Tips on How to Deal with Difficult People

by Laurie Whitehead, Registered Mediator

When was the last time you had to deal with a negative or difficult person?  How did you handle it? Were the results good? What can you do in the future to make these situations more peaceful?

No matter where we go, we will always face people who are negative, people who oppose our ideas, people who raise our blood pressure or simply do not like us. Conflict is a fact of life. This fact isn't the cause of conflict but it is the trigger to our emotions and our emotions are what drive us back to our most basic survival instinct: react and attack back to defend ourselves.

Why Should We Bother To Control Our Responses?

1.  We are hurting ourselves when we react to negativity and disturbing our inner space and mentally creating pain within ourselves.

2. When people initiate negativity, it is a reflection of their inner state expressed externally and you just happen to be in front of that expression. It's not usually personal, so don't take it personally.

3.  When we respond impulsively, the results are usually an irrational conversation that turns from a one-sided negative expression in to a battle of two egos. It becomes an unnecessary and unproductive fight for who is right.

4. It's rare that any good can come out of reacting against someone who is already in a negative sate. This will only trigger anger and an additional reactive response from that person.

5. Energy spent on negativity is a waste of time that could have been spent on our personal well being.

6. Once you allow negativity in one area of your life, it tends to spread into other areas as well. When we don't feel good, we carry that negative energy throughout our day and may lose sight of clarity making us react unconsciously to other areas of our lives.

Here are some tips for dealing with difficult people or a negative message:

1. Attempt to forgive the person. Most people are good but have clouded judgment from time to time. Try to find something about the situation that you may understand.

2. Allow yourself time to cool off before responding. Sending a fueled message while emotionally charged is never the right thing to do. Time will allow clarity in your thoughts and emotions.

3. What will you gain by being right? Ask yourself that before responding to an emotionally charged message.

4. Chose not to respond at all. If someone initiates a negative message, they may be trying to trigger a response from you. If you stop the cycle of negativity, you are selling them short on what they're looking for.

5. Choose to eliminate negative people from your life. Negative people can be a source of energy drain who will attempt to bring you down emotionally so they won't be alone. Cut them out by avoiding interactions with them as much as possible.

Dealing with difficult people takes practice, so don't get discouraged.

Although these strategies won't change the difficult people, they will break their ability to interfere with your effectiveness and most importantly, make you feel more confident in yourself.

*Laurie Whitehead is a registered mediator with the State of Georgia and does mediation consulting and cases with the Justice Center of Atlanta. Contact her for more information : (678) 462-9954,

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