Monthly Archives: January 2015

Ten Tips for Managing Difficult People

stress-2We don’t all get on with each other. Arguments and disagreements are part of the reality within our world of communication. We can have our toes stood on and we can stand on others’ toes. Many people ask me for advice about how to approach difficult people and I have compiled a list of ten tips. I hope that you find them helpful .


1. Remind yourself that sometimes we haven’t a clue about what’s going on in people’s lives. Some people are genuinely not at their best.

2. Many people are not blessed with warm personalities. It may not be personal.

3. Remain mannerly, friendly and polite. Meeting rudeness with rudeness only doubles the rudeness. It doesn’t make you feel better either!

4. Apply empathy. Try to enter the shoes of the difficult person and imagine the world from their perspective. Sometimes such people are not in a good place.

5. Loving the lovable is easy. Loving those who seem unlovable is a challenge. But science confirms that reaching out in compassion helps you and the person at the receiving end of the kindness. Often kindness can be a pre-cursor to solutions.

6. If you have been treated harshly by the difficult person all you can do is communicate this to him or her. You have no control over how they will respond. You may have to accept that they will not even meet you half way. Such intransigence is doing them more harm than you.

7. Forgiveness sets us free. It’s hard but it’s worth working on it.

8. Sometimes we cannot fix things. We have to make the best sense of the situation and move on. If you have genuinely tried to get on with the difficult person but to no avail you may have to work at moving on. Talking and thinking about it less would help. Reminding yourself that you need to do this would make this easier.

9.  Sometimes we may be part of the problem. Maybe our words or actions were misinterpreted by an overly sensitive person.  We may have to check this out and clarify.

10.  If the difficult person is really upsetting you to the degree that it is affecting the quality of your life,  you may need to get some  professional advice on how to specifically handle the situation.

(c) Shane Martin

Fire Managers' Research Meeting, Wollongong 2006