How to Deal With Difficult People in 2 Simple Steps

This is a sensitive subject.

It’s also a personal one.

Difficult people are out there.

You may be a difficult person for other people.

It’s complicated, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

So what do you do when you come across a difficult person?

Defining “Difficult”

First, let’s try to define “difficult.” What makes a person difficult? And why do difficult people affect our mental health so much?

To reiterate, someone you find difficult may not be someone I find as such. It’s a personal experience, and it’s an experience that is based on your history — your past relationships, your family upbringing, your mood, your recent experiences, and on and on.

I find someone difficult when they are so stubborn that they refuse to acknowledge other points of view. This is probably because I’m a highly agreeable person according to the Big 5 personality traits, and I want others to be just as agreeable. But others are not just as agreeable. They are who they are.

Still, it annoys me.

But you might go the other way. You might hate people who are too agreeable. You may think that they can’t make decisions, that they are always happy-go-lucky and going with the flow.

It’s a personal preference. And your mental health is an amalgamation of all your personal stuff.

If everything is so personal, how could I possibly help you with your situation?

How to Deal with Difficult People (2 Steps)

Follow this two-step process to deal with difficult people.

First, pause and analyze the situation

Don’t immediately jump to conclusions. When you encounter someone you perceive to be dreadfully difficult, pause for a second. Try not to react right away. Consider what you are feeling. Ask yourself questions.

What’s going on right now?

Why am I bothered by this person?

Could it be me? Am I being unreasonable?

Different questions lead to different answers, so try a few on for size.

What happens when you take a step back is this: Your brain and body move away from agitated mode to a more curious posture.

Curiosity opens you up to possibilities.

Second, decide how to act

The next step is when you decide what to do. I make this seem so simple, right? It’s not. It’s always a work in progress.

But I digress.

You’ve thought through the situation. You’ve (hopefully) asked yourself a few questions without Mr. or Mrs. Difficult getting too perturbed.

It’s time to act. So what do you do?

You tap into your higher aspirations. You tap into the best version of yourself. Consider if engaging in a conversation with said difficult person would benefit you in any way. If it would, go ahead and proceed with caution. But if it wouldn’t, it’s totally OK for you to disengage. Some difficult people will not like this, but it’s your prerogative to do what you want with your life.

Slowing down before you act will save you all kinds of trouble. It will help you make the best decisions for yourself. And that’s what matters.

Pursue Kindness…for Yourself

You deserve kindness. You deserve love.

And sometimes the most loving action you can take for yourself is to disengage from difficult people. It won’t always feel good in the moment, but your future self will thank you with even more love and kindness.

After all, you already have to deal with difficult people.

Don’t treat yourself so badly that you become one yourself.