Boss Lady

11 best ways to deal with difficult people


Difficult people seem to be everywhere. They might be someone you work with, or someone you have to do business with. But you could count yourself lucky if you never deal with a difficult person during your career.

And whether they know it or not, they can also create the most problems and stressful situations – sometimes seemingly for no apparent reason.

But there are strategies for you to deal with them in the best way possible so that they — or the situation — don’t escalate into anything more serious and get out of hand.

Find ways to calm their anger

When someone is being difficult or presents you with a difficult situation, it’s best to remain calm and try getting all the facts before continuing the conversation and resolving the issue.

This often involves you settling the situation down so that no one is yelling, the other person knows you are listening to them, you want to help and are not running away from the situation.


Whether they are by themselves or they go through a mediator, when someone comes to you with an issue they have with you, someone else or a situation, listen to what they have to say and let them get everything off their chest. This is a great first step to resolving the issue and dealing with a difficult person/situation.

Set limits and boundaries

While the best strategies are calming a situation down and resolving it peacefully, don’t forget that you are allowed to set limits and boundaries with the other person about how you would like to be treated and spoken to while resolving the issue/situation.

This doesn’t mean that things won’t calm down naturally, it just means that you will be asserting yourself in the situation, instead of allowing the other person to have all the power.

One response does not fit all

There is no ‘one way’ to resolve every situation. That’s why, depending on the situation and/or person you’re dealing with, you’ll have to tailor your answer and reaction to what they’re saying.

Furthermore, some issues may be easily resolved between the two of you, while others may require a mediator so that you each get a chance to say what you want on a level playing ground.

Switch perspectives

When dealing with a difficult person, it may help if you to try to see things from their perspective and how other people and situations make them feel. Doing this will help you understand their point of view more clearly and help bring the situation to a peaceful and reasonable resolution.

Start a dialogue

Starting a dialogue with someone can be a great way for you to help them resolve issues they may have in the workplace and with colleagues, without it escalating into something uncontrollable.

This, however, may happen more frequently if you’re a manager and you notice that someone has a reputation of being difficult.

The trick is not to make them feel bad about things they may not be able to help, blame them in any way or to act as their therapist. It may just be better for you to let them know that, if they ever have issues in the workplace, they can come to you to chat about it and for you to help them that way.

Shift from being reactive to proactive

It’s easy to react to someone yelling at you by yelling back, but that is no way to resolves issues because it simply won’t solve anything. Instead, try resolving the issue with them by taking them out of the workspace for a moment — like into the break room, the stairwell or even outside — and talk through the problem one on one.

Just don’t tell them how they feel. That can make things worse.

Pick your battles

Sometimes difficult people can also be quite stubborn people, who may refuse to lose a fight and accept that they are wrong.

To deal with people like this, it may be best to let them ‘have the win’ this one time – unless it is a crucial issue — and then plan for how you will win future battles with proactive strategies.

Stand up for yourself

While we advise you should pick your battles, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stand up for yourself when need be. This is especially the case if somebody is claiming incorrect things about you or something you have done.

In doing so, you can try to calm the situation down so that you can find out why they have the incorrect information – and make sure it is corrected.

Be wary of unexamined assumptions

People can be difficult with others because they assume they know who they are without getting to know them first. This can be a big point of conflict between them because the tension the assumptions create can keep building up until someone snaps.

To resolve this, it may help if you talk to the person you suspect is making assumptions – about you or other people — and try to resolve the issue before it goes any further and possibly gets out of hand.

Ask your ‘higher self’ for help

We all have a ‘higher self’ that we aspire to be one day but haven’t yet become. But that doesn’t mean we can’t ask them for help in times of crisis and when dealing with difficult people.

The way this works is, when in a moment of conflict — personal or professional — think about the higher self you want to be someday and how they may react to the situation/person and go with that. Furthermore, doing this just might bring you one step closer to being your higher self.

About Rowena Nagy

Rowena Nagy is a Journalist at The Business Woman Media. A graduate in Journalism, Media and Communications, she is passionate about in writing, travel journalism, video journalism and Public Relations.

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