They may not be difficult to some people, but they’re difficult to you.

This is the person in our lives that sometimes make us want to scream and pull at our hair. This person can be a troublesome family relative, a difficult supervisor at work, or anyone else in our lives that we must deal with for practical purposes. This is not a person that we’d go out and make friends with, but things may be better off for us if we develop a good way of dealing with them.

Whether it’s a personality conflict or some other reason we don’t seem to get along with them, we can still look for a solution to the situation with a positive attitude and an open mind. So, here are some ideas that might help you better manage the relationship with that living burden in your life.

Begin with the end in mind

Think about when you won’t be around the difficult person. This gives you something to look forward to while having to deal with them. If you have a difficult boss or a supervisor at work, think about the next time you’ll be away from their presence. If it’s a tiresome relative at a family function, think about how you’ll feel when the event is over and everyone can go home. Also, when you begin with the end in mind, you can remind yourself of the reward for tolerating the situation. For tolerating your difficult boss, you’ll be getting your paycheck. By tolerating the difficult relative, you’ll be keeping the peace within the extended family.

Another technique with this method is to start planning an exit strategy to keep you motivated to deal with the situation. Make plans on how to get another job or transfer to another department or location. Plan on leaving early from the family event with a valid excuse such as other commitments like work… etc.



Get on common ground

Look for common ground with the difficult person. If you’re both athletic, talk about your latest marathon or another athletic activity you’ve been doing, so it gets their mind off their destructive behaviour. Try talking about something that you think might interest them, such as a recent news event in the major media or a book that they’ve been reading. This is a chance to generate a more positive dialogue. If one topic doesn’t seem to be working, move on to another until you find something that works with them.



Stay positive

At times, the very nature of dealing with a difficult person can fuel a less-than-positive attitude. We can always try to get the conversation going in a better direction by counteracting with constructive statements. We don’t have to let another person dictate what kind of attitude we’re going to have. Another good way of staying positive is to actually give this unpleasant individual a compliment of some kind. This may seem odd, but I’ve tried it, and I believe it really contributes towards a less stressful environment. For example, if they volunteer a lot in the local community, comment on how their contribution can positively impact others. It can be difficult to come up with a genuine compliment when they’ve been so difficult with you in the past, but I believe the hard work of trying to be sincere can be beneficial.



“Tune out” negative talk

When the difficult person starts making negative statements, initially listen to them to see if they’re actually trying to make a good point. This is particularly important if it’s your boss or your supervisor on the job. If, of course, there’s no validity to their remarks, it’s best to tune out such criticism. These comments are actually unhelpful and unproductive, so try to remember that misery loves company. As the difficult person continues giving negative and critical remarks, it’ll become obvious that they’re not making any suggestions on how they feel you can improve, so just mentally block them. People who bring up what they believe to be a problem without providing some kind of suggestion on a solution are simply complaining. If you then begin to realise that the difficult person is a big complainer, be an assertive listener every time they’re attempting to communicate with you and apply your new tune-out technique when it’s needed.

When the person is done complaining, you can end the conversation with something like “have a nice day,” or “let’s have a great day,” or simply “thank you”, even if you’re just saying thank you because they’ve finally quit their complaining.



Don’t take it personally

At times, it can be easy to take to heart what the difficult person is saying, and it ends up making us feel even worse. This is a common mistake many of us make when dealing with these people. This is particularly the case when it’s a relative. We sometimes think that not taking destructive comments personally from other family members is a sign that we don’t care, but that’s usually not the case. The goal is to be thoughtful and kind while not taking the harsh comments or actions personally. This mental activity can also help us build inner strength and gradually increase our growing ability to tolerate the difficult person in our lives more effectively.


Remember to be practical

In general, we all just really want everyone to get along, but it’s important to remember what’s realistic. There will always be some conflict, particularly when we’re dealing with people that are constantly going to be around us. As human beings, we’re all different in various ways, and difficult people will show up, no matter how much we dislike it. I believe we can make it easier on ourselves by how we handle them. Some of these techniques may work in your circumstances, and could help you create some new ideas of your own on how to cope with the stress of handling difficult people. May the odds be in your favour!