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Generally, to deal with any type of difficult person you have 4 choices:

1st Choice: Stay and do nothing

2nd Choice: Remove the person from your life

3rd Choice: Change your attitude

4th Choice: Learn to manage them by changing your behaviour

The 4th choice is where we come in when walking away is not an option you have to find ways to manage difficult people by changing our behaviour towards them.   I mentioned 8 types of difficult people last week, today we will deal with the first four and finally next week we will deal with the last ones.


Tips to manage difficult people

  • Openly aggressive people( 3subtypes)
  • Sherman Tanks (bullies) your new behaviour: assertive, polite, professional  
    your goal:
    assertively express your own views, not try to win a battle of right and wrong.

The most important aspect of coping with Sherman Tanks is to stand up for yourself, don’t fight and turn the Tank into a constructive discussion. Openly aggressive people expect others to either run away from them or react with rage.

It is important to make your difference of opinion known and understood. Throughout the attack, in whatever form it takes, continue to reassert that your opinion differs and why.

You may have to interrupt Sherman Tanks to get into the conversation because they are not likely to pause to give  you the chance. To get their attention, say their name in a loud, clear voice.

Present your own point of view, in an assertive fashion, by using phrases such as “In my opinion…”; “I disagree with you…”.

In this way , you are not telling the Sherman Tank what to do, but rather you are expressing your opinions.
Avoid public situations where the Tank’s pride demands victory at all costs. If possible, invite him aside for a private chat. Don’t be surprised if you only gain trust and respect from a Sherman Tank after you start standing up for yourself.

(b) Snipers 😦 feel strongly how people should think and act) your new behaviour: assertive, polite, and professional

Your goal: to give them an alternative to a direct conflict by asking questions rather than making statements

Snipers, like Sherman Tanks, feel very strongly about how others should think and act.
The first step in coping with Snipers is to force them out into the open. Ask questions like, “That sounded like a dig. Was it?” Then, if your Sniper responds by ridiculing you even further, say something like,” Sounds like you are ridiculing me. Are you?”; “That sounds like you are making fun of me. Are you?” A sniper usually replies to such accusations with denial,” I am only joking.”

By asking the questions, you have stood up to the Sniper and are ready to take the next step towards coping.

Don’t agree with the Sniper’s criticisms. Try to discover the real problem and deal with it. Remember, that questioning covert attacks will reduce the chance for similar attacks in the future.

(c)Exploders 😦 after initial calm explodes into uncontrollable rage) your new behaviour: assertive, patient, polite, professional

Your goal: to wait for the person to run out of some steam, then assert your own opinions with confidence

To cope with an Exploder, wait for the outburst to come to an end. It is common for Exploders to suddenly realize where they are and what they are doing and then to quiet very quickly. But, if there doesn’t seem to be an imminent pause in the explosion, you should try to bring it to a close. Try saying “Right, Right!” “Wait a minute” or “Yes. Yes!” with enough loudness that they can hear. Suddenly standing up may also catch their attention long enough to break the tantrum.
Once Exploders have settled down, make sure they know you take them seriously by saying things like “I can see this is very important to you and I would like to talk about it, but not like this.’


2 Complainers 😦 whiners) your new behaviour: cooperative with optimism

Your goal: to help them to see the other side of the situation

The one successful way of coping with Complainers is to help them take a problem – solving perspective toward their complaints.

The first step is to listen to their complaints. Then acknowledge what they are saying by repeating it back to them and you may have to interrupt them to do this. As you acknowledge, use specific examples to avoid words like never and always – two of the Complainer’s favourites.

Don’t agree with the Complainer, and there is a difference between acknowledge and agree. Agreeing with the Complainer is admitting your role in the problems. You are validating the belief that they are blameless and the responsibility is all yours.   Now, move quickly into problem-solving.


When you move to problem-solving, you really will help them. One thing to be careful of though: don’t facilitate their dependence on you, otherwise they will come back again and again for the very same issue or problem. As the saying goes, you can feed someone, or you can teach them to fish for themselves. If you fail to do that, it is now you who has an additional problem, one of time management. Learn to be upfront. Say, “Okay, I will show you this one time. Here’s a pen and a sheet of paper; I’m going to talk, and you will take notes. I will show you this one time. I will stay here all day if necessary,  but when we leave, I expect that you will really have ‘gotten it’. I expect that you will be able to do this for yourself after this conversation, so make sure to pay attention and ask as many questions as you need to understand.”  Use a tone that is gentle, yet firm at the same time. By having this conversation, you will actually have helped two people, you and them.


(3) Clams: (silent people) Your new behaviour: cooperative

Your goal: to get them to talk

Ask them questions that can’t be answered with just a “Yes” or “no”, such as, “Why is it uncomfortable for you to answer my questions?”; “How do you feel about this?” or “What are your ideas?” Then wait at least one full minute before you say anything. This long silence may make them uncomfortable enough to say something.

To stop yourself from jumping in with more conversation, be to the point and say something like “I expected you to say something, and you are not. What does that mean?(another open-ended question).

If you are still at an impasse, begin to give your thoughts, observations or ideas on the matter and once again, end with an open-ended question. Be prepared at this point, to hear something like “Can I go now?” from them. “Not yet, I still have some other things on my mind”, is a good response. Using the following statements or questions may help the silent people to get started.

“You look distressed.”; “Don’t worry about starting at the beginning. What’s on your mind right now?”. If and when they do start talking, listen carefully.

(4)Negative/pessimist:  Your new behaviour: cooperative, task focus

Your goal: to avoid getting drawn in to their negativity and stay with your own action plan

Negativists are extremely pessimistic and more bitter than complainers. Usually, they feel defeated or powerless in regard to the situation. And the more you try to solve a problem or improve a situation, the more negative they become.

When coping with Negativists, don’t try to persuade them out of their pessimism. State your own realistic optimism but don’t argue with their point of view. If a new idea is being considered, quickly point out the possible negative repercussions yourself and then include the Negativist in the discussion which you are leading. If it seems impossible to get the Negativist seeing things your way, then you may have to take action on your own and simply announce your plans to the Negativist.


Be proactive, not reactive. Reactive persons blame circumstances for their reality. Proactive persons create what they want regardless of constricting circumstances. Create a value in yourself to be proactive and treat people with respect and you will feel proud, empowered, and in control of your life – regardless of whether you successfully handle the situation.

Don’t blame people for how they make you feel. The degree you are a victim of someone’s behaviour controls the impact it has on you. Take responsibility for how you feel. Prevent people from entering and exiting your emotional state at will. Next week I will deal with the last 4 types of difficult people.