Advertising
Advertising

How to Deal with Difficult People: 10 Expert Techniques

How to Deal with Difficult People: 10 Expert Techniques

Doesn’t it seem like we deal with difficult people in almost all phases of our lives?

I’ve often had to deal with difficult people at work throughout my career. Sometimes it’s been my supervisor, other times it’s been my fellow associates and even other times, it’s people in other departments.

Then there are our families. I know it’s not just my family that can be extremely difficult to deal with. I’ve heard enough stories from friends to know that a lot of people’s families drive them to the brink from time to time.

And don’t even get me started on dealing with the multitudes of people we have to deal with at companies we interact with. Be it the cell phone company or the person that was supposed to fix my roof last year. I had to follow up every week for almost 4 months before they finally came and fixed something that should have been done in the first place.

Why was that so difficult?

There’s probably not an easy answer for why some people are difficult to deal with. The reasons are as varied as the people are. We are all different and sometimes, it’s shocking that we get along as well as we do.

Instead of analyzing why some people can be so difficult, let’s focus on what we can control — our reactions. Let’s look at 10 expert techniques to deal with difficult people.

1. Use Lots of Kindness

Look, I get it. When dealing with difficult people, the gut reaction is to be difficult right back. When it feels like someone is attacking you, your first thought is to defend yourself. I’ve been there and still get caught up in that when I don’t slow down and take a pause.

What I have found in almost every difficult situation is kindness goes a lot further than being difficult. When two people are being difficult with each other, the situation tends to escalate to a point where nothing will get accomplished.

Advertising

On the other hand, when you use lots of kindness with a difficult person many times, it diffuses the situation and you get more of what you want. This is one of the top techniques for dealing with difficult people.

2. Be Compassionate

Ever heard that saying about dealing with your own problems? That if you and a bunch of people shoved all your problems into a circle that you’d most likely take your own back once you saw everyone else’s? I love that.

The point is none of us really know what other people are going through. When dealing with a difficult person, it could be they are going through a very tough ordeal, or dealing with a really big problem you wouldn’t want any part of.

Many times when you show compassion to a person who is being difficult, you’ll find they respond in a positive manner. So many of us get stuck in our own heads and in our own lives that we don’t open our eyes to when others could use some kindness. Give it a try the next time you think about it.

3. Find Something in Common

Ever noticed how when you’re talking to someone for the first time, finding something in common creates a strong initial connection? We all love to feel like part of a group, like we belong. This is a great expert technique to deal with difficult people and one you should keep top of mind.

It’s always nice to find out we went to the same university as someone, it creates a kind of kinship. My daughters are both teenagers now but I used to feel a parental bond with someone when I found out my daughters went to the same school as their kids.

When we can find something in common with a difficult person, it can help make for a smoother conversation afterwards.

4. Stay Calm

Have you ever received an email from someone at work that immediately had you seeing red? This has happened to me on more occasions than I care to remember.

Working with a difficult person on a project can be infuriating. At my less rational moments, I’ve received an email from a difficult person whose only purpose seems to be making things harder and more confusing. When I haven’t paused before responding what usually happens is, I fire off an email that will only serve to make things worse.

Advertising

Typically, if I can find the patience to stay calm and wait a while before responding, the results are much better. The ability to stay calm when dealing with a difficult person will help you greatly.

5. Share Your Side

Sometimes, being able to articulate to a difficult person where you are coming from will make a big difference.

For instance, if you’ve been running into brick wall after brick wall and the difficult person is your last avenue for resolution, sometimes that makes a difference.

Some people get caught in a standard script of how to deal in certain situations or when someone asks a certain question. If you can provide some context around your specific situation, sometimes that makes a huge difference.

You could let them know you’ve trying to solve your problem for months and you’ve tried X,Y, and Z but can’t get anywhere. Sometimes this is all it takes to open the empathy gates to some extent and get some help. Give it a shot.

6. Treat with Respect

I don’t know a single person who likes to be treated like they are stupid or incompetent. When dealing with a difficult person, always remember to treat them with respect. Once you start attacking someone and acting like they are stupid you might as well be slamming the door shut to get anything done.

Treating someone disrespectfully will almost always make things worse and at a bare minimum make the other person not want to do anything to assist you. It’s the same as remembering the golden rule “treat others as you would like to be treated”. Our mothers are almost always right.

7. Ignore Them

I’m a huge proponent of not interacting with negative people in my life. Why should I? All they seem to do is provide negative input and I don’t need any of that.

By the same token, sometimes the best course of action with a difficult person is to ignore or avoid them. This of course will depend if you can ignore them.

Advertising

For instance if this is a fellow co-worker that you don’t have to work with much, it may be best to simply ignore them if you can.

Same thing with neighbors or certain people at stores or even potentially customers. Sometimes difficult customers are simply not worth dealing with. Their needs could be better served elsewhere and it’s not always a bad idea to let them know they could probably find someone else who could assist them in the way they are wanting.

8. Control What You Can

Many things in life we can control and many things we can’t. It’s always best to focus on what we can control.

When dealing with a difficult person, think about what you are able to control. Maybe there’s someone else you can deal with instead of the difficult person. They may be simply the first step in the chain.

Recently, I was attempting to work with the marketing department on a new initiative I was putting together. I was told to contact a certain person for help because that’s what had always been done. When I contacted the person, I never got a response. I sent multiple emails and left several voicemails and never heard back from this person. After getting extremely frustrated from never hearing back, I simply started asking other people in marketing.

Lo and behold, I found several people that were willing to help me with my project and with a smile. I basically worked my way around the difficult person. Control what you can.

9. Look at Yourself

Another one of the 10 expert techniques to deal with difficult people is to take a look at yourself. As in turn your focus inward. Is there something that you are doing that is making dealing with someone harder than it needs to be?

For instance in general, I am in a pretty good mood. I interact with people all day just about everyday and overall, it goes fairly smoothly.

Sometimes, I’ve got a lot of my mind and am trying to solve a problem of some sort inside my head, even when talking to other people. It has been pointed out to me that I can come across as short, abrupt, and condescending when I am spending a lot of time inside my own head and also interacting with others.

Advertising

So in this instance, my short condescending responses can make an already agitated person even more upset. Basically the way I respond is adding fuel to the fire.

Take a look at how you are interacting with difficult people to ensure you aren’t making it worse.

10. Overcome Your Fear of Conflict

One of the best techniques for dealing with difficult people is overcoming your fear of conflict. Many people are afraid of conflicts and this can lead to having difficult people walk all over them.

Dealing with a difficult person is challenging enough but if you don’t stand up for yourself and establish boundaries, it’s even worse. Just about everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Don’t allow yourself to be treated poorly by a difficult person.

I’m not advocating intentionally starting conflict. What I am advocating is not fearing conflict in the event a difficult person is treating you poorly. Too many people allow others to have control over them by not standing up for themselves when needed.

Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. In many instances, it’s good because it can allow a resolution to come to fruition: How to Turn Any Conflicts into Opportunities

The Bottom Line

Difficult people are all around us in every aspect of our lives. I’ve certainly worked with many difficult people over the years as well as in everyday interactions with people in a wide variety of settings. I’m hopeful these 10 expert techniques to deal with difficult people will help you the next time the situation arises.

Communication with other people is such a huge key to living our lives. It’s well worth learning some techniques to deal with difficult people to help us all live happier lives.

More Tips on Conflicts Management

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Advertising

More by this author

Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

How to Be Influential and Gain Respect at Work How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide) How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ How to Memorize a Speech the Smart Way How to Say No Politely And Professionally

Trending in Communication

1 I Want To Be Happy: 7 Science-Backed Ways to Find Happiness 2 13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently 3 10 Morning Habits Of Happy People 4 What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People 5 13 Simple Habits of Happiness To Change Your Outlook on Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

Advertising

  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

Advertising

Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

Advertising

However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

Advertising

Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

Advertising

  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

Read Next