Dealing with difficult people

Difficult people can be bad for your health and wellbeing.

Disagreements can be good and are a healthy part of a relationship if each party is listened to and respected, they clear the air. However, with difficult people, they only see things from their viewpoint and they often believe they are right. Sometimes they have ulterior motives, or an underlying lack of self-worth, they can be jealous types, make assumptions, jump to conclusions, and take things as a personal attack on them as a person.

Difficult people use, fear, guilt and shame, to take control and make themselves feel better at a cost of making you feel unworthy and inferior. They have high expectations and their way is the right way. They blame and shame and make everything your fault.

Keep company with those who build you up

Good relationships are based on respect, trust, care and honesty. These relationships are supportive and uplifting. You know when you’ve been in the company of a judgemental bully when you feel drained and worthless after time spent with them.

People who are hard to deal with can be anyone, a family member, your partner, child, parent, a friend or colleague, even a bullying neighbour.

Expectations – family can be the hardest relationships to deal with. Your parents, a spouse or an overbearing sibling can influence your career, your relationship with your partner, your children or friends. Spiteful comments trigger your emotions, making you feel like a failure, or not good enough.  They try to control your future by making you nervous about making decisions, fearful of doing or saying the wrong thing, making you feel guilty or that you are a disappointment.

Of course, they have lived their life the right way, have made great decisions and are much better than you. Often those who instil these feelings in you usually have low self esteem and put you down to make themselves look and feel good.

Difficult work colleagues can sabotage your career with their need to control and look better. There are rules at work for everyone to follow for efficiency and safety for all. However, a colleague who is controlling, belittling, critical and mean is just a bully who can only satisfy their lack of worth by making you the cause of all their problems.

Difficult people avoid taking responsibility for anything they do or say, they become defensive and aggressive if challenged. They lack thought or understanding for anyone but themselves, the only person they are interested in is themselves.

They can lull you into a false sense of hope that they are thoughtful and understanding and as soon as you take the bait they strike again.

So how do you deal with these malignant types?

Accept the way they are and change your response. You must learn how to handle them, learn their little tricks, listen to them without reacting and you’ll get to understand their motives. If you feel you can discuss how they treat you then have a calm conversation. Avoid criticising them, focus on their behaviour or the words they have said explaining how they make you feel or what problem they caused for you. Its hard to discuss things calmly with most domineering people, but occasionally it does the trick.

If talking doesn’t work, minimise the amount of time you are in contact with them, always make sure someone else is with you when you know they are going to be around. Take someone with you to a meeting or meet in public.

Turn your phone off, you don’t need to answer it just because they phoned, and you think they will be annoyed. Your wellbeing and peace of mind is more important than giving them your attention.

Don’t get dragged into their pettiness and their need to be in control.

Identify the real root cause of why this person bothers you so much. Ask why? What happened? When? Who are you now? Why are you still affected?


Manipulators make you feel trapped, their actions are underhand, they destroy your confidence, shun responsibility and love to control how they are seen and how others see you. They make you question your sanity; their outbursts are immature, and they play the victim to create guilt.

Their targets are the people pleasers, the empathetic, the caring. Because you care, they feel they can manipulate you for their gain.

It may be that you are dealing with:

Narcissist – a sense of self-importance, blame others for their mistakes, guilt tripping, silent treatment, throw tantrums.

Gaslighting – criticise you for showing emotion, disagreement, twist things back on you.

Its all your fault

Ways to deal with difficult people.

Boundaries stop manipulators being in control.

Would you let others treat you like they do? Would you treat others the way they do?

Take control back and show you won’t stand for their bully tactics. Keep focus on the issue that you are not happy with. Be clear and direct and don’t let them twist what you are saying back on you.

Be clear on:

  • What is acceptable and what is not. Accept no BS.
  • Consequences. Stick to the consequences you have decided on or you will undermine your personal power.

Boundaries are not mean; you are being assertive. Manipulators will resist your boundaries and paint you in a bad light to others. Tell someone you trust what you are planning to do so you have someone on your side.

Boundaries are not demands, it is up to them if they listen and change their behaviour towards you. If you have outlined the unacceptable behaviour from them, the consequences if they continue and you follow up with steely determination, the ball is in their court.

  • You are doing this for you, for your mental health and wellbeing. If they respect you, they will listen and adjust, if don’t care, they’ll carry on.
  • Don’t get upset. Know you have explained clearly, there is nothing else you can do but to limit time with them or plan your exit. Try to emotionally detach, remind yourself that the way they act is not respectful or caring. Remind yourself why these boundaries have been put in place.
  • Talk to friends and family who can support you with this difficult person.


Stand tall


Create respectful relationships

Make clear what you will / will not do for others and what they need to do to help e.g. chores.

Contact time: Limit phone calls. Don’t answer if your busy / not in right mind to speak to the person phoning. Don’t answer the door if they have a habit of calling unannounced because they want something, or put your coat on and tell them you are going out.

Shopping for family: set a day and a time. Be specific and stick to it. If they demand you do something for them at another time explain you are busy and will do the task on the day and time you have put aside to help them. For example, a parent phones and asks you to pick up their prescription, do some shopping, say yes, on the specified day you will do that for them.

Teach them they need to learn to organise themselves better and are responsible for planning things around you. Remind them of this if they start to call you or say you don’t care and then get on with your day. Don’t let them guilt trip you, you know you care, and they do too.

Make clear what helps you / what hinders you.

Explain acceptable / unacceptable behaviour – never blame the person, focus on their actions.

Explain you have a right to your beliefs without ridicule.

Explain you have a right to make time for yourself and do not have to ask their permission.

Money.  Your money is for you, it’s yours to spend, not theirs to borrow or take. They are responsible for their own money and need to learn the limits of their budget.

Leisure time. Tell them,  this is when I am going to the gym. I won’t be available.

Privacy. Set boundaries regarding your phone, your bank account, mail, etc. No one has the right the go through your personal things without your permission. If others snoop, ask them why they need to and why they feel it is ok to do so?

Recognise their need to control is their problem and it is not yours to fix. Offer them help, listen to them if they need support, but remember not to be taken advantage of.

Your responses. You control your responses, be mature, avoid name calling, anger and ridicule.

Keep away from the drama they create; don’t give them the fuel they crave.

You matter, your health matters, standing up for yourself and being assertive is for your wellbeing. Set limits for yourself and avoid over committing, learn to say no. Be resilient, clear and consistent.

Keep your emotions in check. Refuse to be manipulated or made to feel guilty. If you’re not getting anywhere, make your excuses and leave, hang up – do not feel guilty – they are not listening or respecting you.

Start by putting in place 1 or 2 boundaries and build on them if necessary.

Practice minimal or no contact.

Some people may listen and start to think – others won’t. Some may see their error and come to a mutual agreement with you.

You cannot change people, but you can change the way you deal with an emotionally abusive person.

Further reading


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