We all know them, sometimes we even are them. People who seem to enjoy making others’ lives difficult – Difficult People

They can be employees, employers, vendors, friends, family, customers, even the occasional stranger, although in general strangers have less of an impact on how we feel.

How we Feel? What has that got to do with dealing with difficult people?

Managing difficult people is really all about managing ourselves. We cannot change others, we can change how we respond, react, and feel about what others do and say.  With that in mind, here are 4 specific methods of dealing with those we have labeled as difficult


“May I speak freely?” 

The goal with this approach is to have an open and honest discussion without repercussion on you for broaching a delicate subject. The hope is that the person you are dealing with is reasonable, and able to understand how their actions are impacting you and those around you.

Especially in a work environment it would be reasonably expected that you could have this conversation and stick to the most recent specific behavior that has been an issue.

We all know that not everyone fits our definition of reasonable.

This is the most straight-forward approach, a couple of tips

  1. Be sure you are prepared to take the consequences from what you say
  2. Be sure what you say is honest and done in a respectful way


Say Goodbye

While leaving can be a drastic solution, sometimes it is the right one. That may mean changing vendors, firing a client or team member, or quitting a job.

If you are ready to do this to protect your own sanity, try #1 first, what have you got to lose?

Again, be sure you manage yourself in a respectful and focused manner. If you must get a jab in, keep it specific, short and be sure it is only heard by the party in question.  Others may ask why you have left, moved on, etc. Answer honestly without getting drawn into a mud throwing conversation.  Could be as simple as “It was in everyone’s interest to move on”


Sorry, Cannot Hear You

A sudden case of deafness can be a good thing in some situations. Especially if the difficult behavior is unusual for the relationship. Maybe they are having a hard day, give them the grace of letting their comments, actions go unnoticed.

This does not mean, let them walk all over you. What it means is breathe.  Is this situation worth changing my life over?  Will it matter in 3 hours, 3 days, 3 months, 3 years?  If you answer yes beyond 3 days, you will need to consider handling it rather than ignore.



When there is a strong desire to remain in the current relationship, for whatever reason, remember, you can only change you.

Listen to what the person has to say while protecting your heart, mind, soul, and energy from their unkind, unfair, and unreasonable behavior.

Filter what they are trying to tell you and block out the negative unnecessary part of the conversation.  You may have heard of active listening; this is a good place for it.

When they say

“What is wrong with you, you know how important this client is how could you send them that, even if it is what they asked for it Is not what I wanted to send them, from now on all communication with clients will have to go through me to make sure we never have another situation like this again.”

What you may want to say

“I gave the client exactly want they asked for and there is really no reason for you to be involved. Having to run everything past you is going to slow everything down, that’s crazy.”

What you will say is

“So what I am hearing you say is that you want me to run all work past you before the clients see it, is that correct?”

Then simply agree and do it. doing active listening. That alone may have the strongest impact on the difficult person seeing themselves in a new light. Use a calm, low, respectful tone when

This is not giving in as long as you protect yourself by not allowing the negativity in too. While this is not a long term solution, it can be very useful while you work toward a better relationship with this person or decide on your next step.


PS   If you are or have had a manager like the one described in option #4, read the next blog on “How to Build a Successful Team”  Stop getting caught up in the only I can do it mentality and allow your business to grow.