4 Tips to Deal With Those Difficult People (DP)

Author // Clare Monteau

One of the most popular training topics requested by organizations is one that offers tactics to deal with these DP. I guess that means we are surrounded by them. The definition of 'difficult' speaks of "hard to deal with, manage, or overcome".  If you know anything about me, I'm always up for a challenge-so here are my top recommendations for dealing with, managing or overcoming the DP in your life. Note-they actually require you to DO something so grab a pen if you actually want something to change. 


  1. Recognize your values. What is important to you that feels threatened by this person? Chances are, something that you are committed to (e.g. accuracy, integrity, hitting timelines) feels like it is undermined in this dynamic.  Having clarity (writing it down helps) about the values that feel at risk here, and recognizing that the other person might be operating on a different value system, has the added benefit of not making the conflict so personal: it's a difference in values rather than your value as a human being in question.  
  2. Ask yourself “what are you believing?” If someone told you your hair was a stupid blue color, you wouldn’t believe them (unless in fact, it was). You would dismiss their nonsense as the ramblings of a fool and go about your day. So why not this person and what you think they think about you? Chances are, you think they are saying the equivalent of “Your hairstyle makes you look 10 years older”, something more believable, something that perhaps you have worried about once or twice. So whatever it is that you believe this person thinks about you, that you aren’t conscientious/results driven/decisive enough, recognize that the thought is lodged in your brain, and as such it’s your responsibility to dislodge it.  
  3. Make sh!t up. Thinking the same thoughts over and over is the easy button for the brain, it uses less energy and gives us some level of security even if those thoughts are stressful or unpleasant. Replace your habitual thought “X is an inconsiderate ass” with something much more interesting and helpful to YOU. This can be something you might find unbelievable  “X is my biggest fan” or a more down to earth “X is doing what he believes is best.” Doesn’t matter, try a few different ones. Point is, your thoughts are as much to blame for the situation as anything else, taking YOU down a rabbit hole of frustration and/or despair, where nothing new or good can ever happen, so make up some new ones and see how it makes you feel.  Bonus points for doing this just before you have an interaction with the person.   
  4. Thank them. You don’t have to do this in person, but stating out loud or on paper “Thank you X for making me see how _________ I am”, a few times can yield some interesting results. You can do this with a tone of sarcasm or vindictiveness if that is what comes up. This isn’t about doing a spiritual bypass to feel more loving toward them,  it’s to own that you are getting to see a side of yourself that maybe isn’t available to you in other parts of your life.   
My challenge for you is do ONE of these right now. and report back. You won’t want to. Your easy button loving brain is saying “Yeah but this person is REALLY an d-head, everyone says so”. Good. Be the one that decides to change what goes on between your two ears, rather than driving yourself nuts about whats going on between theirs.  And, if you would like a more customized approach to dealing with a particular DP in your life, this month's offer might be for you.  


*For anyone bewildered by the subtitle "Difficult, Difficult, Lemon Difficult", it's from a movie "In the Loop" in which a very frustrated aide responds to a patronizing "It'll be easy peasy lemon squeezy" with "No it won't, it'll be difficult, difficult, lemon difficult". One of my favorite lines ever.  And has the word difficult in it so there's the relevance to the blog. Watch: here.

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