4 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Personalities

Apr 24, 2018 Tips

A coworker treats you - or someone you care about - as less. A manager takes credit for your work. A colleague constantly challenges you or critiques you. A boss leaves you feeling demeaned or disrespected. A peer blames you for causing a situation or problem. A counterpart says something about you that isn’t true...

Negative interactions not only affect individuals, but entire organizations as well. You become stressed. You’re less productive. You feel helpless. There are effective strategies you can use to deal with difficult people and personalities. A few of the best are listed below:

  • Be self-aware. Know yourself and your emotions. Are you overreacting? Being sensitive? Making a situation bigger than it is? Remain calm, focused, and reasonable in tense settings. Take time to determine the best approach for diffusing the challenging circumstance. Change your response by stepping back and then reframing your thoughts. Sometimes something is only a bother if you let it bother you.
  • Lean on your network. Ask your support system for their perspective. Our natural instinct is to become defensive when faced with a challenging situation. It’s worthwhile to take a step back, to breathe, and to try to understand where another person is coming from.
  • Set boundaries. Your needs are important. How much is too much? Decide what your boundaries are and determine when and where you’ll interact with a difficult situation or person. Should you minimize interaction? Or engage? Don’t be afraid to speak up and/or know when to walk away from difficult situations. The only solution, at times, may simply be to remove yourself from a situation.
  • Be solution-oriented. Look for a positive solution. David Rietsema notes in this article that difficult people are often “really just stressed out or frustrated people.” How can you help them? What can you resolve? Focus on how you’re going to handle it. Not the opposite.

We help teams learn to deal with difficult personalities in our Facilitate Effective Meetings and Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict programs . You can learn more or register here


Bradberry, Travis. How Smart People Handle Difficult People, Entrepreneur., 14 Mar. 2017. Accessed 10 April 2018.
Ceniza, Levine, Caroline. Five Tips for Working with Difficult People, Forbes., 25 Jan. 2017. Accessed 10 April 2018.
Schawbel, Dan. Bob Sutton: How to Deal with Difficult People at Work, Forbes., 12 Sept. 2017. Accessed 10 April 2018.



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