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How to Handle Difficult People

sticky note that says we need to talk with difficult people

Some people are hard to handle. But unfortunately, they rarely recognize they’re difficult to deal with, so they don’t increase their social skills and improve their relationships.

Occasionally, you must spend time with someone you find difficult. Perhaps you dread being with them, but they are family members, your boss, or someone else you see regularly. These tips will help you navigate these hard-to-handle relationships.

Change the way you think

If you want to cope well with someone you find difficult, the first step is to change how you think. When you consider somebody a problem, recall the adage, “it takes two to tango.” Anyone in a toxic relationship is part of the dance. They play their role in keeping the connection afloat.

When you take responsibility for the way you interact in a problematic relationship, you gain the power to make positive changes. Your power comes from recognizing you can be an effective agent of change.

One helpful way to deal with disagreeable relationships is to set boundaries. Yet, there’s a good chance you haven’t done so, which is why coping is tough.

Examine why you haven’t made boundaries

Look within and find out why you haven’t set boundaries. These suggestions might help:

You think you’re being kind

Do you believe engaging with a difficult person is kinder than setting boundaries? If so, think again. Kind relationships involve parameters. Just look at how loving parents raise their children. They understand it’s vital to teach their broods healthy behaviors by creating boundaries. This protective measure aids maturity and safety.

Healthy adult relationships have boundaries too. For example, it’s your call to decline requests for your time and energy when doing so safeguards your well-being. If you see somebody as problematic because they always seem to want something from you, practicing saying “no” will help.

You don’t recognize your value

Low self-esteem can make you vulnerable in relationships with difficult people. They might find your unassertiveness advantageous. So note your time and energy are valuable. When you appreciate your worth, you’ll see there’s no need to prioritize difficult people’s wishes over your needs.

Treat yourself like your best friend. You wouldn’t recommend they sacrifice their well-being to somebody who takes advantage of them or leaves them exhausted, would you?

You freeze rather than fight or flee when stress knocks

Doubtless, you’ve heard of the phrase “fight-or-flight” to describe how people respond to fear. The complete term, however, is “fight, freeze, or flight.” Like a rabbit caught in headlights, you might feel as though you’re immobilized when confronted by individuals who make your life difficult.

You can change your response with practice. But it’s more beneficial to uncover why you are fearful. When you do, your reaction to difficult people will alter on autopilot.

Your stress reaction may stem from childhood. Was it safest to sit tight and be quiet when a family row ensued, for instance? Were you praised for being good when you were unassertive? If so, seeing where your behavior comes from may be enough to help you change.

How to use boundaries

People don’t always have a problem thinking of boundaries to set, but they may need assistance to implement them. These tips will help:


Use honesty to reclaim an uncomfortable yet valuable relationship. Complex relationships aren’t necessarily bad. Some have redeemable features. For example, if you care for someone who leeches your energy unless you just feel sorry for them, you get something from the association other than only lethargy and irritation. In this case, it’s worth saving your connection using an honest, assertive plea.

“I value our relationship. But I panic when I see you coming because we always talk about stressful topics, and I want to talk about positive things.” Such a plea can highlight their effect on you and make them change. Or it may not. Either way, asserting your boundary is positive. They will comply or move out of your life.


If you have trouble being assertive around a hard-to-handle person, gain support from a wise, positive individual. A therapist or a sage-like friend or family member can help you gain clarity about a problematic relationship and see how to make changes. They can provide a fresh perspective, give you courage, and assist you in framing how to talk to someone you find difficult.


You may benefit from ending a relationship with a difficult person or reducing contact as a last resort; unfortunately, some relationships are toxic, even when you try to change them. If someone drains your well-being and refuses to stop, having them in your life is not healthy. You’re not selfish if you don’t see them anymore; you’re emotionally responsible.

Most of the time, difficult people don’t intend to harm you. Instead, they want to offload negativity and feel better. Or they want help and don’t recognize when they ask too much of you. But it’s not healthy to be at their beck and call. So, identify what’s stopped you from being assertive and changing your relationship. What you learn will expand your self-awareness and help you change.


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