Leadership and career

3 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

By July 22, 2016 No Comments

You have a difficult person in your life. We all do. You’re thinking about him or her right now. And your blood pressure just went up a few points.  And your face is a little red.

With any luck, you’re thinking about a rarely-glimpsed neighbor or a far-flung relative. But chances are, the difficult person in your life is in the cubicle right next to you.

The bully, the credit-taker, the complainer, the passive-aggressive psycho. Whatever their nature, you need strategies to help you deal.

Your best response is to succeed and be productive in spite of whatever sabotage they’re serving up – so here are some ways to keep your cool:

1. Know Yourself

You might think knowing all you can about your nemesis is your best defense. In fact, you’ll gain more by knowing yourself.

What are your triggers? What really gets you bent out of shape? What is the precise location of your soft underbelly? You may not have ready answers to these questions, but you-know-who probably does – and uses that information to push your buttons.

Take a self-assessment and determine what topics, situations or actions set you off and put you on the defensive. Then, arm yourself with a plan for how you’ll respond when you’re headed into the danger zone. Here are some great tips for staying calm when conversations veer out of control.

2. Extricate Yourself

Feeling trapped by someone who’s flapping their jaws and won’t take the hint? Maybe you’re making it worse by participating in the conversation. Are you defending yourself, justifying your actions, explaining something (again) or arguing right back? Knock it off. The conversation is going in circles, so stop wasting your precious time and energy by staying in it.

Use the handy “STOP” acronym to help remember bow to stop a conversation you don’t want to be part of.

Sorry you feel that way.”

That’s your opinion.”


Perhaps you’re right.”

Offer these phrases – and nothing else – and the toxic person will soon realize you’re not going to join him or her in the mud.

3. Be Your Best Self

Now it’s time to get a little touchy-feely.

Sometimes, if you can’t change the situation, it’s best to change the way you feel about it. Part of that change can be fueled by reminding yourself – your best self – that the other person is surely fighting some kind of battle. They’re dealing with issues you might not know about, and there’s something about their behavior that represents their attempt to cope.

Maybe being the office bully helps them compensate for feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps being a whiner and getting others to sympathize creates a feeling of connectedness that they don’t otherwise know how to achieve.

Whatever it is, it’s about them, not you. So whenever possible, strive to show compassion and empathy as you rise above it all.

Good luck out there!


Maurice GilbertMaurice Gilbert is Managing Partner of Conselium Executive Search, which specializes in placing Compliance Officers and Legal Counsel for clients in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. Maurice is also CEO of Corporate Compliance Insights, a worldwide publication devoted to governance, risk and compliance issues. Maurice can be reached at maurice@conselium.com or maurice@corporatecomplianceinsights.com.

Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.  

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