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10 Simple Ways to Calmly Deal with Difficult People

Difficult people are everywhere. But that doesn’t mean you have to lose your cool when dealing with them. Here’s how you can handle them with ease.

how to deal with difficult people

We all have that one friend who gets on our nerves no matter the situation. Even with numerous cocktails to loosen you up, dealing with a difficult person can leave an icky aftertaste in your mouth. [Read: 7 tips for getting rid of a toxic friend]

If you’re one of the lucky few who don’t know anyone who fits into that category, then you must have at least had the displeasure of coming across unreasonable people in your life. Whether it’s the cranky car park attendant or the teller at the bank whom you somehow always get stuck with, dealing with unreasonable folks is no walk in the park, especially if you have a short temper.

Dealing with difficult people

When it comes to dealing with difficult people with grace, Matty is a great example. He is by far one of the coolest cats around. He lives by the beach and spends his time surfing and playing the part of a hippie surf photojournalist. He whiles his time away chilling at the Volcom House on Oahu’s North Shore and gets paid by surf magazines to fly around the world to cover competitions.

Matty is by far one of the most relaxed and patient people on planet earth. However, there is one person who manages to get under his skin and that is his nemesis Andy. Andy is a carbon copy of Matty with the only difference being that Andy has blonde hair, and according to more than one person, is obnoxious as hell.

Andy has competitively outwitted Matty in every aspect possible such as snagging interviews that Matty had planned to feature, dropped in on waves that were clearly Matty’s and so on. Any normal person would have flipped out by now but Matty just goes on with his day with a smile on his face.

So how does Matty do it? How does he keep his aloha spirit intact without losing it with someone as bratty and arrogant as Andy? We all have that colleague, friend, sibling, neighbor, mailman and/or landlord who deserves to be left isolated on a desert island. How we react to the unreasonableness is what defines us as human beings.

10 simple ways to deal with difficult people

Here are some tips that Matty lives by. Although his top advice to “smoke pot” and “live free” were not exactly appropriate for this list, or legal all around the world, we’ll just skip that! Beyond that, here are 10 other simple things that you can do.

#1 Listen well. As tempting as it is to just zone out when you are in the company of a difficult person, this is not a good idea, because for one, it’s not going to stop them from being annoying, and second, it may put you in a tough spot once people realize that you are not following the conversation.

Remember that just because you find someone difficult to deal with, you should not forsake your manners. Listen and respond when it’s appropriate for you to and you will get through the meeting without even breaking a sweat.

#2 Don’t let them affect you. Whether this person rubs you the wrong way with her bimbo-esque personality or if he’s just rude and loud, you should not let their bad attitude affect you. Sure, it may be difficult to keep a smile plastered on your face when all you want to do is reach across the table and smack them silly, but stay classy with this one.

Don’t let someone beneath you ruin your mood and push you over the edge. Count to ten and breathe deeply. You will be surprised at how effective simple breathing exercises can be at calming you down. In Matty’s case, he simply brushes Andy off as someone just trying to live his life in a different way from his. By not letting Andy’s behavior affect him, Matty is a far happier person than he could ever be if he let Andy bother him. [Read: 10 types of toxic friends that may be lurking in your life]

#3 Excuse yourself. If things get too much to bear and you feel like you are about to rip your eyebrows off in frustration, politely excuse yourself for a breather. Resist the temptation to flee.

Head to the restroom and splash some water on your face or head outside for a quick smoke. Get your bearings, center your thoughts, still your mind and you will be able to deal with this difficult person soon enough.

#4 Gently voice your opinion. There is no harm in standing up for what you believe in. For example, if this person is being difficult because he has opposing views on gay marriage and will not let it go, then voice your opinion. There is no harm in engaging in a polite debate so long as tempers don’t flare and things don’t get out of hand.

The thing you have to remember when debating with a difficult person is that they commonly have a competitive need to win. Be gentle and patient with this person when you voice your opinion.

If you feel like the conversation is taking a turn for the worse, find the perfect opening and step back. When dealing with a difficult and negative person, choose your battles wisely. Think about whether getting even angrier with this person is worth your time and effort. [Read: The power of your words can make or break your relationship with people]

#5 Stay cool. Although staying cool as a cucumber is hard to do when in the presence of a foul mouthed beast, you have to stay strong. There is a high chance that a difficult person will take great pleasure in seeing you in an uncomfortable position.

Not just that, an unreasonable person will likely twist things around to make you out to be the bad guy, if an argument gets under way. Do not kowtow to the pressure of engaging this person in a fight. Keep your cool and use your head, not emotions.

#6 Do not burst. This is very closely linked to the point made above. If you’re able to stay cool and calm, you will very likely not burst out in a torrent of cuss words directed at this unreasonable person. Don’t let them bask in the power that they have over you.

Once you refuse to lose your temper, they will realize that no matter how much they goad you into a fight, they will not win. Difficult people have a bizarre sixth sense within them that lets them know how far they can push someone. If you take away their hold over you, they will lose interest soon enough.

#7 Humanize them. No matter how horrible this person is, try to walk a mile in their shoes. Once you see things through this person’s eyes, you may just realize why they tend to behave in a certain way. Be as effective as you can when trying to resolve this by humanizing this person.

For example, the rude customer service employee who put you on hold for the third time may just be having a bad day. The guy who cut you off in traffic may be rushing to the hospital to bid his grandfather goodbye. You should never judge another person’s behavior until you know the full story.

At the very least, give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if you make everything up in your head, humanizing horrible people will make them easier to deal with.

#8 Lighten the mood. Even the most negative people find humor in certain things. If you are trapped in a situation whereby you have to deal with a difficult person, try injecting some humor into the conversation to diffuse the tension. Not only will it take this person by surprise, they may just let their guard down and start cooperating with you. [Read: 13 essential tips for becoming the funny person everyone loves]

#9 Change your mindset. Another simple way for you to deal with unreasonable people is to change your mindset. Try to stop thinking of yourself as a victim and instead, focus on why this person irritates you so. Perhaps it is just the way you tend to react to certain personality types. When you look at the situation from a third party’s perspective, you may just understand why some people rub you the wrong way.

You can also get an unbiased friend’s opinion. They may be able to shed some light on the situation and help you understand certain things about yourself. Who knows? You may just change your mindset and be more patient when dealing with unreasonable people in the future.

#10 Be polite. As hard as this is, always maintain your class, charm and manners. Do not turn into a raging maniac no matter how much you want to. When you are polite and do not exude any signs of anger or frustration, it may just confuse this difficult person and encourage them to react in kind.

They will find that no matter how obnoxious they are being, it does not get to you and they will tire of playing the big-man-on-campus card and eventually stop behaving like a prick. Matty swears by this tip and says that you will be surprised at how effective being polite to someone who is being unreasonable is.

[Read: 5 lessons that help you deal with judgemental people]

Whenever you have to deal with unreasonable, rude, inconsiderate and just downright mean people, use these tips to keep your cool and avoid a full-blown fight. Outrightly fighting it out with an unreasonable person may feel rewarding, but the ultimate reward is in being able to control a situation with the least amount of damage.

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Gemma Hsieh
Born in Singapore and raised in Canada to multi-racial parents, Gemma is a self-proclaimed travel and food junkie. Having traveled extensively around the world,...
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