At one time or another, we have all had dealings with difficult people. Do you remember the last time you did? Do you recall the last time someone intentionally spoke words to malign your character, question your motives, or to just upset you? It would seem that some go out of their way to make life difficult for others. How did you deal with it? What was the outcome? What can you do next time it happens? It’s a fact of life that we encounter difficult people with a negative attitude, who are toxic thinkers, who oppose what we think, sometimes for no other reason than to just be objectionable. Perhaps they simply don’t like us. Not everyone will, and that’s okay. Some people look for opportunities to trip us up, or will find almost any excuse to start an argument. But we certainly don’t have to go along with it.
5 Easy Rules to Deal with Difficult People
Remember that when you deal with difficult people, what is at stake here is your good name, your character, your higher self. You also need to consider your mental, emotional and spiritual health. How you handle any of this is also a factor to consider in your happiness. With this in mind, consider the following:
1. Keep Your Cool.
What is in your power to control at all times is your frame of mind. Your inner calm and contentment is more important than losing your temper. Remember that you have better things to do with your time and energy than to be embroiled in a heated argument. Even as draining as an argument is, you can recover your energy. But you will never get back the time you spend in an argument with difficult people.
2. Think Before You React.
Before you react, before you formulate a response, think about these things: Difficult people will only bother you to the degree you allow them. As someone has said, “Nobody can ever upset you without your permission.” If you react to someone who has learned to push your buttons, you can trigger an avalanche of emotions and witness the landslide of your own character. Remember, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) You don’t want to get buried under the weight of this unnecessary burden. Not reacting to difficult people sends a clear signal to calm down. Be patient and polite. By doing so, you set observable boundaries.
3. Don’t Take It Personally.
At all times, we are either presenting or perceiving. Usually, someone’s outward expression or reaction is really a reflection of some inner conflict within them. They mistakenly project it, however, onto someone else. You see, the trouble is within difficult people, so there is no need to take it personally. It is of greater help to understand, from the standpoint of compassionate awareness. Remember, too, you don’t know what is going on in the other person’s life. They may be dealing with hardships you know nothing about. These things could be causing a stress reaction in them and they may not even be aware of it. Be as understanding and sensitive to their feelings as you can. When the other person sees that you care, it is very possible they will change their attitude toward you. But, even if they don’t, you have maintained your higher self.
4. Look Within.
Is it possible that you have offended the other person, even unintentionally? Their feelings may be causing them to react negatively to you. If you find this to be true, waste no time in offering a sincere apology. Resolving a matter in a timely matter removes the buildup of animosity and bitter feelings. If this is not the case, know that you are in the clear. Have you said something that may have been taken out of context? If the other person is willing to listen, this may be the perfect opportunity to clear the air.
5. Finally, Dial It Down.
If you allow your ego the satisfaction of reacting, you will likely escalate the conflict and, as a consequence, rob yourself of your inner joy. Remember: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) There is no sense in adding fuel to the fire, is there? Instead, use every opportunity to de-escalate. If you cannot leave, you can redirect the conversation. At all times, take the high road. Be true to who you are. And, remember one more thing. You may have difficult people in your life at this time, but there is a pretty good chance you have been the difficult person in someone else’s life. Be humble. Be true to yourself. And, above all, be Christ-like at all times.
Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, counsel to non-profits, faith-based organizations and congregations, and a spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers all over the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m in love with my own.”