11 Strategies to Deal with Difficult People

Dealing with difficult people can be confusing. Some of them don’t even realize the harm they cause, while others seem to enjoy stirring up trouble. Regardless, they make life more complicated, causing tension and stress.

Research shows that stress can harm your brain. Even short periods of stress can affect your ability to think clearly and remember things. Prolonged stress can damage brain cells, impacting your performance.

Work-related stress is usually easy to spot, like when you’re trying to secure a crucial grant. But it’s the unexpected stressors, like difficult people, that catch you off guard and hurt you the most.

Studies have found that dealing with difficult people triggers a strong stress response in the brain, similar to facing other negative situations. Whether it’s dealing with negativity, cruelty, victim mentality, or irrational behavior, difficult people can push your brain into a stressed-out mode, which is best avoided.

Deal with Difficult People
Photo: Happierhuman.com

Being able to control your emotions and stay calm under pressure is crucial for your performance. While there are many strategies for handling difficult people, the key is to focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t. Remember, you have more control than you think.

Set Boundaries

Dealing with complainers and negative individuals can be draining because they dwell on their problems without seeking solutions. They may want you to join their pity party to feel better about themselves. While it’s natural to want to be sympathetic, it’s essential to set limits to protect yourself from being dragged into their negativity.

Just as you wouldn’t sit around breathing in second-hand smoke all day, you shouldn’t subject yourself to endless complaining. Setting boundaries means knowing when to distance yourself.

One effective way to do this is by gently steering the conversation towards solutions. Ask the complainer how they plan to address the issue. This can help them either quiet down or shift the focus in a more positive direction.

Rise Above

Difficult people can drive you crazy with their irrational behavior. It’s important to recognize that their actions often defy logic. Instead of letting their behavior affect you emotionally, it’s better to detach yourself from the situation.

Don’t engage in their emotional rollercoaster. Treat your interactions with them like a scientific observation or a counseling session. Focus on the facts rather than getting caught up in their chaos. By distancing yourself emotionally, you can maintain your composure and avoid being drawn into their irrationality.

Stay Emotionally Aware

Being able to maintain emotional distance starts with being aware of your own feelings. If you don’t recognize when someone is getting under your skin, you won’t be able to stop them from pushing your buttons. It’s okay to take a step back and gather yourself when you find yourself in challenging situations.

Think of it like this: if someone on the street claims to be a famous historical figure, like John F. Kennedy, you probably wouldn’t argue with them.

Similarly, when dealing with a coworker who’s thinking seems off-track, sometimes it’s best to just nod along. Giving yourself time to plan your response is often more effective than immediately trying to correct them.

Set Boundaries

Many people underestimate their ability to establish boundaries, believing they have no control over chaotic situations. But this isn’t true. Once you learn to rise above someone’s behavior, you’ll find it easier to predict and understand them.

This understanding allows you to make rational decisions about when and where you engage with them. For instance, even if you collaborate closely with someone on a project, it doesn’t mean you have to interact with them as much as with other team members.

Establishing boundaries requires conscious effort. If you let things unfold naturally, you’ll end up in constant difficult conversations. But by setting boundaries and deciding when to engage with a difficult person, you can regain control over the situation. The key is to stick to your boundaries, even when the person tries to push past them, which they inevitably will.

Choose Their Battles Wisely

Smart individuals understand the importance of picking their battles, especially when dealing with toxic people. Engaging in conflicts fueled by unchecked emotions can result in significant damage.

By recognizing and managing their emotions, they can decide when it’s worth standing their ground and when it’s better to step back and preserve themselves for another day.

Focus on Solutions, Not Problems

Where you direct your attention greatly impacts your emotional well-being. Dwelling on problems tends to breed negative emotions and stress. Conversely, concentrating on solutions fosters a sense of control and empowerment, leading to positive emotions and reduced stress.

When dealing with toxic individuals, obsessing over their troublesome behavior only gives them more influence over you. Instead of fixating on their negativity, smart people shift their focus to how they can effectively manage the situation.

This approach puts them back in control, making them more effective and reducing the stress associated with interacting with difficult people.

They Remember, But Don’t Dwell

Emotionally intelligent individuals are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean they forget. Forgiveness involves letting go of past grievances to move forward, but it doesn’t necessarily mean giving someone another chance.

Smart people refuse to let others’ mistakes weigh them down unnecessarily. Instead, they release them quickly and assertively safeguard themselves from future harm.

They Combat Negative Self-Talk

At times, you might absorb the negativity of others. While it’s natural to feel bad about how someone treats you, your internal dialogue—the thoughts you have about your feelings—can either amplify negativity or help you overcome it.

Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unproductive, and harmful. It drags you into a downward emotional spiral that’s hard to escape. Avoiding negative self-talk is crucial for maintaining emotional well-being.

They Prioritize Sleep

The importance of sleep in enhancing emotional intelligence and managing stress cannot be overstated. During sleep, your brain recharges, ensuring you wake up alert and clear-headed. Lack of sleep diminishes self-control, attention, and memory, even without additional stressors.

Sleep deprivation also increases stress hormone levels. A good night’s sleep fosters a positive, creative, and proactive mindset, equipping you with the perspective needed to effectively handle toxic individuals.

They Lean on Support

Trying to handle everything alone may seem appealing, but it’s not effective. Dealing with toxic individuals requires recognizing your own limitations. This involves reaching out to your support system to gain perspective on dealing with difficult people. Everyone has someone—whether at work or outside—who supports them and can offer insights into challenging situations.

Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their advice when needed. Sometimes, just explaining the situation can provide a fresh perspective. Often, others can see solutions that you can’t because they’re not as emotionally invested.

Putting It All Together

Before you can master this approach, you’ll likely face some challenges. Interactions with difficult people can be touchy and may test your resolve. Fortunately, the brain’s plasticity allows it to adapt and change with practice, even in the face of failure.

By implementing these healthy, stress-reducing techniques for handling difficult individuals, you can train your brain to manage stress more effectively and reduce the likelihood of negative effects.

Deal with Difficult People

Leave a Comment