How to handle difficult people and reduce stress

difficult people

You cannot avoid difficult people. At the workplace, in your business and even at home, there is that person or people who you wish didn’t exist in your life. Difficult people take away your peace, bring negativity into your life, and interfere with your daily performance.

You hold a barbecue on a Sunday afternoon, and your mother-in-law or sister is criticizing your salad. You’re trying really hard to make a point in a work meeting and one of your managers is shooting it down like he or she always does.

Or maybe you are in the middle of a meeting with a well-paying client, and he’s inappropriately touchy. It makes you want to storm out!

Handling difficult people is not easy. But if you want to get promoted at work, succeed in your business or maintain a happy family, you need to know how to get past them. The first step towards achieving this is singling them out of your life.

Related Article: Personal Development Skill #3: Take Control of Your Life

Common Characteristics of Difficult People

It’s very easy to form judgement about someone in a crowd. When someone approaches you and sparks a conversation, it’s easy to tell if you are likely to get along with them or not. Science has proven that it takes most humans a tenth of a second to make judgement on someone based on their facial expressions.

Unfortunately, this first judgement can be true or false. The way people seem at first impression is not necessarily true of their real characters. Here are characteristics to look out for in order to identify potentially difficult people.

They tend to be know-it-alls

If you have experienced someone who tends to know everything and anything about life, you have met a know-it-all.

This person believes they’re better than everyone else. They behave as if they’re sorry for the people around them and try to make everyone around them become like them. They are unbearable.

It’s hard for you to have an honest conversation around such people. Getting honest feedback is also a nightmare. According to them, they are the best in the game and no one can match up, even when they are plain wrong.

They’re quick to judge, criticize and complain

Another characteristic of difficult people is that they tend to complain, judge and criticize others. They find fault in everything you do, criticize your opinions when handling delicate matters, and challenge every move you make.

According to them, nothing you plan to do is sensible. Worst of all is that they don’t propose alternatives. Their work is to shoot down your opinions, views, ideas, and suggestions.

Related Article: Is Your Relationship Holding You Back from Success?

They’re bossy

You’ve probably experienced this difficult person more at least once in your life. You give your suggestions in detail, and then they say “No”. When you ask them why they said no, they say “I just don’t think it’s a good idea. Come up with something else and let’s see how it goes.”

The problem with this type of person is that they don’t care whether your idea is right or wrong. They shoot everything down in order to feel powerful every time they say NO.

Bossy people also like their ideas more than anyone else’s and they don’t care how fruitful or harmful their ideas are.

They can be pushovers

Some difficult people don’t have to be negative at all. Some are simply pushovers.

They agree with you, tell you how good your idea is it is and that you should go ahead to implement it. However, they disappear when reality hits. They can also turn around and take a popular opinion that’s opposite of what they had agreed with you.

Due to their need to be liked, they will agree with everything you say and never tell you what they really feel or think.

Pushovers will ruin your life in unexpected ways. They will ruin your new business, slow down efforts to complete a project at work, or destroy your plans to mend fences with other people.

They’re hostile for no reason

This is the most common characteristic of difficult people. They are hostile all the time and you can’t tell why they are that way or what you did to make them hostile towards you. According to them, frustrating you with insults, getting violent and succumbing to anger is the greatest motivator in their lives.

These are a few of the characteristics that difficult people at work, at home and in business possess. There are more others, but these seem common among most scenarios. Difficult people can cause increased stress in your life, depression in your marriage and lack of progress in your career.

Related Article: 10 Habits that Keep You Frustrated, Overwhelmed and Unfulfilled

How to Handle Difficult People and Reduce Stress

Unlike negative people, you cannot decide to avoid difficult people permanently. They are available at your workplace in form of co-workers and bosses.

They are in your home as children, spouses, in-laws, siblings or parents. You also find them in your business disguised as employees, suppliers or high-paying clients.

Luckily, you can learn how to handle them and avoid increased stress in your life. Here are 5 ways you can reduce stress that’s brought about by difficult people.

1. Examine yourself

Sometimes, it pays to evaluate who the difficult person is. This is because you may find that the difficult person has been you all along. This is not strange and neither is it something new you have to get accustomed to.

So, ask yourself, “Who is the difficult person in my life?” Is it you, your co-workers, boss, family member, friend or your business connections?

By figuring out the difficult party in your life, you can effectively learn how to deal with future difficulties in your life. If you are the difficult person, then invest in your personal development so that you become more positive.

2. Don’t join them

Assuming you are not the difficult person in your life, it’s time to focus on the people around you. Unfortunately, just like negativity is contagious, so are difficult people.

If you hang around a difficult person for a long time, you too can start picking up their negative character traits. It is for this reason that you must keep your guard up when it comes to dealing with difficult people.

If your parent(s), sibling(s), in-laws, husband, your boss, co-worker or favourite client is the difficult person in your life, make sure you do not absorb their traits.

Understand them as they are, keep your distance, and don’t allow yourself to take up their bad characteristics. This is not easy when the person is your spouse, but you have to find a way to reduce their toxicity.

Related Article: 8 Toxic Relationships that You Need to Detox From

3. Refrain from agreeing with them

When dealing with a difficult or negative person, it can be easy to agree with their sentiments.

For instance, let’s say you are in a new workplace and the colleague you’ve been assigned to work with is always negative about the boss.

Because you are new and don’t want to rub a new colleague the wrong way, you find yourself agreeing with what is being said. You also find yourself siding with them in times of conflict with other colleagues, despite your better judgement.

This is also true when you join a new family and the grapevine is to warn to you stay away from a member of that family for one reason or another.

In business you see the same scenario when you are looking for potential clients, and other “trustworthy” people in your industry already have an opinion towards one particular prospect or connection.

While it’s acceptable to borrow other’s opinions or to conduct your research on people before actually getting into a business deal, you need to be careful who you choose to follow. You may take advice blindly from a difficult person whose job is to cause chaos.

To avoid this, examine the characteristics of the people you meet, decide if they are the difficult kind and refrain from agreeing with their statements. By demonstrating that you don’t blindly agree with what is said, you can establish a strong boundary that’s not easily broken. This boundary will give you peace of mind.

Unfortunately, just like negativity is contagious, so are difficult people. Click To Tweet

4. Offer solutions to their problems

Based on the characteristics of difficult people we mentioned above, you will find that most difficult people are plagued by two major things: being highly critical and knowing everything. They hardly offer solutions but are quick to point out the problems and negative outcomes of an idea.

When dealing with a difficult person, learn how to shut them down. For instance, a know-it-all will either be genuinely smart about a topic or pretend to know what the outcome will be.

To counter any negativity or verbal attack during a work meeting, family gathering or business meeting, make sure you have done your research and have all the facts.

This will give you an upper hand whenever someone tries to put down your idea or undermines your suggestion.

5. If all else fails, ignore them or play dumb

Sometimes, playing dumb can be all the solution that you need to deal with difficult people. Because you cannot win in a verbal exchange with a hostile person, or in an argument with one (e.g. in-laws who get dramatic and drag your spouse into the argument), ignoring them can be a big win.

O.A. Battista’s quote, “There are times when silence is the best way to yell at the top of your voice” is especially true when trying to deal with difficult people. Instead of engaging these people in a brawl (they would love this) give them the silent treatment and pretend whatever they say or do doesn’t get to you.

If their actions are really hurtful, you can talk to someone later who will help you escape the frustration and pain of it all. This works well if you execute it immediately after a difficult situation.

Related Article: In-laws or Outlaws?


Difficult people are a normal part of our lives. They are with us every day and in all major events of our lives.

You can try to avoid them like you would negative people, but in the journey towards success, it is inevitable that you’ll have to deal with them. They factor in during decision-making and when you’re working on getting what you want in your life, career or business.

For these reasons, it is important that you master how to deal with difficult people. By doing so, you don’t have to worry about them stressing your life or causing you pain in your daily activities.

“There are times when silence is the best way to yell at the top of your voice.” O.A. Battista Click To Tweet

Are you stressing over the difficult people in your life?

As you may have discovered already, difficult people are here to stay. You can choose to let them continue stressing your life or decide to learn how to handle them. If you decide to learn how to deal with them, the simple tips highlighted above can help.

Also, you can enrol in a program that guarantees you a stress-free life by learning how to cope with various difficulties in your life.

Over to you…

Do you have other strategies for handling difficult people? Please share what has worked for you in the Comments below.

(Image Credit: Sira Anamwong at Free Digital Photos)

Selipha Kihagi is a content writer, freelance writer and digital marketer living in Nairobi, Kenya. She spends her days creating blog posts and articles for the purpose of informing, entertaining, educating and inspiring action. She believes that the written word is an important tool towards effecting change in the world. If you share this belief, find her on LinkedIn for a personal interaction.


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Is your relationship holding you back from success?

your relationship

Let’s face it; success is not an overnight occurrence.

You don’t go to bed hoping you’ll succeed and wake up the next day having achieved it. Certain factors are required to work together over a period of time to achieve success.

Factors required include having the right mindset, goal setting capabilities, hard work, resilience, and dedication, among others.

Additionally, you have to surround yourself with the right people. These are people who are quick to offer support, motivation and push you to do better.

This is where your relationship comes in. Your husband, boyfriend or that friend you’ve been spending most of your time with plays a big role in your success journey.

In fact, research has shown that your spouse’s personality influences your daily motivation, output, decisions and the extent to which you can dream.

Today, let’s take a deeper look at your relationship. Using fresh eyes, evaluate whether your relationship is holding you back from success. And then plan to take action.

Here are 4 signs to look out for during the self-evaluation.

Signs that Your Relationship is Holding You Back from Success

1. You don’t get congratulated as often as you should

You know that wonderful feeling when someone you love congratulates you for good work done? Or when you overcome a barrier that could have cost you your new business? Or that feeling when you get home, share the news about your promotion and your husband says, “Congratulations! Let’s go out and celebrate”?

Being congratulated is a powerful feeling. It means much more to you when your spouse or romantic partner congratulates you than when your boss, business partner or clients do it.

You feel appreciated, loved and empowered to keep going until you reach your dreams. Nothing can stop you when your relationship offers you this kind of support.

The opposite is true when your partner does not appreciate your efforts, celebrate your wins or encourage you to become the best version of yourself.

You tend to feel lost, drained and constantly frustrated. Your mind is filled with thoughts of why they don’t appreciate you. This has the potential to bring down your motivation and hold you back from succeeding.

Related Article: 10 Nasty Habits that Keep You Frustrated, Overwhelmed and Unfulfilled

2. You hardly ever discuss your goals

When was the last time you shared your business goals, work goals or life goals with your spouse or partner? When was a time you sat down and discussed your career or business goals in depth? And when you did, what reception did you get?

For many of you, I believe your answers lead towards “I can’t remember the last time”, or “Almost never”.

Many women around the world, and especially in Africa, are afraid to discuss their goals with their husbands and boyfriends because they are afraid of how it will be received. You do this, not because you do not know your spouse, but because you already expect a negative outcome.

This is not entirely your fault. From birth, women are generally conditioned to believe that a man’s career is more important than the woman’s. The kitchen and taking care of kids is a woman’s job and men are supposed to work and provide.

Not many people talk to you about being a career woman or successful business woman. These are things you discover for yourself as you acquire knowledge and meet like-minded people.

It is for this reason that, as a woman, you find it hard to discuss goals in your relationship. You worry that your husband might ask questions like:

  • “Who will take care of the children when you take on more responsibilities at work?”
  • “Who will make dinner when you are out late for a business or work meeting?”
  • Or the classic, “Why do you need to earn more money when I provide enough for you and the kids?”

And yet, you are capable of succeeding to greater heights when your partner is supportive of your goals.

If you’re afraid of sharing your goals, start today and see how it all pans out. If you have discussed your goals with your partner and he did not support your vision, know you are a victim of your relationship holding you back and learn how to break free and succeed anyway.

3. Your ideas and suggestions are constantly met by negativity

Similar to discussing goals with your partner, negative reception to your ideas can be a great barrier for your success at work, in business or even as a partner. It’s hard to reach your maximum potential when your relationship is a ball of negativity.

This is because, whether you realize it or not, constant rejection of your ideas and suggestions affects your confidence, mental well-being, self-esteem and general outlook on life.

You might not notice it at first. However, if you look closely, you’ll find that you tend to lack confidence in your ideas and make a lot of decisions based on what other people say. These two habits directly affect your chances of success.

For instance, let’s say you work as a Key Accounts Manager and had an idea on how to close your next big client. Because you know this would be a big milestone for you (probably meaning more commissions or a promotion), the first thing you do is talk about it with your partner.

Unfortunately, your partner is not as enthusiastic of your idea as you are. He smirks at your idea and outlines all the possible ways the idea could go wrong. You don’t get a single positive thought.

Nor does he encourage you to mention it to your boss, or propose a different angle. He just hates it or thinks it’s stupid and doesn’t shy away from telling you exactly that.

The result is that you probably also end up hating your idea and don’t mention it at your next meeting. You also slowly start losing trust in your future suggestions, and never going after your BIG goals and dreams.

And just like that, success becomes something you see in other people and constantly dream about.

Related Article: How to Get What You Want in Your Relationship

4. You find it more peaceful to keep your achievements a secret

Achieving optimal success is difficult if you are that woman who keeps her achievements a secret from your partner. The secret could be a land you purchased, an investment you made, a business idea you’re working on, or a recent promotion.

Some women do this as a way of life. But there’s a large number who do it because life is better (and more peaceful) that way. If this is you, there will always be something holding you back.

Think about it…for how long can you keep your achievements or investments a secret from your partner?

You’ll probably attend a friend’s birthday party with your partner and someone will congratulate you on that promotion at work.

Or…imagine running into the property lawyer you worked with when purchasing land and she or he asks, “How is that land taking you? Did you already start building on it?” In that moment, nothing will save you from having to explain to your partner what’s going on.

This leads to a more strained relationship. More achievements kept a secret. This adds more barriers in your journey towards success because you cannot freely follow your dreams.

Achievements are meant to be celebrated, not kept a secret. If your relationship makes you want to keep them a secret, that’s a sign that it’s holding you back from achieving true success.

Achievements are meant to be celebrated, not kept a secret. Click To Tweet


I’m sure these signs are not new to you. You’ve probably lived through one or all of them at one time in your life. Or maybe you’re currently living them and have accepted this as a normal way of living.

According to you, “Ni kawaida” and “There is nothing I can do”. Well, you are wrong about these two things.

First, you can be in a relationship where your partner shares in your goals, supports what you do and is your number one motivator. So no, it is not “kawaida”. Your relationship should push you towards success, not hold you back from it.

Second, it is not true that there is nothing you can do about your relationship holding you back from success. In today’s world, there is always something that can be done to achieve fulfillment. You only need to want it and go for it.

For instance, you and your partner can participate in programs that can help your spouse become more supportive. As an individual, you can gain confidence by enrolling in a personal development program.

It all begins with a decision to try to use tactics that have been proven to work.

Are you tired of living your life on other people’s terms?

Turning your life around is possible using the information in this article. But did you know that you can make it easier with our personal development programs? Attending a professional program will not only help you change your current life, it will also make you execute decisions that you’ve avoided and act on your BIG goals.

Sign up for the next Live Your Life coaching program.

Selipha Kihagi is a content writer, freelance writer and digital marketer living in Nairobi, Kenya. She spends her days creating blog posts and articles for the purpose of informing, entertaining, educating and inspiring action. She believes that the written word is an important tool towards effecting change in the world. If you share this belief, find her on LinkedIn for a personal interaction.


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5 things to do if you’re single on Valentine’s Day

single on valentine's day quote

It’s the month of love and the marketing frenzy has begun. Being single on Valentine’s Day can be a challenge especially if you’re surrounded by couples.

Some single women spend Valentine’s Day mentally moaning all the relationships that didn’t work out. Others spend time bashing the day (and relationships) with other single women. You get temporary relief and then crash the next day when reality sets in…you’re still single.

What if you’re not angry or bitter, but you still want to enjoy the day without all the hype? Check out this list.

5 things to do if you’re single on Valentine’s Day

1. Give yourself a treat

Spend some money on yourself. Here are some ideas:

  • Buy yourself a trinket.
  • Indulge in a box of imported chocolates.
  • Buy the sexy lingerie you’ve been dying for.
  • Go to the spa.
  • Book a massage.
  • Have a fancy make-over.

In other words, do something just for yourself.

2. Host a party for singles

Venturing out alone or in a group of other single women may not be the best thing. With the love theme in all places, you will stick out and end up feeling worse.

So why not throw a party for all your single friends?

It can be as simple as a stay-at-home dinner, or an elaborate party with everyone dressing up. Pump up the music, bring the drinks, shake your bodies and dance the night away.

3. Have a girls night in

Invite your girlfriends for a movie night and watch your favourite chick flick or comedy. Pop some corn, and spread out the chocolate, wine, and other goodies that you all love.

You could also turn this into a slumber party and do your nails and hair as you drool over the hotties in the movies. Have fun and laugh all night.

You can also do this on your own if your friends are unavailable.

You can be happy even if you're single on Valentine's Day. Click To Tweet

4. Bond with children

Have a ball with your children. Treat them out and feed them their favourite junk food then watch a movie or do something physical like bowling.

If you don’t have children, offer to babysit your nieces and nephews to give your relatives a relaxed couple’s night. Both the children and their parents will love you for this.

5. Get perspective

There’s no other day in the year that drives home the fact that you’re single. This can lead to feeling lonely. While it’s OK to feel lonely, it’s not OK to wallow in your loneliness.

Instead of getting stuck in loneliness, you can use this time to get perspective about your life.

  • Celebrate the fact that you’re single: Create a list of things you like about being single. Let this boost your morale when people try to rub in the fact that you’re single.
  • Create a list of things you love about yourself: Self-love builds your self-esteem. If you want to have a great relationship in the future, you must first love yourself. Include your achievements and strengths in the list.
  • Identify what you want in a relationship: This is a great time to identify the kind of man you’d want to be with. Create a list of the qualities, values and characteristics you want in a man. Also, identify your personal qualities and characteristics that are potential relationship-breakers. Use this evaluation to guide your future relationships.
  • Get help from experts: It’s important to heal from past wounds before you can be in a healthy relationship. Seek help from a therapist if you’ve been abused in the past. You can also sign up to work with a relationship coach this year – most give special discounts for Valentine’s Day. If you want online resources, check out the Relationship Coaching Institute’s Conscious Dating for Singles website. Finally, you can work with a life coach if you want to create all-rounded balance in your life.


Don’t waste the day hiding from the fact that you’re single or stalking your exes on social media. Instead, stand out this year and enjoy the day alone or with friends and family.

You can be happy even if you’re single on Valentine’s Day. Resist pressure from the media, marketing, friends and family and celebrate the day of love.

Useful resources

Relationship Coaching Institute: Check out the Advanced Conscious Dating program in their store. You can get it as an eBook, paperback or audio program. If you want a coaching program, then sign up for the Conscious Dating Virtual Program for Singles. The free conscious dating website also has useful resources for singles, including:

  • Relationship Readiness Quiz.
  • Dating Red Flags Checklist.
  • A free excerpt of the Conscious Dating book (in PDF format).
  • Free conscious dating MP3.
  • Live teleseminars.

Brain Tracy’s 21 Great Ways to Meet and Marry The Man of Your Dreams: This is an audio program that you can download and listen to many times. Tracy gives tips that will help you prepare for and create a great relationship. Best of all, his advice is very practical and not woo woo stuff.

Over to you now…

Everyone deserves to be happy, whether you’re in a relationship or not. Despite the hype surrounding the day, being single on Valentine’s Day can be fun if you decide to make it so.

Are you single this Valentine’s? What other fun activities do you have to add to the list above? Let me know in the Comments.

(Image credit: Unsplash)

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that when you click on the links and buy from the vendor, I will receive an affiliate commission. However, I only recommend resources that I have used and that I believe will benefit you.


Caroline Gikonyo works with high-achieving professional and business women who are stuck, overwhelmed, overworked, unhappy and unfulfilled. She helps her clients become leaders in their professions and business industries once they get unstuck and eliminate time wastage. You can contact Caroline to request for a Strategy Session and find out how she can help you achieve better personal, professional, or business results.