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Rising Above the Challenge - 10 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

"Difficult people are a fact of life, but it doesn't mean they have to make our lives difficult. Whether it's in the workplace, at home, or in our personal lives, everyone has encountered a difficult individual at some point. But, what if I told you that with the right tools and strategies, you can turn these challenging interactions into positive and productive relationships? Join me as we delve into 10 essential tips for working with difficult people in this video, and see for yourself how you can transform adversity into opportunity."

Read the full transcript below:

Hello, my name is Paula Bell, also known as The BA Martial Artist, and I have over 20 years in leadership and project roles where I have effectively led multi-million dollar projects for large organizations.

And due to that I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with difficult stakeholders, which I am sure you have as well. In this video I will discuss my top 10 tips on how to work with people who get on your nerves.

Now as a martial artist there are 5 tenets we recite and believe in. They are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control and indomitable spirit. And believe me when I say, I have to use all of these when engaging with others.

So, here are my top 10 tips on dealing with people that are difficult or you don't particularly care for:

  1. Remain calm and composed in the face of difficult behavior (self control).

  2. Don’t take it personal (self control)

  3. Control your reaction/protect your energy (integrity)

  4. Listen actively and try to understand the other person's perspective (courtesy)

  5. Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions (courtesy)

  6. Think before you respond (self control)

  7. Don’t respond out of emotion (self control)

  8. Hold them accountable (integrity)

  9. Communicate assertively, expressing your own needs and boundaries clearly (indomitable spirit)

  10. Take a step back and re-evaluate the situation if necessary, and seek outside help if the situation is not manageable (perseverance)

So as you can see that's why I am called the BA Martial Artist 😀, as I leverage those fundamentals tenets in everything that I do.

I remember working on a board years ago, where I had to work with someone I particularly didn’t care for. This particular person felt they had the right to treat people any way they felt and say whatever they wanted to. Sound familiar? I used to dread it when they showed up for meetings. I just didn’t know who I was really dealing with. As this person was older than me I was raised to respect my elders so I would hold my tongue. Until I didn’t in email 😳. I didn’t realize my rant in email went to this individual directly until a board member advised me that I sent it to them. Of course that created an awkward situation, but I owned my wrong doing and apologized, though those apologies never came from the other side when they did something wrong. What I did know though was that if I didn’t get my crap together and stop allowing them to control me in the way I responded to them, I was not going to be as effective in my role as I needed to be.

Maybe you can relate? I am sure you have encountered individuals in your day job that you don’t particularly care working with, but unfortunately you do not have a choice, you have to work with them. I am here to tell you there is hope. You can work with them, but it's about HOW you work with them while protecting your energy, keeping it professional and staying true to yourself and your boundaries.

Now let's go a little deeper on tips on how to execute these 10 tips:

Let's start with Tip #1 which is to:

  1. Remain calm and composed in the face of difficult behavior. To remain calm, or composed, in its simplest definition, means to not show, or feel, strong emotions such as excitement, anger, or worry. Now controlling your emotions is not always the easiest thing to do and sometimes our emotions do get the best of us based on the situation.

    1. However, here are some tips on how to do this:

      1. Take a deep breath - yes take a wooooo-saaaahhhh moment! Sometimes people will come to you wreckless with their words, and you will need to get re-centered. A deep breath can decrease stress. By breathing slower and more deeply from your stomach, you signal your nervous system to calm down. When you take this deep breath, focus on breathing from your stomach, pushing your stomach out each time you inhale. Take longer breaths, counting to at least three for each inhalation and exhalation. Sometimes you may need to count to 10. I know I do depending on the situation.

      2. Another tip is to come up with a couple of go to responses. Such as, "That's an interesting concept, can you tell me how you came to that conclusion", or "I am hearing you, but don't necessarily agree, can you tell me more about your perspective?"

      3. Acknowledge, own and process your feelings. Your feelings are very much real so take a moment to acknowledge that you are feeling, own that you are feeling that way, and process the feelings you are having. You have a right to feel how you feel, but you have a responsibility to respond to those feelings in such a way that it doesn't harm you, or others around you, in a monumental way. Okay, let's move on to Tip #2 which is...

  2. Don’t take it personal - most of the time you, as a person, is not the problem. Many times people are taking out their own personal frustrations on others. They may not be happy with themself and try to project that energy on you. It goes back to that phrase, “misery loves company”. Don’t allow that negative energy to come into your space and consume you, because now you have given that person control over you in respect to your response, actions and behaviors. Instead...

    1. Change your mindset - recognize it’s not about YOU, as a person, it's about the issue the other party, or parties, have they are trying to project on you. Don't internalize it that it consumes you and takes you out of character. Try to focus on the problem at hand, rather than the person. It's truly the problem that needs to be solved and where the attention should be directed. Which leads me to Tip #3...

  3. Control your reaction/protect your energy - It is very important you stay true to you, and your character. We all have environments we thrive in. When negativity and distraction infiltrate that environment that causes instability, and when you are unstable you can make impulsive decisions, respond in ways that are out of your character, have increased anxiety and more. So it's important to:

    1. Take your power and control back by re-focusing on the issue at hand, and not the distraction that has infiltrated your environment. Let me be clear, what I am explaining here is not easy to do. I have struggled with not taking things personal, but when you begin to realize that you are allowing someone else to get into your space and impact you negatively on many different levels, you begin to appreciate and understand that you may not be able to control others actions, but you sure bet can control your own. When you execute that control and come out of it that much stronger and less stressed, that victory alone speaks volumes on your character and the type of person you are, as well as, demonstrates the amount of self control you have. Now let's move on to Tip #4 which is to...

  4. Listen actively and try to understand the other person's perspective. In 2020, I talked about this a lot and it's the concept of "listen to understand, not to respond". You see, sometimes the other party just wants to be heard and if you are not listening to understand, but rather to respond you will add fuel to the fire 🔥. Here are some tips on how to actively listen:

    1. Pay Attention to the person speaking. Give them eye contact and show that you are engaged in what they are saying.

    2. Do not interrupt the other person. Again most want to feel heard and if you interrupt them you are saying what they have to say doesn't matter.

    3. Have an open mind. No judgment. Truly appreciate the other parties perspective even if you don't agree with it.

    4. Empathize with the other party, which means to be aware and experience the feelings of others.

    5. Don't impose your opinions on others. It's not about YOU at this moment. Which leads me to Tip #5...

  5. Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions. Try to think and execute in positive intent. When you make assumptions and jump to conclusions it can lead to negative situations. Therefore, listen to what the party has to say and...

    1. Paraphrase it - Repeat it back to them what you heard in a calm voice. Have them confirm you heard them correctly. Again, people want to be heard and when you paraphrase, you are demonstrating you listened to what was said and you are truly engaging and actively listening. Which takes me to Tip #6...

  6. Think before you respond - Avoid becoming defensive or argumentative. Again, you don't want to the fuel the fire, and it's not personal. This again is also controlling your emotions. Now you can do this by seeking to find common ground and areas of agreement. Focus on the big picture by understanding the WHY. Actively listen, and be committed to results opposed to winning an argument. Which takes me to Tip #7 which is...

  7. Don’t respond out of emotion - make sure to use non-threatening words. You can get your point across without threats. Now let me be clear, earlier I said to acknowledge, own and process your emotions, right? That was to help you take a step back so you didn't respond out of emotion. Now that you have acknowledged your emotions be honest with the other party. Tell them how their behaviors are impacting you. You can stay professional and courteous, while also getting your point across. In addition you can look for opportunities to compromise or find a mutually beneficial solution. Again, focus on the problem at hand. Which takes me to Tip #8...

  8. Communicate assertively, expressing your own needs and boundaries clearly. Being assertive doesn't mean being rude. Being assertive means being confident and bold in how you communicate. There is nothing wrong with being confident in yourself and demonstrating that strength.

    1. You can do this by using "I" statements to express your own feelings and needs.

    2. Stay controlled in your communication, again check your emotions and ensure you are communicating confidently your needs and boundaries.

    3. As I speak about boundaries, there is also a great 2 letter word that you should be leverage more and that is "NO". There is nothing wrong with saying no if it goes outside of your boundaries. Which takes me to Tip #9...

  9. Hold them accountable - when you know better, you do better. Don’t let people just walk over you all the time because you will hold that in and then explode. You have advised the other party how you feel about their behaviors and the situation; therefore, once you come to a compromise, or mutually beneficially solution make sure to hold them accountable.

    1. Call them out if they set back into their old habits, and recognized them when they don't. Appreciate people when they have taken your feedback to heart and you see a change in behaviors.

  10. Take a step back and re-evaluate the situation if necessary, and seek outside help if the situation is not manageable. You may literally need to walk away depending on what is said to you. It may be the best course of action. Or advise you would like to continue the conversation at a later time, to have a more productive conversation. A response could be, "Thanks, I will like to think about this more before responding, or moving forward." Sometimes it's best to address the situation at a later time, but don't wait too long to address it though because the longer you wait the worst it could get. I would say give yourself 24 hours to decompress, and digest the situation at hand.

We deal with difficult people in our daily lives. It is not something you will be able to avoid. However, how you REACT to it, is KEY.

Please don’t get it twisted, there are times your reaction is not going to be what you would have liked it to be. As I stated earlier executing these 10 tips are not always easy.

But here’s the thing. There are these things called grace and an apology. Hopefully, you have built such strong character that those around you will know you are having a moment and give you that grace.

However, when you make a mistake, own it. There is a lot of power in a sincere apology. It shows strength and not weakness.

So there you have it! My top 10 tips for dealing with difficult people. I hope you have found some gems you can apply right away and some insights, or reminders.

But until then,

The BA Martial Artist is signing off! 🥋🥷🏽


P.S. If you have found this information beneficial please subscribe to my YouTube channel (The BA Martial Artist) to receive alerts on when new content is posted. In addition, check out additional posts on my website at www. That is "2 a's in the middle).

P.P.S. Also. please take a moment to leave a comment on what are some tips you leverage to deal with difficult people. I would love to hear from you and gain some gems from you as well.


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