Dealing with Difficult People
“It requires less character to discover the faults of others than it does to tolerate them.” – J. Petit Sen
No one is born with a capacity of infinite patience. It’s a general, sometimes unsaid rule that as we get older, we are capable of understanding and empathizing more with other people, especially with those that give us a hard time. Or at least we try to in some cases. The things that we need to know this information sooner rather than later.
I believe that from a very young age we become readily exposed to all kinds of personalities in an environment mostly known as school. I never understood why there isn’t a class on social interaction, pacific confrontation, not even meditation or any other way of showing youngsters how to deal effectively with people and their emotions.
We are thrown into the void and struggle through our blossoming years in a trial and error of figuring people out. My point is that from early on we face dealing with difficult people and not everyone knows how to handle the situation in a healthy manner. Some never do, unfortunately (see, those are the difficult ones).
We’re probably all familiar with that annoying co-worker that likes to create conflict, bullies/haters for no reason, nagging family members, victimized friends/partner, pushy and mean customers, etc. sadly, the world is full of angst ridden humans that don’t know how to control their negative emotions and become a challenge to deal with. The thing is…how exactly should we deal with them?
Luckily, the universe conspired in my favor in granting me a job at an airline taking charge of the lost and found baggage department. This translates into facing angry passengers every day flaring up into a ballistic rage about their missing luggage. Some blame you, some don’t.
Some stomp and scream as if I were a magical genie with the ability of zapping their bags into existence. Some huff and puff and threaten you till you call security. Some stare at you as if they were secretly placing a curse upon you in silence. Every once in a blue moon, some gracefully fill out a claim, thank you for your service and wait till you call them the next day about their bag.
Why I call this a favor, you might wonder. Well it taught me how to deal with people of all kinds, color, shapes and sizes. I get asked many times in how I never snapped and told someone to piss off after they’d gone lengths to insult me for something that was out of my hands. I couldn’t lash out and be rude without potentially being fired, so what was I to do but to approach things rationally? Behold character building at its best.
So as we typically say, no one is perfect which is why you can’t expect everyone to act in a perfect way. Opportunely I was able to learn the art of dealing with difficult people from early on which is something that helps you in every aspect of life, whether it’s at work, with family, friends or blatant angry strangers.
Here are some handy things to keep in mind:
- Never take things personally. The world does not revolve around you’re probably not the cause of your “difficult person’s” beef. They might want to provoke you, but if you’re conscious that you’re not the cause of the problem then you have no reason to engage in an emotional response.
- Rationality is your best friend. When being verbally attacked in an irrational manner, always be polite and respond as objectively as possible. If you’re approached with something like “This is your fault!” you can respond with “I’m sorry that this is upsetting for you, let’s find a solution.”
- Your calm projects calm to others. Having a calm, assertive and comprehensive stance will show your “difficult person(s)” that there is a solution and that you’re willing to help, thus showing that there is no need for them to be altered as well.
- Never use blame. This will only turn odds away from your favor making the other person feel victimized and cause a stronger opposition.
- Listen and show it. Everyone likes to be heard especially difficult/conflictive people. They thrive on attention so give it to them. Let them know you’re listening to their point by pitching in positive or neutral feedback and keeping eye contact. This will also help you to formulate a better response.
- Focus on problem solving. Find ways to help that person see clarity, tell them how the problem can be solved if it’s within your power, or give them words of encouragement. There is always a way out or something positive to be said!
- Accept that you won’t win, and you will. Drop your pride and don’t try to win an argument with someone who is unreasonable. Agree to disagree, or let that person think they’ve won. In the end, it will be a headache less for you.
- Cut them off. In extreme cases when someone is being impossibly unbearable you might have to resort to politely excusing yourself and walking away. Come back five minutes later if you feel you’ve got the resolve.
These tips have unconsciously helped me when I faced my difficult people and it’s truly satisfying to be able to write them down for other people to know and follow without having to go through a sticky mess.
Do you have any experiences or positive tips you have used to face someone conflictive?