Difficult people can suck the oxygen out of the room if you let them. To successfully deal with them, you must be methodical. Your attitude is important. Most difficult people aren’t trying to harm you; they are just unconscious or self-absorbed.
Here are a few personality types you’re likely to encounter, as well as strategies for dealing with them.
Anger Addicts. They deal with conflict by accusing, attacking, humiliating or criticizing. Unchecked anger addicts are dangerous and controlling.
- Surrender your reactivity. Take a few slow breaths to relax your body. Though you may be tempted to lash out, try not to give in to the impulse.
- Blend, relax and let go. Resistance to strong emotions intensifies them. Try staying as neutral and relaxed as possible with someone’s anger instead of resisting it. Don’t argue or defend yourself.
Passive-Aggressive People. They express anger with a smile or exaggerated concern but always maintain their cool. They are experts at sugarcoating hostility.
- Surrender your doubt and trust your gut reaction. If you suspect they’re angry, you may question yourself since their anger is so masked. Tell yourself, “I deserve to be treated more lovingly. I will trust my gut reaction when I feel jabbed.”
- Address the behavior. Being specific pins down passive-aggressive people.
Narcissists. Everything is about them. They have an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement, crave attention and require endless praise.
- Surrender the belief that your love can change them. Often, we think, “If they feel loved, they’ll become the caring people they really are inside.” Hear this: textbook narcissists don’t play by these rules.
- Don’t make your self-worth dependent on them. Avoid the trap of always trying to please a narcissist. Guard your sensitivities.
- Clarify how they will benefit. Frame your request in ways they can hear. Stating your emotional needs rarely works, nor does complaining or being assertive.
Guilt Trippers. They’re world-class blamers, martyrs and drama queens. They know how to make you feel bad about something by pressing your insecurity buttons.
- Surrender the notion that you have to be perfect. If you hurt someone or made a mistake, accept that you can’t change the past. You can make amends when appropriate, though.
- Know your guilt buttons. No one can make you feel guilty if you don’t believe you’ve done something wrong. However, if you doubt yourself, guilt can creep in.
- Set limits. You might make some topics taboo, such as money, sex or personal appearance. If guilt trippers respect your limits, great. If not, you might want to limit contact.
Gossips. These busybodies delight in talking about others behind their backs, putting them down and spreading catty rumors.
- Surrender the need to please everyone or control what people say. Your opinion of yourself matters most. If it’s good, then gossip has less bite.
- Be direct. If it’s appropriate to confront someone, say in a calm tone, “Your comments are inconsiderate and hurtful. Please stop saying these things about me.”
- Change the subject. If co-workers or friends are gossiping and you feel uncomfortable asking them to stop, change the subject so you don’t have to participate.
- Censor yourself. Don’t share intimate information with gossipmongers.
- Don’t take gossip personally. Realize gossips aren’t happy or secure. They blab about other people besides you. Rise to a higher place and ignore them.
Adapted from The Exctasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life. By Judith Orloff, M.D., Harmony Books, 2014.
1. Be calm, not emotionally reactive.
2. Avoid defensiveness—it makes you look weak.
3. Patiently hear people out without interrupting or needing to have the last word.
4. Empathize with where people are coming from, even if you disagree with them.
5. Pick your battles; apologize when necessary.
1. Be drawn into drama.
2. React impulsively out of anxiety or anger (you may say something you’ll regret).
3. Hold on to resentments or stay attached to being right.
4. Attempt to manage other people’s lives or become their therapist.
5. Shame people, especially in front of others.
Adapted from The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life. By Judith Orloff, M.D., Harmony Books, 2014.