4 People Who Make Us Want to Scream or Hide and How We Can Handle Them
A definitive guide to coping with difficult people
We might attract difficult people. Or we bump into them on a regular route or sit across from them at work. Or they could be relatives we see at family gatherings.
Whether you find people difficult or not depends on your perception. Often, our interpretation of others’ behavior flavors our view.
We might consider their actions mean they don’t care about us. Maybe, we imagine they want to harm us.
Or they want things from us we find uncomfortable to give or can’t offer, no matter how deep we search within. And their presence brings up past hurt and current fear. So, we don’t want to deal with them because they reflect some part of us we don’t want to see.
Difficult people steal our time and energy — aspects of our lives in short supply. We think we only have so much to give and little time to do what matters.
On occasion, we are difficult too. Only, we don’t recognize ourselves as such. Someone finds us hard to handle. But we don’t notice they are anxious. We are too wrapped up in a problem or excited about something to look outside ourselves.
It’s important to note that difficult people and pleasant folks are not so different. Anyone can switch from one type of individual to the other.
“But certain people really are difficult.”
I hear you.
And at times, you’re right. They’ve learned a specific way of acting that helps them. It cures troubles or soothes an ache. It works one time, so they try it again.
Soon, the difficult behavior — cornering someone for attention, being manipulative, or complaining — becomes ingrained. It’s hard-wired and set to play on autopilot.
The individual behaves in ways others dislike, yet they can’t see it’s a turnoff. They seek the same helpful outcome they met before that rarely appears any longer.
And everyone’s left with a dilemma.
They want to ease discomfort. When you face a difficult person, you want to escape and avoid your uneasiness. They want to squeeze comfort for themselves from you. But you’re not a sponge. You recognize, for your good, you need tricks up your sleeve to pull out when you need an escape route.
Of course, if you feel strong, you can use your discomfort as a path to personal growth. You can examine it, turn it over like a pebble and check areas that need a rubdown to make them smooth.
But sometimes, you want to move on fast rather than embark on self-development when you meet a difficult person.
Whether the irksome individual in your life is an unrelenting, manipulative cousin, dramatic pal, or pessimistic colleague, you can cope by taking back the resources you think they want to steal.
How to handle difficult people
The people we consider hard to handle display various consistent behaviors. You might recognize them in these descriptions and find the coping tips included helpful.
1• Attention hustlers
How attention hustlers behave
Some people hustle for attention. If nothing’s wrong, they create a problem. And if difficulties exist, they embellish them. They make hiccups into complicated dramatizations with themselves at center stage. They protest they’re hard done by, petition for your support, and insist you focus on their needs.
If you don’t please them, they disparage or drop you. They tend to slam doors, pout, and sulk, but they are also colorful, electrifying, and persuasive.
They know how to flatter you and press you to support them
And they recognize your weak points. They appeal to your ego and are excitable. Compared to the average life, theirs is full of huge highs and plummeting lows. And when you meet them, they steal your day. They won’t consider your needs because they are busy with theirs.
How to handle attention-hustlers
In retrospect, they want the very thing from you that they need to find in themselves. The need for attention is an inner cry to love those parts of themselves they believe are unlovable.
If we are that difficult person, we grasp for attention. We hope it will feed a need for self-cherishment and the care we don’t give ourselves because we think we are unworthy.
You can’t fix an attention-seeker even if you want to, and it’s not your responsibility. You can be polite, though, as you manage in a way that suits your needs.
It’s helpful to set boundaries. Doing so might cause them to reconsider their ways. Or it might not. Either way, you can be assertive rather than experience disempowerment from getting cornered.
• Set boundaries
They might expect you to be on call to serve their needs unless you let them know you have a life. So, set boundaries. Tell them if you have somewhere to go or something to do other than listen to their dramas. And even if you prefer to curl up and watch a movie, let them know you intend to enjoy time alone and relax.
It’s all right to talk about yourself too. Attention seekers hog conversations, but they may enjoy your input. Talking about you and your life can give them time to breathe and help you. So jump in and steer the conversation.
• Don’t encourage drama
Sometimes people need to talk about their emotions. But attention hustlers have a constant desire to discuss themselves. Recognize times when they attempt to drag you into petty dramas and change the subject or say you have to go. Also, refrain from asking about their well-being unless you have the time and inclination to listen.
• Carry out self-care
If you’ve no choice but to be with attention hustlers, take time for yourself when possible. Look after your need for peace and compatible relationships. Meditate, walk in nature, or do something else that helps you relax and refresh.
And if you find someone unpleasant and demanding, it’s okay to say no to them and leave. People sometimes fear breaking from those they can’t manage, imagining it means they are unloving.
But you can care about someone yet not bend to their will. It’s also healthy to love yourself enough to look after your needs and stop seeing somebody who upsets you.
2• Challenging people
How challenging people behave
People sometimes learn to be demanding. They are challenging and make others anxious. Usually, they don’t know they come across as controlling. They’re hard to please, critical and insist their way is best.
It’s hard to talk to them because their bossiness means there’s little room for you to air your opinions, and they won’t let you shine.
How to handle challenging people
If your self-esteem’s low or you feel fragile after a hard day, you don’t want to run into them. But if you do, here’s how to handle the situation.
• Remember you’re in charge
You get to choose how to internalize what people say. If they put you down or spout an unfriendly opinion, you need not take it to heart or let it ruin your well-being.
• Change your attitude
It might help to understand that the need to control stems from deep-seated fear. Recognize that the individual behind the overbearing attitude is afraid of rejection. If you embarked on the brave step of self-development when they upset you, you’d assess why you want to please them. When you want to escape from them, though, use mindfulness.
• Practice mindfulness
Stay aware of the outcome you want to see. So, speak up early if you anticipate declining a demand before it gets more difficult. Keep your desire not to get upset in mind too. Remember not to take things to heart or respond to triggers.
How doom-mongers behave
Doom-mongers are prophets of woe. If you tell them your dream rather than support and encourage you, they’ll shout it down and tell you it’s impossible.
It looks like they want to sabotage you, and you may suspect they are jealous. But, most likely, they can’t imagine you succeeding because they don’t see themselves as successful.
They can’t imagine how anyone can start their own business, travel the globe, or write a book, so they can’t help you achieve your goals. And if the unthinkable happens, and you succeed, they could be afraid you’ll leave them behind. Your ambition reminds them about how scared they are to dream their dream too.
How to handle doom-mongers
If you listen to them, you might not reach your potential. So be honest rather than let them trample on your need for growth.
• Be honest or deflect
Unless you ask for their opinion, explain that you don’t want input. Thank them and let them know you will consider any advice they’ve already given you. Of course, that’s a little white lie, but it’s more helpful than listening to them as your motivation deflates.
• Challenge them
When armed with facts, challenge inaccuracies. Doom-spreaders have a pessimistic outlook and expect the worst. They see problems where there are none or exaggerate difficulties and take them out of context. Point out discrepancies and misunderstandings, and the dialog will change.
• Practice avoidance
There’s nothing wrong with avoiding naysayers. Especially when you don’t want them to spoil your upbeat mood. Steer clear of places they go and encourage group conversations. They are less likely to complain in a crowd.
How backstabbers behave
Backstabbers imagine the way to get their needs met is to put you down, thus elevating themselves. If they had better social skills and confidence, they would find what they needed in healthier ways.
How to handle backstabbers
Backstabbers are toxic and bad for your health, so you don’t want them in your life. They will make you unhappy and steal your energy if you’re not careful.
• Don’t give away personal details or join them
If you know you’re in the company of a backstabber (someone you can’t trust and is likely to discredit you), don’t tell them personal details about your life. Talk about unimportant matters, or ask them questions about themselves.
When they dig for information, change tack or ask them why they find the topic interesting. And if they stab someone else in the back while they’re with you, use honesty to stop them. Say you don’t want to join in, and you find what they say unreasonable or unkind.
It’s helpful to know how to manage difficult people. Doing what’s right for you isn’t disrespectful to others. It means you respect yourself. Remember, though, that no one makes you feel negative. Only you can do that, and it is worth looking at the source of any painful emotion triggered in you. Once you do so, there’s a good chance you won’t meet many difficult people anymore because you won’t see them as such.
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Bridget Webber is a writer and nature lover, often found in the woodland, meadow, and other wild places. She writes poetry and stories and pens psychology articles; her love of discovering what rests inside the thicket and the brain compels her to delve deep. She’s appeared in many leading publications and ghostwrites for professionals who can’t spare the time to pen compositions.