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Last Updated on January 6, 2020

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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