How to Deal with Difficult People

3 steps to deal with problematic people

Life can come at you from all directions. Sometimes it’s the weather, other times it's work, but the worst thing can be the day-to-day contact with difficult people. You know them: the cranky lady at the grocery store, the rude IT guy at work or your angry neighbor — and it seems that all of them can turn your day upside down in a matter of seconds. They are pushy and obnoxious and sometimes downright mean, but what can you do? How can you handle it — without causing them bodily harm? Here’s how to deal with a difficult person without becoming one yourself.

Step 1: Don’t take it personally

According to the National Business Association, one of the key problems between people is everyone’s tendency to take everything personally. People assume when someone is being mean or rude that it is an attack on them. Most often, the offender has had a bad day or a difficult situation has caused him to lash out. The NBA advises people to stop and take a moment to assess the situation. Ask yourself if you did anything that would warrant the other person's rude behavior. If the answer is no, then assume that the attacker is just taking his frustrations out on you. Of course you don’t deserve to be mistreated, but it is a lot easier to respond calmly when you understand it’s not about you.

Step 2: Write it down

A lot of times when you deal with difficult people, it stirs up emotions within yourself. Anger and frustration can easily start to cloud your judgment. One idea offered by Rhonda Finniss, CPS, and author of Communication Strategies That Work, is to write down your issue on a piece of paper. When you are writing, leave out emotions — just write the actions or events of the situation. Once you have it in black and white in front of you, you can start to really take care of the problem. You may even want to hand the paper to an unbiased friend and ask what they would do in that situation. Taking your emotions out of the equation may help you find the quickest and simplest solution to dealing with that difficult person in your life.

Step 3: Be the change you want to see

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means." Remember this when dealing with others. Treat others how you wish to be treated. When someone acts rudely, do not return the gesture. That is not to say don’t stand up for yourself and ask them to be more polite when speaking to you, but do it in an uplifting and respectful way. Confrontation is not a bad thing, but it can be with the wrong attitude. Be sure to check yours before you respond.

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