Jan 222013

dealing with difficult people

How To Deal With Difficult People – Take Two

Here are five more ideas on how to deal with difficult people.  This is a challenge that will continue until there are no more difficult people; in other words, it’s going nowhere.  Since the problem isn’t going away, I’ve put some more ideas together for you, since my first post on dealing with difficult people – here you go – execute any or all of these with care:

How To Deal With Difficult People Rule #11

Document everything.  Don’t allow the difficult person to run you over without a record of what’s happening.  If you don’t document everything and “put a stake in the ground,” should the time come to escalate (or even litigate) the problem, you will have no record that this has been a pattern of behavior, rather than a one-off instance of poor judgment.

How To Deal With Difficult People Rule #12

Find an ally. If you are finding no success in persuading the difficult person to be reasonable, involve another person in the situation.  That person should be someone the difficult person respects, either because they want to, or just because they have to.  In other words, if you can’t bring someone in whom the person respects as a person, then bring in someone whose authority they must at least respect.  Often times, that will bring the matter (or attitude) to quick resolution.  You must be willing to take this step, so the person knows that you’re not an isolated, disenfranchised victim.

How To Deal With Difficult People Rule #13

Be willing to walk away.  Make sure the difficult person understands, in no uncertain terms, that you are not willing to be subjected to abusive behavior.  It should be very clear to them that you are willing to walk away, from the situation, the company, the deal, etc. rather than be abused.  If you don’t take a strong position, anyone who is accustomed to running over others will use you for target practice.  Their abuse will be constant and unending, until you’re willing to stand up to them.

How To Deal With Difficult People Rule #14

Use an example.  Without divulging any confidential information or committing any crimes, give them examples of how you typically deal with such abusive behavior.  Tell them you’ll give them references, if they’d like.  The thing about bullies is that once you come back at them, they usually back down quite quickly.  Rather than take on a worthy adversary, they’d rather spend their time looking for someone else who will just “roll over”.

How To Deal With Difficult People Rule #15

 Find their weak point.  Most difficult people are difficult because they are bitter.  They feel as though they’ve been wronged on a macro and/or micro level and they want to pass on their misery.  As the saying goes, misery loves company.  If you find one or more of their reasons for bitterness, these become an offensive weapon for you to use, once they start their abuse routine.  Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.

I realize that the previous list of tips for dealing with difficult people was not as direct or aggressive, particularly when compared to the last couple of approaches on the list above.  Take the high road when you can, but in some instances, you need to stand up for yourself and protect your interests in the face of a difficult person who is aggressive and doesn’t play fair.  In those moments, usually you have to take the gloves off and give it back to them directly – that’s the only way to get the message across that you won’t be their punching bag.  The last couple on this second list are more appropriate in those situations.

All that being said, if you’re dealing with someone who is (or may be) mentally imbalanced and capable of physical violence, then scrap this list and contact the authorities.  You will need to use your discretion to make sure you stay safe when you’re taking on difficult people and bullies.  Whatever approach you take, don’t be a willing victim.

I look forward to your thoughts!  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin



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  • I have a near photographic memory, at least in terms of conversations, but even so, I think documenting a problem really becomes important…especially the first time you notice that the story CHANGES.

    At that point, I make notes so that if it comes up again, I can essentially ask, “Well, which is it?” Being called on their story is sometimes enough to snap them out of it, or at least make them realize that you aren’t one to mess with.

  • Good point, Patrick. I’ve also seen this behavior at times — once they realize that you’re keeping track of what’s going on and not simply putting up with it, bullies and other types of difficult people decide to move on.

  • Documenting is necessary. I always forget, even things I think I could never forget. Life just happens. I also agree with walking away. Sometimes it’s best to just be done and remove yourself from the situation. I wish we all could just get along, but life doesn’t work that way, does it?


  • It would be nice if we could all just get along, but as you said, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way.

  • And patience. Don’t forget patience. No sense losing your cool over some difficult people.