How to Deal With Difficult People

Photo via sartre on Flickr.
Photo via sartre on Flickr.


Despite the best attempts and intentions, there are some people who are just hard to get along with. And if you work with them, it can be extremely stressful to limit your interactions, because there’s really no way to avoid making contact. So, how do you deal with difficult people?

Body language expert and Science of People founder Vanessa Van Edwards has made it her life’s work to decode humans and their complex interactions. And while Vanessa, who describes herself as a “recovering awkward person,” usually focuses on hard skills like how to be, well, less awkward, she’s also done a lot of research on how people can best engage with each other.

“I use a blend of scientifically backed academic research, expert findings and personal case studies to show you how to master your interactions,” explains Vanessa — including your interactions with those difficult people.

The real trick to dealing with people who just don’t seem to be interested in meeting you on your level? Recognizing that they have needs, as well, and that the best way to handle them is to meet those needs. Because while a downer or a one-upper might seem like they’re being a contrarian just for the fun of it, it’s probably more likely that they have a feeling they need to express, but they don’t know a better way to do it.

“When we meet a difficult person, or if we have one in our family or circle of friends our instinct is to try to change them,” explains Vanessa. “We try to encourage Downers to be more positive, Passives to stand up for themselves, Tanks to calm down, and Better Thans to be more humble. This never works! In fact, when you try to change someone, they tend to resent you, dig in their heels, and get worse.”

Instead of trying to force a difficult person into being different, figure out how to meet them halfway in a conversation. Here’s more real talk afrom Vanessa about dealing with difficult people:

Want more tips from Vanessa Van Edwards? Check out her Creative Live class, Master Your People Skills.

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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.