Starting from the assumption that each of us can be a difficult person to someone, there are big categories of difficult people to which you can relate in different ways.
Let’s start with what we can call the “tanks“. What are the characteristics of these people? As the name suggests, they are people who crush others. How? For example, flinging pointed barbs and making bitter jokes. They decide instinctively and become impatient easily. They attack to intimidate, they claim to be right and threat the others. How can we react to similar behaviour? You can try, for example, to stand up to them without claiming to be right. It may be useful calling them by name to get their attention, asking them if they are serious, trying going beyond the joke to understand the intentions behind this behaviour. Another technique may be to be friendly, that is behaving in a diametrically opposite way to theirs. You could also manage the pauses and try to confront them alone to unmask them without humiliating them.
A second type of difficult people are those that can be defined as “explosives“. They are people who easily lose control and tend to offend. They generate silence in the interlocutor who should try to look them in the eye to make them understand that we are taking them seriously. To calm them down, you could look for a moment of intimacy, like having a drink together, to clarify what is wrong and offer your help.
A third category of difficult people are those who always complain. Who doesn’t know anyone like that? These are people with an external LoC, that is with little control over their lives. They put their problems on others and often use “but”. The antidote to use with these people is listening to make them know that we understand but without showing solidarity. We need to stimulate them to find a solution by themselves and ask them if they have ideas on how to solve the problem.
We then have “silent” people, who are closed and barely react . They could be confused because they don’t understand but at the same time they don’t dare to ask. In reality, by remaining silent they could gain an advantage, as silence offers them protection. With these people, you may try to show empathy, looking at them in a friendly way and going into informal conversations, out of the usual context.
A fifth type is represented by the “unreliable” people, that is those people who, in order to please, make commitments knowing that they will not be able to comply with. You would need to make clear with them how things are and offer a compromise on an equal level, to find a win win solution for both.
Then there are the “negativists“, that is those who say no to everything. They also have an external LoC and often tend to be distressed. The antidote for this type of people is based on a positive and realistic opposition. It is better not to discuss with them but to propose alternatives without offering solutions, to allow them time to make informed decisions.
The seventh category of difficult people is that of the “experts“. They are divided into two groups. True experts and fake ones. The first have the right answer for everything. If you tell them that it is not true they may become upset. They feel strong and think they don’t need anyone. With this kind of people it is important to repeat what they say and ask precise questions to get operational answers. The fake experts are those who are informed but do not go deeper. You would need to explain things as they are to these people but in a face-to-face context so they don’t lose face.
Finally, the last category of difficult people I have identified are the “indecisive“. These people do not have clear ideas and are blocked by excessive concern about others’ sensitivity. They are emotionally involved and think that problems would disapper on their own if you let some time pass. It is important to help these people make things clear, offer them a solution and support without putting pressure.
And you, have you found a category of difficult people besides these ones? Let me know!