There is no question that the world is full of people with challenging personalities, who annoy you, frustrate you, and fray your nerves. While you absolutely cannot change or control those people, you certainly can control your reaction and response in dealing with them. Consider using these empowering strategies for handling difficult people:
Stay above the fray: It can be all too easy to allow yourself to be pulled down by an unreasonable person. This individual is nasty or mean, and suddenly you find yourself responding in kind. Instead, stay clear and firm about who you want to be in the situation. For instance, if maintaining self-control is important to you, remain steadfast in your response despite the other person’s behavior. This reaction provides an opportunity for you to evaluate what is happening and make a conscious decision about your next move.
Identify your triggers: We all have past experiences from our lives that can trigger an emotional response when we are confronted with unpleasant situations. When dealing with difficult people, it is important to consider what aspect of that person’s personality or behavior is triggering an unresolved issue in your life. Once you are aware of and understand your emotional triggers, you can manage them and keep yourself from having an undesired response to anyone that may be demonstrating behaviors that cause your triggers.
Practice before the encounter: When you know you are going into an encounter with a difficult person, prepare yourself by practicing how you want to deal with the situation. Role-playing is a valuable teaching tool and will give you the opportunity to practice how you want to handle yourself and help you develop your responses. When you role-play and practice before the encounter, your body and brain hold muscle memory, and you will gain experience in handling the difficult person.
Speak up: Many times when we are forced to deal with difficult people, we stay silent about how we feel, causing us to feel helpless and resentful. You can confront a difficult person and eliminate these feelings by voicing your perspective in a respectful and calm tone. In speaking up, you will feel empowered, and you may provide an alternate view for this person to consider.
Don’t take it personally: When someone is behaving poorly or treating others badly, it is a direct reflection on them and has little to with you. In fact, troublesome people are not exuding joy and love. Their behavior is an indicator of their lack of personal happiness. If you keep this perspective in mind, it becomes much easier to understand that this person is trying to draw you into their drama. Instead of being pulled in, you get to make a conscious choice not to participate in this dynamic.
-Cynthia Santiago, empowerment coach and founder of Latina Wellness