) Reflect and learn from the experience

And finally, it’s important to remember that each interaction with a difficult person can be a learning opportunity. 

Try to: 

  • Reflect on the situation and consider what worked
  • what didn’t go to plan
  • What you can do differently next time. 

I’ve found that by analyzing my experiences, I can better prepare myself for future encounters and continue to grow both personally and professionally.

For example, after a challenging conversation with a family member, take some time to reflect on your approach and identify areas for improvement. 

By learning from these experiences, you’ll be better equipped to handle difficult people in the future.

Final thoughts 

Dealing with difficult people can be challenging, but with the right strategies and mindset, it’s possible to navigate these situations without losing your cool. 

By practicing these 12 tips, you can effectively manage your interactions with challenging individuals while also protecting your own well-being. 

Remember, it’s not about changing the other person but rather about managing your own response to their behavior!

Stay calm, be proactive, and keep growing from each experience.

Picture of Kiran Athar

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a freelance writer with a degree in multimedia journalism. She enjoys exploring spirituality, psychology, and love in her writing. As she continues blazing ahead on her journey of self-discovery, she hopes to help her readers do the same. She thrives on building a sense of community and bridging the gaps between people. You can reach out to Kiran on Twitter: @KiranAthar1

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