9 Tips to Help You Co-exist Peacefully With Difficult People Try out these proven ways to deal with difficult people and see how magically they work out for you

By Kamalika De

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Are you struggling to cope with difficult behavior of people at your workplace? Do you constantly feel frustrated, worried and sometimes even frightened for this at work? If the answer to all these questions is a big resounding "YES', then the time has come to keep your negative feelings at bay and start afresh with your unreasonable difficult colleagues.


These are some of the tips that you need to know to handle difficult people at work smartly. Without further ado, let's talk about them.

1- Let Them Talk

Be a good listener, especially when you are around difficult co-workers. This practice of yours will make them feel acknowledged. And when they feel acknowledged, the friction in communication will be reduced. Eventually, you'll be able to deal them easily.

Prateek Panda, Co-founder & CMO at Appknox opined, "Whether it's a corporate meeting or a casual conversation with a difficult person, make sure you offer an ear. Spend 80% of your time listening so that the 20% of the time you spend talking becomes extremely impactful."

2- Never Lose Your Calm

If you can maintain your composure while dealing with difficult people, that will be half the battle won. Keep your reaction level low; it will help you deal with difficult people at your workplace in a better way.

Anindita Bose, founder of KARMA apparel & design, shared "Escaping difficult people is not possible - they are part of our everyday routine." Bose has an innovative way to calming the mind while dealing with difficult people at work - "Whenever I feel upset with such kind of people, before saying something that I might later regret, I take a deep breath and give myself a few seconds of time. When I feel I am completely calm down, then I visit the problem and figure out the best way to deal with that".

Patience is the key that solves most of the problems. Holding patience will help you be pleasant and agreeable in communication with difficult people and get them collaborate with you.

3- Be Clear in Your Communication

Working with unreasonable and difficult people becomes easier when you master the art of communication. Keep eye contact in a conversation and speak with confidence. Be clear about what the problem is and what you think the solution may be. Present your case and hold the position. It is also important to listen and acknowledge the other person's point of view, no matter how much difficult the person is.

4- Separate People From Issues

Whenever you face any problem while working with difficult people, focus on the problem, not the people. Keep an observing eye on the actual problem and generate possibilities for settling it. Don't attack the people behind that problem. Try to see the entire situation from their point of view as well. Show respect to them, and as I mentioned earlier, don't lose your calm or use hostile words that can inflame the issues.

5- Set Boundaries

"Maintaining healthy boundaries with difficult people can be, well, difficult. That's because they don't want you to have boundaries in the first place", said Julie de Azevedo, founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy.

However, it is not impossible though.

Here are some tips to do this:

  • Be clear about your limits, and be strong in enforcing them
  • Learn when to say no
  • Be firm yet polite
  • Do not go against your judgment just to please people

Setting boundaries at work you may find difficult sometimes. Thus, the last tip for you is to ask someone to hold you accountable and keep you in check.

6- Have Them in Limelight

If you are surrounded with difficult people at work, you must have noticed that a very common pattern with difficult people is that they take interest in pointing out there is something wrong with you or the way you do things. They always focus on "what's wrong" instead of "how to solve the issue". This kind of interaction often intended to dominate and control, rather than to sincerely take care of issues.

Do you want to change this dynamic? One of the easiest ways to do that is to have your difficult co-workers in limelight. Be proactive, ask constructive and probing questions to them and put the spotlight back on them whenever they try to scrutinize anything about you in a conversation. This way you can neutralize their undue influence over you.

7- Don't Let Your Humor Dry

When aptly used, sense of humour can be a powerful communication tool, neutralizing conflicts, disarming difficult behavior and showing how wonderfully composed you are. Even when the difficult people at work are driving you up the wall, using humour is a sure shot way to lighten up a relatively stressful conversation.

Saumya Raghav, Deputy Manager at Policybazaar.com, also believes that humour at a workplace can effectively improve communication, decrease work stress, boost creativity, increase productivity and reduce social distance between managers and subordinates. He also suggests -

"It is important to know where you need to draw your boundaries. My advice –
1. Exercise moderation
2. Don't single out any team member, and
3. Avoid controversial topics."

8- Don't Be Defensive

Not being defensive can be a good tactic when confronted with a difficult coworker. Being defensive is not synonymous to being passive - you can still maintain your personal opinion and perspective in a situation, you don't have to agree with the other person's point of view - but rather than intending to make the other person wrong, you should choose not to be an adversary. Practising defenselessness creates space that allows for a more compassionate and peaceful interaction.

Prateek Panda formed the habit of being defenceless at corporate meetings with CIOs and CISOs of large corporations when he started his company a few years back.

"Sometimes these meetings can be intimidating, especially if you are a small startup and not a lot of experience behind you. To ease things out, I got rid of the habit of being defensive. Being defensive makes you lose the ability to hear the person in front and also is a sheer waste of energy. The best solution is to take a deep breath, calm down, listen some more, and then speak." Prateek shared his own experience.

9- Bust Your Stress

It takes a lot of energy to patiently deal difficult people at work. You have to put your natural reactions on hold for a while to work with such people. As a result, gradually you start feeling mentally stressed and lose proactiveness. Thus discharging the stress level is important in order to stay proactive while dealing the difficult people.

How to do this?

Have proper sleep every day. Make meditation a daily habit. Take short breaks during work, go for a small walk, or just have an ice cream. This way you will be able to keep all your stress at bay easily. Your clear mind will help you stay more positive, creative and proactive in your approach to difficult people at work.

If all else fails, escalate the issue you are having with your coworker's behavior to the higher authority. But, remember, this is considered as the trump card and shouldn't be used unless you've completely exhausted all your other means.

Today's guide will help you become more confident, make better relationships with your difficult coworkers, and experience higher communication prowess. Try out these proven tools to deal with difficult people and see how magically they work out for you.

Kamalika De

Freelancer, Entrepreneur India

An independent writer and journalist, Kamalika De regularly contributes to various leading online platforms. She has founded DoQuickly to offer simple hacks to do things quickly.

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