Tips for dealing with Difficult People

Our dealing with difficult people courses are one of our popular courses as it effectively demonstrates how to neutralise problem situations in the workplace. It covers a wide range of scenarios that occur in the workplace such as; working with aggressive people, disagreeing with others, handling bullies at work, dealing with ignorant people at work and working with unreasonable people. This course will cover mediation and will show delegates how valuable managing and mediating conflict is when managing or handling difficult staff/employee(s). The dealing with difficult people at work course also provides useful information for working with a difficult boss/manager and guidance on how to deal with bullying in the workplace.

Tips for dealing with difficult situations

The following are some techniques that can be used to address those difficult situations and people:

Communicate and explore alternatives

Never assume you can’t help someone. By thinking about alternatives and offering suggestions about what you can do, you keep the conversation on a positive plane. You can also ask the person, “What would you like me to do?” Not only could you help solve their problem, but you might also find that what they want is less than you imagined.

Step back from the situation

Often, people think they need a quick comeback when faced with a difficult situation, or they make assumptions about the problem at hand. Take the time to step back and try to get the other person talking. Find out what their style of communication is and try to accommodate it. People forget that the person they’re facing isn’t exactly like them, so take the time to find out as much as you can before you address the problem.

Practice your response

When situations don’t have to be dealt with on the spot, take the time to practice your response. Try to think like the other person. It’s helpful to say things out loud so you hear what you could be saying to the other person. Anticipate their responses and adjust your delivery. Practice helps us make the mistakes beforehand and reduce misinterpretation once you are face to face.

Establish some boundaries for yourself

Know what you are going to be able to put up with. Sometimes you might want to communicate those boundaries; sometimes you may not.

Stay in ‘adult’ mode

According to Dr. Eric Burn, there are three modes of communication – child, parent and adult. When dealing with conflict, it is important to stay in the adult mode. Don’t act like a parent and be judgmental or a child and be defensive. Accept any responsibility that may be yours. Realize that it’s OK to agree to disagree. Ultimately, if tempers begin to flare, realize that you may need to take a break and get back together later on.

Speak in private

If you’re dealing with a difficult issue, speak with the person in private. Remember the adage: Praise in public, criticize in private.

Try to find an agreement

It is always helpful to find some agreement to the problem at hand; even if it’s only that the problem exists. Coming to an agreement conveys understanding and works to move the conversation along. It can also be beneficial to speak in positive terms, by telling the person what you can do as opposed to what you can’t do.

Use more “I” language than “you” language

“You” language can make a person become defensive. Instead of saying “you should” or “you must,” try “I was expecting” or “I encourage you to… ”

Don’t take things personally

It’s hard not to, but it’s not necessarily about you. You need to separate yourself from the issue. People often don’t realize the reason their co-worker is upset does not have anything to do with them.

Focus on what you can do

Tell the person what you can do, not what you n can’t do, about their request or complaint.

Find agreement

See if you can find any agreement at all, or at least acknowledge that you understand the person’s perspective. Say, “I can see your point.” In a worst-case scenario, agree to disagree: “Evidently we both have different opinions on this, and that’s OK.”

Keep calm

If one or both parties start to get upset, suggest resuming the conversation in 20 minutes after you calm down and collect your thoughts.


Rehearse if you need to before communicating a difficult message.

Keep the lines of communication open

Remember that 70 percent to 90 percent of the message is screened by the receiver. For example, if you tell a co-worker you want to meet biweekly, he or she might interpret that to be either twice a week or every other week. Ask questions, listen, repeat the problem/solution and restate or rephrase your message. Checking for understanding is a great way to make sure the message you sent is the same message they received. Engage the person you are speaking with in the process.

When dealing with a difficult person, we forget there are all these choices we have. Slow the whole process down to give yourself some ability to think before you respond.

Delegates who attend our Dealing With Difficult People training courses will:

Other related courses include assertiveness skills, mediation skills, negotiation skills and communication skills for managers. Click here if you need more information regarding Dealing With Difficult People training courses or contact Total Success who will be delighted to talk to you via e-mail.

Related Information

Copyright – Patrick Donadio, MBA, CSP, MCC is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and Master Certified Coach (MCC). He specializes in Business Communications and Leadership Development.  Since 1986, he has been teaching/coaching leaders and their organizations to: increase profits, improve presentation/verbal communications, enhance their credibility, deepen relationships and boost performance — in less time.  Want Patrick to speak for your next conference, seminar or retreat?  Or hire him as your business communication coach to improve the delivery of your message, call 614-488-9164 or e-mail: Patrick at:   Visit for business tips.