We all have difficult people in our life who drives us nuts! They are annoying, frustrating, and exhausting—but I have some ways to help you deal with them.

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 Nancys or Debbie Downers. They always have something bad to say. They complain, critique and judge. They are almost impossible to please.
  • Better Thans also are known as Know It Alls, One Uppers or Show-Offs. They like to try impressing you, name-dropping and comparing.
  • Passives also are 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 also are known as being explosive, a handful, or bossy. They want their way and will do anything to get it.

2. Don’t Try Changing Them

When we meet a difficult person, or if we have one in our family or circle of friends, our instinct is to try changing 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 Understanding Them

The way to disengage a difficult person is to try understanding 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 dominating 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, doing it for the minimum amount of time.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

8 replies on “4 Types of Difficult People and How to Deal With Them”

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  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. 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

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