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How To Handle Difficult People

6 Ways to Handle People

6 Strategies: Choose the Right One

Who Are Difficult People?

“He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.” —Proverbs 11:12

“A sinful man disquieteth friends, and maketh debate among them that be at peace.” —Ecclesiasticus 28:9

  • Difficult people give you unsolicited advice, openly criticize you, practice emotional blackmail, or seek a fight.
  • If the person is out of line and you can just skip over what they say, then go ahead.
  • But the person may be someone you cannot easily ignore such as a boss, spouse, parent, child, friend, lover, authority figure, etc.
  • For ignoring to work with difficult people you must use technique number 5 with full determination. See below.

6 Good Choices for Responding

  • Pick the one that is right for the time, place, & person.


This means that you choose not to respond to what they said in any way. Instead, you start to talk about something else as if they had not said anything. You will be surprised how often this works.


This means that you insult yourself worse. For example, if they say, “You are slow,” then you say, “Yeah, I’m so slow that the snails are passing me by.” By exaggerating the attack you defuse it. So make a joke of it by tripling it!


This technique often works well. What you do is to thank them for their input and say that you will consider it. This lets you off the hook and promises nothing but what you would do anyway. For instance, “Thanks for sharing that, I’ll consider it.” Yes, I’ll consider just how nutty or rude it was!


This means that you readily admit your mistake, apologize, and move on. Do not dwell on it. Keep it short, direct, and simple. Then talk about something else. Confess then redirect.


This technique only works if taken to the absolute extreme. If you use this technique and quit under pressure, then you will have an even worse situation. Again, do not use this technique unless you are committed to it 100% and are willing to ride it out until the bitter end.

The idea here is to totally ignore the unwanted attacks, double binds, emotional blackmail, and conversation that you do not want to engage in. Do not recognize it. Do not respond to it. Do not argue, defend, protest, comment, or in any way acknowledge the place the other person is coming from.

Keep on your subject and talking about nothing related and nothing of any importance: unrelated small talk. It is like having a pink elephant in your living room that you pretend is not there. Naturally, the other person will escalate and become angry that they are no longer hooking you or “pushing your buttons”. Take their complaints as encouragement that the technique is working.

This is similar to how politicians handle the press. The politician says whatever they have on their agenda no matter what questions they are asked. The politician wisely ignores the questions or agenda of the newscaster or reporter, because their questions are basically traps or attempts to create conflict.


One way to stay sane and keep a good attitude is to pity the person who has a difficult way of relating to others. By feeling sorry for them, you take away their power and move to the higher value of compassion.

Consider that they must suffer their style in their mind, in their self-talk, at home, at work, with family and friends, and how difficult a life they must have. Pray for them to be under God instead of such a negative attitude, approach, and style. Remember, they have the same human nature, and you could also easily be acting in the same self-defeating fashion.

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Quotations from Various Sources

Organized Alphabetically

“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” —Proverbs 15:1 

“Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) 

“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” —Matthew 5:25-26 

“Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.” —Orson Card 

“Be the change you seek.” —Mahatma Gandhi 

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” —Dr. Seuss 

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;” —I Peter 1:15 

“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.” —Spanish proverb 

“Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts.” —Psalms 28:3 

“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” —Proverbs 17:28 

“Foolishness always results when the tongue outraces the brain.” —Unknown 

“For if you give a person love and kindness when he does not by his actions merit it, he will see that you probably really love him.” —Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper, A Guide to Rational Living, Third Edition, p. 142 

“I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to.” —Anonymous 

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” —Romans 12:18 

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” —Martin Luther King, Jr. 

“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” —Proverbs 16:24 

“Some man holdeth his tongue, because he hath not to answer: and some keepeth silence, knowing his time.” —Ecclesiasticus 20:6 

“The first duty of love is to listen.” —Paul Tillich, 1886-1965 

“The most precious things in speech are pauses.” —Ralph Richardson 

“There is nothing that so much gratifies an ill tongue as when it finds an angry heart.” —Thomas Fuller 

“To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it.” —Tacitus 

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson 

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