Home Family & Relationship Difficult People Are Everywhere (And They Can Be Highly Destructive). Here’s How to Handle Them

Difficult People Are Everywhere (And They Can Be Highly Destructive). Here’s How to Handle Them

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We’ve all met them at some point in our lives – difficult people who seem to create chaos wherever they go. These people can be highly destructive in both professional and personal environments, undermining confidence, causing stress, and creating discord among team members. But how do we deal with such individuals without losing our composure? The answer lies in understanding the psychology behind their behaviour and implementing strategies to mitigate their negative effects.

Understanding the difficult person

Difficult people often have underlying issues that drive their behaviour. These may include insecurities, fear of failure, or feelings of inadequacy. By recognizing these triggers, you can approach the person with greater empathy and insight.

Understanding these underlying issues can help in dealing with the person more effectively, allowing for a more constructive interaction and reducing the potential for conflict. Patience and compassion in these situations can lead to a more harmonious resolution, transforming a potentially destructive relationship into a cooperative one.

Strategies for handling difficult people

  • Keep your emotions in check. Engaging in an emotional battle with a difficult person is a losing proposition. Maintain your calm and keep your emotions in check, even if the other person is trying to provoke you.
  • Set boundaries. Be clear about your boundaries and communicate them effectively. Let the difficult person know what behaviour is acceptable and what is not.
  • Use active listening. Show empathy by actively listening to their concerns. Sometimes, difficult people just need someone to hear them out.
  • Avoid power struggles. Engaging in a power struggle with a difficult person can escalate the situation. Focus on resolving the issue at hand rather than trying to “win”.
  • Provide feedback. Offer constructive feedback on their behaviour. Sometimes, difficult people may not be aware of the impact of their actions.
  • Seek professional help if needed. If the behaviour continues or escalates, don’t hesitate to seek professional help, such as a mediator or human resources professional.

Case studies

Here are a few real-world examples that illustrate how the above strategies can be applied:

  • In the workplace. James had a colleague who constantly criticised his work and created a toxic atmosphere. By keeping his emotions in check and providing constructive feedback, James was able to defuse the situation and build a more positive working relationship.
  • In a family setting. Sarah had a relative who was always negative and critical. She set clear boundaries and used active listening to understand her relative’s concerns. This approach helped in building a better understanding and improved their relationship.
  • In social settings. Mark had a friend who was very confrontational. He avoided power struggles and kept the lines of communication open, which eventually led to a more respectful friendship.


Dealing with difficult people is never easy, but it’s a skill that can be developed and refined. By understanding the underlying issues that drive difficult behaviour and applying thoughtful strategies, we can turn potentially destructive situations into opportunities for growth and development.

It’s important to remember that every difficult person is unique, and the strategies that work for one individual may not work for another. Flexibility, empathy, and patience are key attributes in handling difficult people.

Our professional and personal lives are filled with diverse individuals, and learning to work with them effectively can lead to a more harmonious and productive environment. The strategies discussed in this article provide a solid foundation for handling difficult people, but the journey of understanding and personal growth is a continuous one that requires commitment and effort.

So, the next time you encounter a difficult person, remember to breathe, maintain your composure, and apply these strategies. The destructive power of difficult people can be mitigated, and you can emerge from the experience stronger and wiser.

Zac O’Sullivan is an expert in interpersonal communication and conflict resolution. An author and speaker, he travels across the world to teach others how to create harmonious relationships in their lives. 

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