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Ten Tips to Help You Deal with Difficult People

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Have you ever noticed that some people are just plain difficult? Everything they do involves drama. Whether it’s giving waiters a hard time, questioning the motives of all, or simply finding someone to gossip about in every social circle, difficult humans are not easy to work with. And when that mindset even infiltrates our news, it can destroy all patience.

Unfortunately, we must all deal with this type of person from time to time. But there are ways to cope with individuals like this while considering boundaries to help keep ourselves healthy, especially if your basic motivation is honesty, respect, optimism and kindness. Here are some ways to navigate the world off difficult relationships:

 1. Minimize Exposure To Difficult People Whenever Possible
Eliminating the source is the best way to go, as much as is possible.

2. Don’t Take It Personally
This can be a tough one. When someone is rude or difficult, it hurts, but with this personality type, it is not about you, so shake it off.

3. Don’t React 
Don’t let them get into your head and affect your common sense. Drama-lovers live for the reaction, so don’t reward them. Smile, nod, and move on to the next topic at hand.

4. Have A Game Plan To Include Some Boundaries 
If this is someone you must deal with on a regular basis, plan ahead. Be prepared and know how you will respond. Educate them without being condescending. Have a set amount of time where you can interact then excuse yourself for a scheduled appointment.  Maybe even set your phone timer for an alert so you can politely step away. Remember that kindness, dignity and compassion rules. You are setting the example for your kids if they’re watching.

5. Consider That There Might Be Other Issues At Work Here
 Marriage and family therapist Gary Chapman says to practice understanding. Maybe this person truly has something awful going on in their lives and needs a listening ear. Weigh the situation. Instead of reacting to what they are saying or doing, respond to the reason they are saying or doing it.  Remember the expression killing them with kindness? Sometimes you can heal with kindness as well. 

6. Check Your Words 
Is something that you are saying or doing setting them off? Do they have a question that might need clarified?  If you’re not sure, ask them. You may be surprised. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Instead, say something to make them feel good about themselves, because clearly, they do not.

7. Take A Deep Breath
…and consider following John Maxwell’s 101% principle says motivational speaker Todd Burrier.  Find the one spot where you can agree and put 100% of your attention on that 1%. How you make them feel will influence how they behave around you and towards you.

 8. Propose A Solution, But Walk Away When Necessary 
If a solution is not an option, consider Philippians 2:4-5: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” If you cannot see a solution, walk away. Be able to agree to disagree. Sometimes that is all you can do to avoid conflict. 

9. Don’t Return Anger With Anger
In a recent article for Psychology Today, author Barbara Markaway, Ph.D. reminds us to not lower your standards to meet theirs. And this point might sound odd: Avoid the smirky smile which can seem condescending; show respect and kindness, even when it’s extremely difficult. You won’t regret it.

10.  Give Yourself Credit For Getting Through An Uncomfortable Situation
It takes a lot of energy to stay calm when someone else is behaving badly. And it’s just possible you’re being watched providing an example for younger eyes. This exercise can also be good practice for the next difficult encounter.

By Lois Szymanski

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