Personal Development

7 Ways of Making It Easier to Deal with Difficult People

Misery loves company. We’ve all know, or have encountered people whose sole purpose in life seems to be to gripe, complain about everything and anything, and tear others down. Hopefully we don’t have to spend a lot of time with them and their attitudes. If you have a person like this in your life they will drain your energy. Referred to as energy vampires, the only way to deal with these people is to get them out of your life. Sometimes there are people around us that we have to spend time with, such as family members. If you can, limit your time with them. If you can’t, in order to protect yourself, develop a plan to limit their impact on you. Regardless of the people we have to, or chose to spend time with, we will all run into people that will drain our energy if we let them. It might be helpful to have a few techniques in our back pockets to use to help us through these situations.

Don’t take their complaints at face value

In my experience with difficult people who chronically complain and love to argue is that they have deeper underlying unresolved issues that they are dealing with. They are unhappy individuals who are habitually looking to find fault and like to live on the dark side. Unable , or unwilling to work on their issues they resort to looking for attention in the only way they know how, complain about everything they can to anyone who will listen. Since they are always looking for things that are wrong, rest assured they will never run out of issues to complain about.

Don’t take it personally

If you are the object of their complaints don’t take it personally. You may just happen to be the only, or handiest person around upon who they can vent their anger. A good way to look at it is to ask yourself if anyone else has complained to you about the same thing. Would most people you know be upset about this?

Be aware of how you are reacting

Keep aware of how you are feeling while the person is venting. Are you getting angry about something yourself? If you are getting too worked up emotionally it is best to get away from the situation as quickly as possible. If you are able to distance yourself and not get emotionally involved there are a number of things that will help.

Actively listen

Although your natural inclination may to completely tune these people out it won’t necessarily make them go away. They may get angrier that they are not being heard and make their arguments more forceful.

Think through your responses before speaking

It might be tempting to think that if we just agree with them by nodding our heads or mumbling a few words in agreement they will go away. This may actually encourage them further. If the basis of their complaint has some legitimacy we can offer some agreement if it helps lighten the mood and tone. For example if they are complaining about a common topic such as government we can say something like…’it can be frustrating sometimes when you see how things are done.”

Ask them for solutions and offer some yourself

The last thing that difficult people want when they are venting is someone to talk about solutions. After all, if we found a way out it would deprive them of a reason to complain. It will work as a way of taking the steam out of their criticism. What they are really looking for is someone who will either agree with them or argue with them, both which will let them continue to vent. By depriving them of the opportunity they will likely look for someone else who is willing to indulge them and go down the same path as they are on.

Look for humor and some positive in their situation

A good distraction tool is to find some humor in the situation they are complaining about. Be careful that it doesn’t appear that you are laughing at them; otherwise they may become more infuriated. If there is something positive that they can get out of the situation, point that out to them.

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About the author

Harvey Deutschendorf

Harvey Deutschendorf

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, internationally published author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to theotherkindofsmart.com. His book THE OTHER KIND OF SMART, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success has been published in 4 languages. Harvey writes for FAST COMPANY and has a monthly column with HRPROFESSIONALS MAGAZINE. You can follow him on Twitter @theeiguy