You may consider yourself a patient, tolerant person. But, when you encounter people who annoy or frustrate you — customers, coworkers, neighbors, or family members — it can be challenging. The key to navigating difficult people is to focus on what you can control, your reaction to these people. ”You must change how you react to people before you can change how you interact with them,” suggests Rick Kirshner, N.D., coauthor of Dealing with People You Can’t Stand.
It’s also important to consider how much interaction you have with the person. Is it worth ruffling feathers if you only see the person once a year?
Here are 6 difficult personalities and suggestions on dealing with them.
1. The Bullies
- Intimidating, arrogant, need to be right
- Expect others to be as aggressive or consider them weak
— Stand up to them calmly, not defiantly.
— Do not engage them in confrontation, because you won’t win.
— Once you’ve earned their respect, you may become friends!
2. The Whiners
- Eager to find fault but reluctant to take responsibility
- May appear weak, self-righteous, or morally superior
— Listen closely, in case they just need to vent.
— Ask them to propose solutions.
— Don’t condone their victim role; it will only reinforce it.
3. The Stoics
- Despite body language to the contrary, insist nothing is wrong
- Nonresponsive to questions or conversation starters
— Use open-ended questions that they can’t just nod to answer.
— Ask a question, and then look at them silently for as long as it takes until they respond.
— Tell them what you think may be going on and ask if your interpretation is correct.
4. The “Yes” People
- Have great intentions but overcommit and can’t follow through
- Avoid conflict at all costs, and will tell you what you want to hear to escape
— Show them that you care about them so they can stop trying so hard to please you.
— Help them realize that being honest with you won’t risk your friendship.
— Don’t let them take on more than you know they can handle.
5. The Eeyores
- Assume everything and everyone will disappoint them, based on past experience
- May be suspicious of authority and resentful and believe they are powerless
— Value them as the persons who foresee the obstacles.
— Don’t argue with them, because they can’t be persuaded.
— Steer them away from broad generalizations and demand specific examples.
6. The Experts
- Can be arrogant and condescending, always eager to prove they know more
- Value logic and data over feelings and intuition
— Show that you respect their expertise and depend on them for advice.
— Don’t try to compete with their knowledge of facts and trivia.
— If you must dispute their claim, be sure you’ve done your research, and question them rather than assert your version of the truth.
Dealing with the difficult people in your life takes careful consideration. Sometimes a heart-to-heart conversation is the right choice. But often, a more roundabout approach will get you what you need. And sometimes, if you don’t see them often, it might be better to just let it roll or insert a little humor.