Dealing with Difficult People – Your survival kit

This is a 2 part series. Part 1 addresses the different personality types. Then in part 2, we’ll look at how to deal with them in the workplace.

Your survival kit for difficult people is enhanced by your ability to read people. This first skill is avoidance. If you know someone is in a bad mood and you don’t have to interact with them today, don’t! If that’s not an option, here are some other ways to cope.

  • Set Boundaries. You don’t have to allow anyone to mistreat you.
  • Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself.
  • You are in control of your thoughts and behavior. Don’t allow them to pull out a response. Remind yourself, this person is in trouble. This blow up has little to do with the present situation and all about built up hostilities, anger, depression or some other feeling.
  • No not physically. If you are in physical danger, leave the situation immediately. However, verbally confronting the individual in a calm manner, can cause them to reset. Bullies don’t pick on someone who appears strong. Don’t apologize for not allowing someone to mistreat you.
  • Ask questions. Make them be specific in their list of grievances. Do not allow them to make generalizations.
  • Use the “Nice” approach. The old kill them with kindness. If you can keep from taking the attack personally and respond with kindness, you’ll generally disarm the situation and be able to have an actual conversation.
  • The last resort. But there are people who you just can’t work with or be around. No matter what tactic you deploy, the negative outweighs any positive gain. Those are the people you just need to cut out from your life. In a work situation, limit your exposure to just what is required in your position.

Difficult people find their way into all areas of our life. Once you understand the root of their behavior, you can find a tactic that allows you to work through a tough situation and possible find value in the relationship after all.

Dealing with Difficult People


This is a 2 part series. Part 1 addresses the different personality types. Then in part 2, we’ll look at how to deal with them in the workplace.

How difficult people affect you resides solely in your hands. Every person has the power to control their own thoughts and actions. We need to make the conscious choice to act versus react to a given situation.

But before we dig a little deeper, we need to get a few things straight. There are some basic rules to the universe that I need you to just accept and move along.

  1. The world is unfair.
  2. People will do what is best for them, not you.
  3. People won’t always do what they should.
  4. If it doesn’t belong to you, and you want it – you have to ask for it.

Have you accepted the rules? It’s my premise that the difficult people in life, have never, and will never, grasp those concepts. It’s always someone else’s fault. It’s never that someone worked hard to achieve success – somehow it just fell in their lap. You know exactly what I’m talking about, right? In fact you probably just thought of someone.

So let’s identify who it is that’s driving you nuts. I’m sure you can find someone in your life that falls into these categories.

There’s Subtle Shannon. She’s the queen of off handed compliments. The “You look great in that dress, but what’s up with your hair?” There’s always a “but” at the end of their sentence.

Or how about Sneaky Steve? He makes everything a joke. “Don’t get mad, I was just kidding.”

Betty Bomber just explodes and the fallout hits you square in the face.

Stacey Sniper is one of the most destructive. She appears friendly, but takes pot shots behind your back.

Frank Fault Finder is the eternal pessimist.

Eric Encyclopedia knows everything about anything and remembers anything anyone has ever done to him.

And finally there is Victim Victor. He has an ever present cloud following him. His view of the world is negative and no amount of cheering him up will accomplish the mission.

After identifying the saboteurs of your good mood, the best thing you can do is accept their behavior has little to do with you and everything to do with them. By accepting this premise and putting in measures to protect yourself you can out maneuver this motley crew of negativity and survive the difficult people in your path.

PR on a shoestring 

When you are just starting your business there are some really inexpensive ways to create a public presence for your product or organization. This also works if you are trying to convince upper management to allocate funding for a PR budget.

Begin by simply clipping articles and web mentions for your organization. Make sure you include a masthead or name plate. I recommend removing the date so that you can use them for years to come. Package them in a PDF and have them ready to send out when someone requests information about you.

Use interns. They work cheap. Are enthusiastic. They typically have lots of ideas. Make sure you outline their duties and give them real work. Not only are you assisting with preparing the next generation of communicators, you are paying it forward by sharing your skill and interest. Most interns will work unpaid if necessary for class credit. However, if you can arrange a “bonus” at the end of their time, they will go back to school talking about how great you treated them and that sets up the next batch of interns to come.

Can’t find interns, utilize services like FiverrYou can find great people who will build your logo and help with just about any digital application for just a few bucks. 

Network with your peers. We all know about acquiring (aka borrowing or stealing) ideas. If you have a group of peers who you respect, work smarter together. Share ideas. Adapt something that worked for someone else. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Sponsor a workshop. Invite people to come learn about you while giving them something that makes it a benefit to them. This sets you up as an expert in your area and gives you a front place in line when they actually need to hire someone to get the work done.

Work smarter not harder. It’s a waste of time to use a speech just once. Repurpose it for new groups. Format it into a newsletter or article. Turn it into a workshop.

Write for publications. Getting articles published online or in print gives you instant credibility. Ask your favorite reads for an editorial calendar. Tailor your ideas to fit their format. The most common articles are how to, and top 10 lists. The editorial pages in local newspaper are one of the most read sections and also one that takes local contributions. Editorials aren’t just about politics. You’ll find business and community concerns there too. Build your following locally, then branch out.

You don’t have to invest big bucks when you are just starting out to generate positive results. Try implementing just a few of these ideas and watch your impact soar.