No matter what our occupation, we all come in contact with negative, difficult people from time to time. Our primal instinct is to fight back, defend ourselves, and react to their negativity with some of our own. However, we are not animals who are led by instincts. We are human beings with the ability to control our responses.
To fight anger with anger merely depletes our own energy and brings us down to the same level.
Why are people difficult?
When people act negatively, it’s a reflection of what’s going on inside them. It’s not about you; it’s about them. It may be a complicated, troubled past or something as simple as a bad day that makes a person angry.
People who are bored and unhappy with their own lives might seek out conflict to boost their egos.
Our ego then responds by thinking, "I have to be right. If I don’t respond, I’m conceding defeat." Then we find ourselves engaged in a conflict that hurts us emotionally, mentally, and maybe even physically.
Ways to Deal with Difficult People
Here are some ways to deal with these difficult people. They may not all be easy (heck, none of them are easy!), but they will give you some peace of mind that you’re doing the right thing.
- Wait before responding. Our first instinct is to immediately react and retaliate. However, reacting to another individual’s negativity usually only eggs them on. You may even realize that a response is not even needed. Maybe the other person was merely venting and needs to simply be ignored because the attack was not personal at all.
If you spend some time cooling off before you respond, you can gain perspective on the situation. If necessary, remove yourself from the room when confronted with a difficult person. Go for a walk outside or walk up a flight of stairs to vent your frustrations.
- Stop rehashing the situation. This is especially a problem in office job situations where gossip spreads like wildfire. There will always be someone ready to listen to bad things about another. This is a waste of your time and energy. Drop the subject and move on.
The longer you dwell on the situation and talk about it with others, the more negative and angry you’ll become. Take the high road and step away from those who are gossiping or speak up and tell others you don’t want to listen to it.
- Express your feelings. If you simply need to get your emotions off your chest, try writing a letter. Vent all your thoughts, feelings, and hurt onto the piece of paper. Let it all out until there’s nothing left to say. Then crumple up the paper and throw it away. As you do, imagine your negative feelings being thrown away with it.
Don’t let your partner or spouse prevent you from speaking your mind. A true partnership is one in which the ideas and thoughts of each partner are heard.
- Put yourself in their shoes. This can be very difficult, but study the individual who’s hurting you. What’s going on his life right now? Maybe he’s having family issues or a health crisis.
Try to look at the situation as an objective observer detached from the situation. This can help give you some compassion for the difficult person in your life.
Prayer or meditation can help you stay calm and see a situation differently. Consider the difficulties this other person might be facing in life and think about how you would handle a similar situation.
- Respond positively. This may not always be possible and certainly won’t be easy. After looking over the situation and trying to understand where the other person was coming from, find something positive to say about him.
Remember the phrase, "Kill ‘em with kindness"? Very often responding calmly and with a friendly tone will diffuse a difficult situation.
Negative people are everywhere. Don’t let them take your happiness away or affect your mood. Teach these difficult people by leading a good example, by responding calmly, and by showing kindness. As a result, you’ll bring more happiness to others and find that you feel a greater happiness yourself.