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Dealing with difficult people

Opinion & Analysis
Some people are bullies because they were bullied.

In the work environment we always meet different people. Some wish you good and others wish you all the bad. We have to deal with diverse personality types, traits, and characters. We have to find ways of dealing with people and building positive relationships.

We are different

We have different opinions and some people think they know it all, so their opinion matters. A leader who assumes their thought is better usually becomes a dictator. Whereas a leader who respects other people’s opinions is good in teamwork and is able to harvest ideas. We have to know that we are different and never try to make people to be like you.

Challenge people to change

It’s hard to change people. The best thing to do is to challenge (or influence) them to change. Never try to make difficult people change. Instead, let them see the need to change. Let them see the good in you. Change your attitude towards them. Do not fight them. Do not fix them. The more you think of them, the more you will always carry them in your thoughts, and even end up bitter. So, use the ABC tool to win. ABC stands for attitude, behaviour and character. Use those three to win, by fixing yourself.

The socialisation theory

Psychological studies will inform us that most people treat others in relation to how they were socialised. Some people are bullies because they were bullied. Hurt people hurt others. Take time to study and know why people behave the way they do. There are things that trigger or motivate people to behave in a particular way. So for you to win them over, take time to know them, thereby getting the best strategy.

Seek the best and see the best

Everyone has something good within them. When you look for the best you always get the best. As a leader, always appreciate the good that people have.

Find a similar area of interest

Difficult people have their areas of interest as well. Find one area where you have mutual interest, and use that to dig for their soft spot. It’s easy to convince someone if you relate on a particular issue.

Avoid to avert

There are people you must just avoid. Give them their space to breath and dominate. One day, I walked into an office of a co-worker and without having said a word she asked me, “Why is that you are always happy?” That was a negative question on its own.  There are some people that you won’t please despite being a nice person. Your mere smile irritates then or makes then angry. The reason of their dissatisfaction in life must not be the reason why you should join their wagon of ‘the grumpy and the unhappy people.’


At times you have to get time to listen to difficult people. Such people might be craving for love. The best way to show them love is to find time to listen to them. Love overlooks everything. Such people at times merely want to be heard and understood.

Learn to resolve conflict

Conflict is one unavoidable thing. It could be at work, home or in teamwork. At times it is caused by differences of opinion and even by difficult people. The best way is to be able to resolve it using emotional intelligence, communication, and soft skills.

Accept it

There are some things that we must accept as they are and know that they will never change. So, what we have to do is to learn to co-exist and adjust. Accept that there are some people who are meant to be like that. Be open, practice good communication and be empathetic. Learn to listen and to be considerate at all times.

Help them see

At times you need to take a bold step, help people see what they really are. Be the mirror. One hard, but important question to a difficult person is: “Do you consider how you make people feel?” Tell them the truth. Remember, no one will know that their breath smells bad until someone tells them.

Know thyself

We never stop to learn. The best person to study is you. Know yourself, your emotions and your behaviour. Learn how your own emotions affect or impact others. Do not be found to be the thorn in the flesh of someone’s life. Manage your own emotions before you try to manage other people’s emotions.

Parting shot: An American model called Tara Stiles said, “A trap in dealing with difficult people is getting wrapped up in their personality. When we can stay objective and remove ourselves from other people’s roller-coaster psychology, we have a much better chance of moving through the situation positively”.

Jonah Nyoni is an author, speaker, and leadership trainer. He can be contacted on Twitter @jonahnyoni. WhatsApp: +263 772 581 918

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