Miserable Characters – How to Deal With Difficult People

We all know them – those difficult people who seem motivated in the quest to spread misery. Sadly, in either our personal or professional lives, or both, each of us will periodically encounter someone who fits this description. My job is to give you some strategies so you can effectively deal with these miserable characters. First lets define the difficult person.

Difficult People Defined

Some people are overly sensitive, discerning, suspicious, insecure, or needy. However, if you treat them right, many of these people can become assets within your inner circle. These people may have had negative experiences in the past that have compromised their abilities to trust and connect. However, they can be turned around. If they understand that you value and accept them they can become intensely loyal friends and allies.

On the other hand, the truly difficult person will delight in keeping you off balance by acting up. These difficult people appear immune to good manners, honest communication, and caring. These difficult people generally fall into six categories; with some difficult people exhibiting qualities from two or more categories.

Here is my list of the six categories of difficult people that you may encounter.

o The Bully is angry, abusive, abrupt, aggressive and unpredictable. The Bully will attempt to intimidate you into what he wants. He will explode over little things, threaten, and push you into retreating or over-reacting.

o The Sniper takes potshots and makes subtle attacks. Her “humorous” put-downs, sarcastic remarks, disapproving looks, and innuendos are a form of psychological battering.

o The Victim is a complainer who is fearful, has little faith in himself and others, and believes that the world is a hostile place. His negativity, resentfulness, and disappointment in life throw cold water on every idea and crush all glimmers of optimism.

o The Fault-finder avoids taking responsibility and instead uses an accusatory and self-righteous tone, finding fault with everything and everyone. The Fault-finder is much more interested in placing blame then in finding solutions.

o The Know-it-all is an expert who comes across like a bulldozer with an aura of personal authority that is condescending, imposing, and pompous. The Know-it-all knows what’s wrong with every aspect of your life and she is happy to tell you about it.

o The Cheater uses deliberate deception to twist the facts to his benefit; his actions can border on or include theft.

Your Reaction

Here are some strategies you can use to cope effectively with difficult people.

o First, assess the situation. Is this truly a difficult person or someone who is hungry, tired, or having a bad day?

o Set boundaries and limitations regarding what you will and will not tolerate.

o Seek understanding regarding true motivation. Be willing to listen attentively, even if someone initially seems out-of-line. Allow the difficult person a chance to blow off steam and feel heard. (Set a time limit for this interchange.)

o Express your views only when you can avoid the battle for right and wrong. Don’t fight back or use reason to try to beat a difficult person at his own game. He’s been practicing his skills for a lifetime, and you’re an amateur.

o Difficult people often have an insatiable appetite for more. Know when to stop trying to appease and move on.

o Don’t try to change the difficult person. You can only change your responses to her behavior.

o Sometimes, we have to cut our losses and move on. It may be worth the loss to get rid of the difficult person.

o Take a detached, impersonal view. The difficult person’s bad behavior is not about you so don’t interpret his behavior as a personal attack or become emotionally involved and caught up in the cycle.

o Give the difficult person the last word because you will have the last action.

o Find a common goal, intention or “enemy” that you share with the difficult person. Now, you can be on the same team.

o Take an unpredictable action to get his attention: drop a book, stand up, or firmly call him by name.

o Respond to pot-shots and attacks with a question: “That sounds like you’re making fun of me. Are you?” The response may be one of denial, “I’m only joking,” but nevertheless, questioning these attacks will reduce them in the future.

o Insist on a problem solving approach, with complaints and suggestions for resolution in writing.

o Don’t debate his negative outlook. Instead, respond with your own optimistic expectations.

o Require the citing of specifics rather than the use of sweeping generalizations.

o Make “I want to find solutions that work for both of us” your mantra when dealing with a difficult person. Remind him that finding a mutually acceptable solution is your goal.

Dealing with difficult people takes practice so don’t give up or get discouraged. Although these strategies won’t change the difficult person, they will challenge his or her ability to interfere in your life.


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