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.

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Common Characteristics of Difficult People

It’s very easy to form a 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 a 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.

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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.

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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 the stress 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: Negativity Is Contagious, Study Finds

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.

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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.

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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 on 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.

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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 will help you reduce stress as you learn 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: Pixabay)

    2 replies to "How to Handle Difficult People and Reduce Stress"

    • Judy Owiti

      Thank you Selipha. Nice article.
      Relationships are not easy and many times we are forced to deal with difficult people. It requires a lot of wisdom and discernment to navigate through. One area left out is when there is a 3rd person in the mix. For example if you are dealing with a difficult teacher of your child, you have to be very careful how you handle them because you don’t want your child to be victimized.

      • Caroline Gikonyo

        Thanks for that insight Judy. Yes, we need to tread carefully when dealing with a situation where someone else can be harmed as a consequence of our intervention. You’ve brought up quite a number of other scenarios to my mind.

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