Seven Compassionate Practices to Live in Harmony with Difficult People

two faces showing how to live in harmony with difficult people

Life’s challenges can come in different forms, and one of those forms includes people. Whether they’re someone in your workplace or someone you casually meet on the street, they can wind up a person you must “deal with” instead of simply getting along with… and dealing with difficult personalities can take a toll on your well-being. Although patience is key, grinning and bearing with it isn’t always the answer. Here are seven compassionate practices you can do to deal with difficult people.

(Want to improve your work/life balance? Read this Project Bold Life story for tips!)

Spotting A Difficult Person

a woman who is clearly a difficult person
Sometimes it’s hard to live in harmony with difficult people. What do you do when they’re unavoidable?

Personality clashes are inevitable in any workplace or personal relationship but don’t make situations difficult. Disagreement between parties always happens, but poor communication, lack of empathy, and a highly critical nature make one difficult.

Difficult people tend to always talk over others and communicate their thoughts in a passive-aggressive or overtly rude manner. In addition, these individuals lack empathy and have trouble understanding emotions and circumstances besides their own.

Most difficult people are also highly critical of everything and everyone. They insist on doing things their way, belittle others, and leave people out of discussions and meetings because of jealousy and envy. These toxic traits not only make them challenging to deal with but also affect their colleague’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

“Difficult coworkers significantly influenced their coworkers’ attitude towards them. Additionally, perceived stress partially mediated the relationship between employees’ attitudes towards difficult coworkers and intention to leave, while employees’ attitudes towards difficult coworkers did not have a significant effect on mental health.” – Wai Ming To, Professor of Management, Macao Polytechnic University

1.   Kindness is a Weapon; Use Lots of It

When dealing with difficult people, it’s sometimes easy to confront them by acting difficult, too. Although it’s instinctual to become defensive when someone comes at you rudely, you resolve nothing by the end of your argument.

Don’t get swayed by your emotions when confronted by these people. Take a step back and use lots of kindness instead. Difficult people tend to get their way when you escalate the situation but would back down if you respond and act kindly.

2.   Find a Common Ground

It might look futile, but finding something in common will do wonders when dealing with difficult people. Most of these people act rudely and insensitively because they think they don’t share a common ground with anyone else.

Striking up a conversation and looking for common interests and backgrounds, especially with things they’re passionate about, can help establish a connection. When you find that, conversations run smoother, which would help improve the workplace environment and overall office performance.

3.   Act with Compassion

No one knows what others are going through unless someone asks, and this also applies to difficult people. Sometimes, people act difficult because they’re going through a tough situation and are stressing about it.

Acting with compassion around these people can result in positive responses. Being compassionate is one of the best techniques for dealing with difficult people, as it helps them understand others. In addition, compassion and kindness would influence them to practice empathy and actively listen.

4.   Focus on What You Can Control

One thing that stresses people dealing with difficult people is working or interacting with them. But the thing is, situations like these become more stressful because they try to control it. Remember that there are some things you can never contain, including people.

Instead of forcing yourself to keep interacting with a difficult person, look at everything in a broader sense. That way, you’ll have a wider perspective of your surroundings and help you find ways to work around them. Doing this will allow you to control everything else without the constant worry and stress from the problematic people.

5.   Be Introspective

Self-awareness is an essential skill for all leadership roles in any career. Examining your strengths and weaknesses, including your attitude toward others, can make a difference. Sometimes, people are so hyper-focused on the problems coming from difficult people that they forget to introspect to see if they also did something to make the situation worse.

Introspection gives you a better understanding and a different perspective when dealing with difficult people. It helps you see if you have been handling the issue well or may need to step back and handle things differently.

two very broken arms shaking hands
Not everyone is going to get along. What do you do when you’re face to face with a pain in the butt?

6.   Overcome Your Fear of Conflict

Difficult people find it easier to make a situation more stressful when someone keeps quiet and lets them do what they please without a fight. The reason behind it isn’t because of a person’s fear of the other but their fear of conflict. Instead of standing up and resolving the issue, they step back and get trampled on to avoid arguments.

Dealing with difficult people is already challenging, but it’s worse if you keep fearing conflict and avoid establishing boundaries. Don’t think of conflicts as a bad thing in these situations. Confronting people and communicating your side despite the disagreements will help clear things out and provide a fruitful resolution.

7.   When All Else Fails, Ignore Them

Confronting the situation and communicating your side with kindness and compassion are excellent techniques to help you successfully deal with difficult personalities. But sometimes, even the kindest and most compassionate methods would fall through.

Many people act difficult to get negative reactions out of you and benefit from them. Due to this, the best course of action is to stay calm and ignore them. Doing this is challenging and requires your patience, but keep your head cool and grounded to avoid escalating a situation that is not worth escalating.


Don’t forget the book that lays out the principles of goal-achievement and attaining a Bold Life!

About the Author

Through timely and thoughtful articles, the book Project Bold Life: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success, and other media, we deliver engaging content that educates, motivates and inspires you to live a Bold Life.
Previous ArticleNext Article

This will close in 0 seconds

This will close in 0 seconds

This will close in 0 seconds

Send this to a friend