Embracing the Enemy: How to Get Along With Difficult People

Let’s face it, some people just rub you the wrong way. No matter how nice you are, you still struggle to get along with them. And while you may try to keep your distance, it’s not always easy. Often, the difficult people in your life happen to be people you see regularly–a coworker, friend of a friend, or family member–which can bring daily stress and frustration. But don’t lose hope. There are ways to get along with just about anyone, even your worst enemy, and learning the path to a peaceful relationship can be life-changing for both of you. Here’s how: 

7 Ways to Get Along With Difficult People

Shift the Focus to Them

A common trait of difficult people is they like to give unsolicited advice, over and over. When that’s the case, try turning the tables around and shifting the focus back to them. Ask them to elaborate on why they feel the way they do. Show interest and gratitude for their opinions, then respectfully remark that you will consider everything and decide on your own. With a little tact, you can move the conversation from irritating to pacifying for all parties.  

Adopt Empathy

Keep in mind that people who are hard to get along with often carry heavy burdens, like work stress, problems at home, or a chronic health issue. They may not mean to be difficult; life just makes them that way. Try to put yourself in their shoes by analyzing the reasons for their behavior. Having compassion and understanding can soften your stance toward your adversaries and help improve the interaction you have with each other. 

Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize? - Marcus Aurelius

Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize? - Dalai Lama

Admit Your Shortcomings

Ever wondered if the reason you butt heads with someone may be partly due to your shortcomings? Consider where you could be playing a part in the conflict with a foe. Are you overly sensitive or judgmental? Do you tend to get defensive? Have you lacked patience in your communication? Be honest with yourself and admit you aren’t perfect. It could be transformative in your quest to get along with difficult people–and strengthen your character too. 

Add Another to the Mix

The more the merrier, especially when you’re dealing with a difficult person. If you have a scheduled meeting or visit with someone you don’t get along with, see if one or more people can join you. Adding others to the mix helps create a diversion that can curb the difficult person’s tendency to act up. Plus, you’ll have others to help steer the conversation in a positive direction. Group settings can change the dynamic and result in a better overall experience.

Control Your Emotions

An difficult little girl pounding the window having a hard time getting along with people
How to Get Along With Difficult People

Difficult people often incite anger and frustration, but that only adds fuel to the fire. No matter how distressing a person is, avoid letting your emotions take over. Take a deep, calming breath and remind yourself that your time together is temporary and a steady, even-tempered demeanor will lead to a more tolerable and peaceful exchange. Learning to control your emotions will also help with future encounters and just about any difficulty life presents.  

Visit Offline

Although online communication is simple, quick, and convenient, people are much more apt to speak their minds and go on the attack behind the safety of a screen. When it comes to difficult people, it may be best to communicate in person, where you can see each other’s facial expressions and hear the tone of voice. Harsh words are less likely to be uttered this way, plus you’ll avoid misunderstandings. Ask for a face-to-face chat and see what a difference it makes.

Be an Example

Part of obedience to the Golden Rule is knowing how to respond once you've behaved in an unloving way. - Doug McIntosh

Anyone, including a difficult person, can benefit from some kindness and compassion. Offer out a dose by giving your adversary a compliment, saying you’re sorry for a past mistake, or lending a helping hand. Treat him or her, along with everyone else who’s present, the way you like to be treated. Showing by example how to be caring and congenial can be highly contagious, not to mention a game-changer for your relationship and a testament to your grace. 

With a little practice and know-how, you can make getting along with anyone possible. Give these ideas a try next time you interact with a difficult person and turn your relationship into something you can tolerate and even learn to enjoy.

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