How do I handle difficult people?

Some background, some drama

Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be “stuck" with a difficult individual at work or at home. It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. Some people are only happy when they’re unhappy and bringing down everyone else around them too. The key is to empower yourself in such situations and do what’s the best in order to maintain your sanity.

Do’s and Don’ts

It’s tempting to just tune negative and difficult people out, but this rarely stops them. If anything, they’ll talk and argue more forcefully because they’ll think nobody cares about them. The best thing to do is to use good, normal active listening techniques, as you would for anyone else. The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide and help you to handle difficult people.


  • Listen. But use a time limit for venting. Everybody has tough times, and sharing feelings can make us feel better. But perpetually cribbing can be stressful for you as a listener.
  • Negative people often speak in extreme terms. Switch them to fact-based statements.
  • Move to problem solving to end negativity. People who whine a lot often feel powerless and believe that the situation is hopeless.
  • Shift from being reactive to proactive. Minimize misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Concentrate energies on problem-solving.
  • Pick your battles. Save time, energy and grief. Avoid unnecessary problems and complications.
  • Use appropriate humour. Disarm unreasonable and difficult behaviour when correctly used. Show your detachment. Problem rolls off your back.


  • Don’t get dragged down. Make sure difficult people don’t suck you into their world of negativity. Keep your guard up!
  • Don’t agree just for the sake of agreeing. It’s tempting to try to appease the person to buy peace. But remember they just throw fuel on the flames.
  • Don’t stay silent. If you are clearly listening but say nothing, the person will interpret your silence as agreement. Speak up if you don’t agree.
  • Don’t be afraid to cut them off. If, after all your efforts, you deem these people to be hopelessly negative, you need to cut them off.

Last words

In conclusion, to know how to handle unreasonable and difficult people is to master the art of communication. As you utilize these skills, you may experience less grief, greater confidence, better relationships and higher communication prowess.

Sources and citations