Dealing With Difficult People


Did you ever say to yourself, “If it weren’t for difficult people, my life and work would be a lot easier!”. If you’re honest, you have said it many times. However, have you ever thought about whether you might be one of those “difficult people” in the minds of others? Yes, I’m talking to you. “Difficulty” is in the eye of the beholder, just like “beauty”. And, some days, you may be a difficult person to yourself! Sometimes we need to just get out of our own way.In my coaching psychology practice, I focus on a few key things to reduce the “difficulty” between my clients and others they experience in life and work. 

First, you need to know yourself well. This means knowing what you like, and what you don’t like. It means knowing what stresses you, and what relaxes you. It means having a hobby or two or three that energizes you or restores lost energy to counterbalance some of the unwanted, but necessary things you must do in life. 

Secondly, it’s not enough to just know it, you must be able to articulate it in terms of ‘what you prefer’ to happen or ‘how you prefer’ to be treated. In other words, ask for what you want instead of complaining about what you don’t or talking behind the other person’s back about how difficult they make your life. 

Thirdly, you need to be curious about what others like and ask them regularly for their preferences. Whether your difficult person is a family member, a staff member, or a spouse, asking curious questions in a genuine way to know them on a deeper level, with the intent to change how you interact with them, is something we have been told to do perhaps, but neglect too often. 

Of course, asking others for their preferences doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be abused, manipulated, or walked on. It simply means, that if you don’t ask questions, you may never know and you may waste an awful lot of time guessing or assuming what they want incorrectly. This is the core of a significant amount of relationship breakdown, assumptions leading to passive aggressive responses, ultimately leading to those involved retreating to opposite corners of a relationship.

One thing is certain, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It’s not selfish, it’s just being clear. It doesn’t have to be loud or obnoxious, just certain. If your ‘difficult’ person is not genuinely interested in what you prefer, once articulated well, you can then begin to question whether they are someone you want impacting your world on a regular basis. 

Marleta Black