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How to Deal with Difficult People: 6 Tips to Keep Your Spirits High

The role of an advisor includes interacting with all kinds of people on a regular basis. While the majority of the people you meet are probably friendly, thoughtful, interesting people, once in awhile you may come across the kind of person so difficult that even the most sociable among us would want to run and hide.

People who are persistently negative often take up more than their share of our time and attention and can quickly become sources of unnecessary stress. Whether it’s a client, a business partner, or a personal acquaintance, you can employ a few effective methods to help minimize the influence of difficult people.

Set Boundaries 1.  Set Boundaries

If you have no choice but to deal with this person, make a point of setting boundaries. Set time limits and stick to appropriate conversation topics. Don’t let them monopolize your time or attention. Be assertive if they are not respecting your wishes. Keep in mind that if this pest is a client, you do have the option to fire him or her. It may sound unappealing in the short term, but it will free up your energy to engage in more positive efforts over the long term.

Let go of Responsibility2.  Let go of the Responsibility 

If someone is persistently negative or difficult, do not waste your time and energy trying to convince them to change. It’s more likely that you will end up being dragged down, too. Too often we think we can make someone happy when it’s not our responsibility. Lend support and encouragement but make sure to take care of yourself in the process.

Don't fight Fire with Fire3. Don’t Fight Fire With Fire

Responding to anger with angry outbursts may make difficult people defensive and hostile. Instead, stay calm and collected. Make sure to listen intently and acknowledge their concerns. Take slow breaths and maintain your composure. Try to determine exactly what they want to gain from this encounter. A mindful approach takes practice but will keep you in check in tough situations.  This is one I am working on when my children infuriate me. It’s not easy, but calm response makes all the difference and diffuses a tense situation.  

FACTS4.  Stick with the Facts

If a person is being irrational, do not fall into their trap. You must not engage in the drama! You are not going to make things better by trying to “fix” irrational thoughts. Stick to the facts and try to steer the discussion in a more productive direction. If you find that you cannot change the course, reschedule the discussion for another time. You’ll both benefit!

Talk with friends 5.  Open Up

If someone is causing you ongoing stress, be careful not to dwell on their awful behavior. Instead of becoming consumed by dread of interacting with him or her, focus on how to diffuse the situation and get on with your life. It may help to talk about the situation with your friends or partner. Do not linger on negativity, but do express your concerns. Sometimes others can provide a fresh perspective and speaking your feelings out loud can diffuse the anger you hold.

Walk away6.  Walk Away

When people prove themselves to be untrustworthy, step away from the relationship or mentally flag this individual. Do not get burned a second time, especially by someone who already made your life difficult.  While I prefer an abundant outlook, some people do not change. Shy away from engagement from someone whom you cannot trust.


Whatever situation you find yourself in, remember that your time is valuable, you must take care of your own well-being, and you are in control of your life. Tailor your approach to fit the people involved and the specific scenario.

I hope these tips help you spend less time focusing on bad vibes from difficult people and more time doing what you love, especially during this holiday season!

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