4 Ways to Cope with Difficult people

It is frustrating to be in the company of those you don’t get along with. Sometimes it is for reasons beyond your control and your efforts never seem good enough. One minute they seem fine with you and the next minute they despise you and speak rudely to you. You feel tensed when they are around and if you had your way, you will avoid them for life. But unfortunately, these sorts of people are always found in our immediate circle.  They could be our spouses, close relations or colleagues and somehow they are always in our path.

Based on personal experiences, I have come to realize that as annoying as they may be, they are in our lives for a reason. Their weakness is meant to strengthen us in the areas we are weak in. In dealing with the difficult people I have met in my life from colleagues, bosses to close relations; I learned patience and selfless love. These are qualities I didn’t have but nature put them in my path for that reason and though they were a vexation to the spirit, I am glad I picked up some fine qualities as I tried to work and live with them.

As I lived with them at different stages of my life, I realized that they all had similar characteristics which made it easier for me to understand and better cope with such people.

Common trends in difficult people

  1. They are often non-receptive, unappreciative and unapproachable. They have an attitude that can send you nuts. There were times I wanted something so badly but could not ask them because of the fear of rejection or a fight.  Sometimes there were ideas that could help them or even task that I carried out for them and they didn’t think I deserved any form of appreciation. They enjoyed scolding for no reason, were often very rude etc.
  2. They had a difficult past that has contributed to the high walls they have built around them. It could be a difficult childhood, financial hardship, or disappointment in relationships among others. There was always an something that caused them to be the way they are. As I stayed longer with them, I realized that these experiences made them tough to the outside world as their own form of self protection and control.
  3. They have a soft and kind heart. I was amazed knowing that they also had a soft side and were equally kind-hearted but they constantly use their tough side to suppress their soft side so that they could stay in control of their environment. But whenever they were in the company of those they could trust, they often relaxed even if it lasted only for an hour.
  4. They live in fear: One common thing I realized was that as much as they appeared tough, they were living in a lot of fear. The fear of appearing weak and losing control.
  5. They had low self esteem. Most of them had very low self esteem which was often hidden behind the controlling attitude. The cause of their low self esteem was always attributed to their past experiences.

After decoding these characteristics, I adopted some strategies that helped me breakthrough their tough walls and they were able to relax around me and gradually became like the regular people I met on a daily basis. It was a shared experience. As I learned to be patient and selfless with them, they learned to relate better with others.  These were my strategies:

How to cope with difficult people

  • Selfless love: Difficult people are always critical of everything and everyone that comes their way which is why they are non receptive and unappreciative. So I learned to do things for them for no reason. I learned to love them for no reason at all and this helped me ignore their harsh words and unappreciative nature.   When you stop seeking credit for your kindness towards them, they will gradually begin to notice what you do and will come around.  One reason you are constantly fighting with them is because you want them to acknowledge your efforts and give you credit. But when you become selfless towards them, they break. Remember no army continuously goes to war against an unarmed civilian.


  • Talk to them in their words. Because they are not receptive to ideas, using their words to pass your message across is the most effective way to communicate with them. When you give them an idea/opinion/message in their own words, they take it so well and even if they object, they would usually give it a thought. This approach made communication easier and the fights gradually reduced to zero. For example, I changed from the “I” word to “you”. It’s all about the approach. When you have an opinion, give it to them as though it was their idea.  This gives them the impression that they are still in control.


  • Complement them: In as much as they are unappreciative of others, they are in need of complements. Giving them sincere and honest complements uplifted their moods and boosted their confidence. Remember deep inside of them they are suffering from low self esteem. So complements make them feel good and valuable. As I used this approach, the pattern was the same. They gradually learned to complement others and around them. At first it sounded like another low key response but as time went on, it felt good.


    • Give them space: I realized that sometimes it is good to give them some space. This was particularly true for close relations. When someone is always available, they are often taken for granted. So give them some space and room to miss you and to reflect about their relationship /interaction with you.

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