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4 Types of Difficult People and How to Deal


Types of Difficult People

We all have someone in our life who drives us nuts! And they are exhausting, frustrating and annoying to deal with—but I have some ways to help.

Here are some ideas for how you can handle the difficult person in your life:

1. Identify the 4 Types

There are 4 different types of difficult people. Think about the person in your life and figure out which category they are in:

  • Downers are also known as Negative Nancy’s or Debbie Downers. They always have something bad to say. They complain, critique and judge. They are almost impossible to please.
  • Better Thans are also known as Know It All’s, One Upper’s or Show-Offs. They like to try to impress you, name-drop and compare.
  • Passives are also known as Push-Overs, Yes Men and Weaklings. They don’t contribute much to conversations or people around them and let others do the hard work.
  • Tanks are also known as being explosive, a handful or bossy. They want their way and will do anything to get it.

Do you have a difficult person in your life? Tell me! click to tweet

2. Don’t Try to Change Them

When we meet a difficult person, or if we have one in our family or circle of friends our instinct is to try to change them. We try to encourage Downers to be more positive, Passives to stand up for themselves, Tanks to calm down and Better Thans to be more humble. This never works! In fact, when you try to change someone they tend to resent you, dig in their heels, and get worse.

3. Try to Understand Them

The way to disengage a difficult person is to try to understand where they are coming from. I try to find their value language. A value language is what someone values most. It is what drives their decisions. For some people it is money; for others, it is power or knowledge. This not only helps me understand them, but also helps them relax and become more open minded. For example, sometimes Tanks just want to explain their opinion. If you let them talk to you, that might help them not blow up or try to dominate a situation.

4. Don’t Let Them Be Toxic

Some difficult people can be toxic. Toxic people can be passive aggressive, mean or hurtful. So if you have to deal with them, you can understand where they are coming from and then keep your distance. Toxic relationships are harmful so you need to create a buffer zone by surrounding yourself with good friends, seeing them less and if you have to be with them, do it for the minimum amount of time.

Want to dig deeper into the science of dealing with difficult people? Check out our book Captivate!

Ever wonder what makes people tick? captivate, captivate book, vanessa van edwardsWant to know the hidden forces that drive our behavior? In Vanessa Van Edwards new book Captivate, she explains a simple blueprint for hacking human behavior. In this science packed, anti-boring guide you will learn:

  • The formula for fascinating conversation
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  • Our strategy for hacking the people code–we call it the matrix (Keanu Reeves not included with each book sale)
  • The art and science of understanding people

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All Rights Reserved + COPYRIGHT 2014 Science of People, LLC

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & lead investigator at her human behavior research lab, Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: Use Science to Succeed with People was chosen by Apple as one of the most anticipated books of 2017. She writes a monthly Science of Success column for Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post. As a professional people watcher her unique work has been featured in CNN, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Inc, Business Insider and more. Vanessa leads innovative soft skills trainings for Fortune 500 companies including Google, Dove, Facebook, Intel, MillerCoors and American Express.


  1. Arif Khan

    In Real life we ignore such things.In my opinion that was a marvellous job and will help us to deal with different types of persons in a good way

  2. Pingback: How to Deal With Difficult People

  3. Starr

    Thank you for the great tips! I only wished when you gave examples that you gave an example for each type. You barely touched on the Downer type which is what I was interested in. Keep up the great job!

  4. Robby Smith

    Such a good article on dealing with the difficult people in our lives, or even notice what category you fall into and how to correct the negativity within us before it starts.

  5. Bella Perennis

    Yep, they are all hard to deal with. The most difficult however is the tank, because they take over the situation and tend to use their authority to justify it. Ugh!

  6. Liam Hayes

    Great info! Like Robby, I think this is great to see what category I may fall into and try to watch out for it.

  7. Pingback: Insightful And Enlightening Details About My Life In The Media - Media is where it was at.

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