The Secret to handling ‘Difficult’ People

The Secret to handling ‘Difficult’ People

(WARNING: Your life as you know it is about to change)


“How can I handle difficult people?”

Answer – you can’t.

“Wait – what? You mean I’m stuck with them in my life?”

Answer – it all depends on how you look at it.


First things first. Logically, we all know we can’t change other people. We can’t ‘make’ them say certain things, do certain things, behave in certain ways.

The only thing we are guaranteed to be able to change is ourselves.

And the first thing I believe that needs to change is how we look at these people we label as ‘difficult’. (Yes, I am writing that word in quotes for a reason.)


Here’s a question: Hands up if you find people who are consistently late for meetings and appointments ‘difficult’.

Did your hand go up?

When I ask this in workshops, never have all hands in the room been raised. Some find this behaviour difficult to deal with, while others don’t.

Hands up if you find people who talk a lot difficult.

Same response – never do 100% of the people I ask this question tell me they find this difficult.


So here’s the reality –

If ‘being late’ was in and of itself difficult, then everyone would say they find it difficult.

The same thing is true with talkative people. If their behaviour was in and of itself difficult, 100% of us would label this behaviour as difficult to deal with.


The vast majority of the time, when we find someone’s else’s behaviour difficult, it’s because they are doing some so different to what we would do.

If you are a punctual person, then you’re likely to find people who are consistently late frustrating and irritating. And if you are a quieter person, then very talkative people can feel hard to interact with.


I fervently believe that people aren’t ‘difficult’ … they’re different.

Continuing to think of people as difficult will kick-start a range of neurological responses in you that are not helpful to clear, effective communication.

“Oh no – here come Fred – he’s so darn difficult to deal with – he just won’t stop talking!” Thinking like this will cause your muscles to tighten, your jaw to clench, your breathing will change and you won’t be able to think as clearly as you otherwise would. And all of this will most definitely impact the nature of the interaction you have with Fred.


So give it a try … next time you see that ‘difficult’ person, take a deep breath and say to yourself “Oh – here comes Fred. He certainly is very different to me.”

I absolutely guarantee, your exchange with Fred will be different. You won’t have changed him – but you certainly will have changed your reaction and internal state to one that’s far more resourceful and beneficial to effective communication between the two of you.


(Of course, there is more to this story … but that’s for a future blog post, so stay tuned. And if you want some help in dealing with ‘difficult’ I mean different people in the meantime, drop me a line at – I’d be happy to help.)

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