How to Deal With Difficult People, Part I


All of my work is grounded on four beliefs: while growing up, most of us never learned healthy, effective communication skills; old habits die hard; we can change no one, but if you change how you routinely deal with a person, then they’re forced to change how they deal with you; communication is about psychology and strategy — understand how people think and then you can decide how to effectively communicate with them.

So many of us put up with rude, inappropriate behaviors. Instead of speaking up, the desire to be liked, to avoid conflict, or to protect another’s feelings takes over and we end up keeping our mouths shut and our resentments bottled-up inside.

Frustration, stress, and misplaced anger are the by-products of giving difficult people permission to mistreat us. People come to me believing that they have no alternatives when dealing with the difficult people in their lives but the truth is, you can stop the cycle of frustration. In order to come up with a strategy for dealing with the difficult behaviors in your life, there are two questions you must first answer: What makes difficult people difficult for you? What makes you difficult?

Until you understand why a person’s behavior is difficult for you, you won’t be able to effectively practice any of the strategies I’m going to give you. It’s not enough to accuse people of being difficult. This is not an “us” vs. “them” scenario. The fact is, each one of us can be and has been difficult to other people. Gain insight into what causes you to be difficult and you’ll gain insight into what makes other people difficult. Then you will be able to come up with ways to manage and defuse difficult people and behavior.

What are the skills needed to productively and tactfully deal with difficult behavior?

Here’s where psychology comes into play. The fact is people act out in difficult ways when they believe you don’t understand or care about their needs and concerns.

Dealing tactfully with and managing difficult people is all about reassuring them, convincing them, that you do “see” them. In learning how to manage difficult behavior — others and our own — it’s essential to recognize this CORE TRUTH:

We all do what we do, and say what we say, for a reason. We don’t just randomly do and say things. We are always trying to accomplish something. We do and speak (the good, the bad, the ugly) for a reason. As people, we are purpose driven.

With this insight in mind, next week I’ll tell you simple ways with which you can reassure a “difficult person” that you see and understand the source of their concern and agitation.

Please send your questions to JP Reynolds at:

Follow me on Twitter: @jprweddings

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