You CAN Handle Difficult People

You CAN Handle Difficult People

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Difficult people are a part of everyone’s life.

They’re part of our families, social circles, communities and workplaces.





Passive-aggressive eye rollers/smirkers.

How to handle these bummers?

Avoidance. Get creative on how to dodge these people. Arrange early morning walks with your friend so you don’t have to spend time with her difficult partner. Sit at the far end of the family holiday dinner table so you don’t have to hear your uncle tell you why his politics are “correct” or your aunt ask you, yet again, why you’re not married.

Boundaries. Get very clear with yourself about what you’re willing to tolerate and what crosses a line. Respectfully and without apology shut down any conversation that goes too far for you. A simple “I don’t want to talk about this/him/her. Let’s find another topic” will do.

Plan. Difficult people are often predictable, making it easier for you to anticipate their words and behavior. For that colleague who likes interrupting you at staff meetings with “you’re wrong,” a simple “Please do not interrupt me” does the trick. Then go on speaking. If there is a second interruption, feel free to add, “You’re being rude. Do not interrupt me. You’ll have your say.”

Speak up. Too often, we smile through our discomfort or anger, hoping the other person will get the hint. The problem is these people either 1) don’t get the hint, or 2) don’t care about your hint. You need to speak up and speak out for yourself or others.

I had a client who loved her work at a law firm and was on the cusp of becoming a partner. Unfortunately, she was also on the verge of quitting because her boss was a yeller. The firm tolerated his yelling because he was a successful rainmaker, bringing in millions of dollars of business annually. She felt stuck.

Through coaching, she gained greater confidence and self-respect, which eventually led her to speak her truth. Finally, the day came when, during one of her boss’ rants, she said the words she had been practicing out loud: “I will not be yelled at. Let me know when you want to have this discussion respectfully.” With that, she got up and left his office.

He never yelled (at her) again. She became a partner and is still with the firm nine years later!

Bottom line: none of this is easy. Difficult people are, well, difficult.

But you have more power and control than you think.

Let me know how I can help.

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