3 Effective Strategies for Dealing with Difficult People

a man drinking beer while embracing his partner
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If life had an instruction manual, it would go something like this:

Thoughts have no more power than you give them. So don’t let yourself be affected by what people say, and everything will start to fall into place.

But it’s not as easy as it looks.

I’m pretty sure you have someone around tricky to deal with, and you can’t move away.

Maybe your boss.

Maybe a coworker.

Maybe a family member.

I understand what you feel and have mastery in dealing with “painful” people.

I worked in a nightclub to pay my way through college. And you can’t even imagine what you see at night when people drink and do drugs too much.

Believe me, if I tell you that I swallowed toads and snakes every night for years in that bar.

You know, “the customer is always right” (even if he is not correct or is a violent drunk).

But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, when a person is rejected, tormented, or defeated, he can learn something.

Today, I want to share with you one of those lessons: how to deal with difficult people when, like me, behind the bar, you can’t get away from them.

Let’s start.

1-See people as karma lessons.

“Learn to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” —Leonardo da Vinci.

Everything is connected, and deep inside, you know it. Because of that, the first practical way to deal with difficult people is to see those persons as what they are: lessons to learn.

When you start thinking that way, the game changes. Because that pain in the ass, better known as your: boss, brother, sister, brother-in-law, mother-in-law, or coworker, becomes a tool for your personal growth.

For example, I had a bad relationship with my mother for years until I realized I had to learn something from all our pain when my father left us.

When I learned the lesson, my mother changed because I changed.

All is connected.

The other way around also works.

Sometimes, you are the karmic lesson that someone else has to learn.

I once had a very annoyed roommate who loved spice jars.

It was very inconvenient because he would put them in front of the coffee pot, and every morning, he would have to remove dozens of jars to take out the coffee and then put them back.

This little nonsense generated a lot of conflict in the coexistence because my roommate did not want to understand that putting the coffee in front of the spices was better. It was more efficient since coffee is used more than thyme and rosemary.

I thought it was a territorial attitude that he wanted to impose his will over mine. But no.

Living with him, I realized that he always watched the same sitcom, read the same books repeatedly, and bought clothes identical to those he broke.

He didn’t want to change. He tried to hold on to time. And I was his karmic lesson: the guy who changed everything for him every morning.

On his birthday I gave him a book by a different author than the ones he read, a DVD he didn’t know and an orange T-shirt (a color he never wore).

Eventually, he fell for it, read the book, watched the series, and wore the t-shirt. That was the beginning of the change.

Today, he is a minimalist and seeks efficiency in his home. Every time I see him, I know he has the coffee first and then the spices.

2- Look at people as if they were elements of the weather.

“If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to stand the rain.” — Dolly Parton.

I learned this trick from a drunk at the bar.

One night, a guy pulled a gun on me because I hadn’t set his drink to his liking.

I almost pissed my pants.

When the guy with the gun left, an old drunk came up to me and said, the storm has passed; I am the sun, and I come to cheer you up.

I looked at the guy and thought about Diogenes’s statement, “Keeping quiet is how you learn to hear.”

And I listened to that older man. And the truth is that I calmed down.

Since then, I have become a TV meteorologist.

If someone in conflict approaches me, I think, “Storm clouds are approaching from the west.”

And I started visualizing those people as literal weather phenomena.

They talk to me, and I see black clouds with eyes talking to me, and funny ideas pop up in my head like “if I blow them away, they will go away.”

And those positive thoughts born in my head counteract the bad feelings of discomfort that certain people produce in me.

A variant of this is to caricature the person who makes you uncomfortable, turn it into a Ninja turtle, or a character from SpongeBob.

That takes power away from them.

Remember what I said at the beginning,

Thoughts have no more power than you give them.

Use humor to keep negative thoughts about specific situations or people from ruining your day.

3- See people for what they are: ephemeral.

“No evil lasts a hundred years, and nobody can withstand it.” — Old Spanish proverb.

Nothing lasts forever, mate.

That’s the truth for the good times but also for the bad times.

That person you can’t deal with right now, one day, will be gone.

That thought is powerful.

I’m sure you’ve had a temp job that sucked. But you knew that one day you’d leave. And that kept you going.

Do the same in life; put deadlines in your head.

  • “I will talk to human resources if this person still bothers me in a month.”
  • “If my friend keeps picking on me every time he sees me, I talk to him for a week, and if we don’t work it out, I end the friendship.”

Sometimes you have to act.

You must realize that the people who bother you are temporary, but your life is too, and you have not come to the world to swallow everyone’s shit.

Choose yourself always. It’s the best choice you’ll ever make.

A virtual hug


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