How a Gentleman Deals with Difficult People

In the working world, we’re more than likely to come across people who are difficult to deal with. It’s just bound to happen. Maybe personalities don’t mesh, maybe there’s an attitude problem, maybe you just don’t like them. It happens. You find them difficult. As a professional and someone who tries to be a gentleman in all situations, how do you handle someone who grinds your gears?

In some cases, you can calmly and quietly disassociate from a person who bothers you, but in other cases, it’s just not possible. In the professional world, the demands of a project or employment may just demand that you work with people that you don’t get along with.

Whether it’s a long-term irritation or a one-time feud, these are a few tips I’ve picked up on how to deal with “difficult” people.

Try to See the Good

Remember that true psychopaths and sociopaths are actually quite rare. Most people, even misguided, are trying to do what they believe is best. Even if it’s selfish or wrong, it’s what seems right to them. If you find yourself at odds with someone, it goes a long way to just understand that they’re probably just trying to do what they think is best. Try to see a person’s good intentions from their point of view. They have reasons that likely aren’t malicious. Try to see them, and it will make a dialog much easier.

Respect Their Dignity – Even if You’re Given None

Even if you’re treated badly by a “difficult” person, stooping to their level never helped anyone. In fact, it can only hurt your reputation. Just take the high road—respect their dignity as a human being. Deal with every situation with grace and good manners, no matter how much bad gets thrown your way.

Find Out What They Really Want

Oftentimes, there is something that people want that they’re not saying. They either need something, fear something, or are running from something. If you find yourself clashing with a person over and over again, it might benefit you to try to get to the heart of what it is they really want. 

Save Venting for Home

While it may be tempting to talk about a difficult coworker, client, or customer with someone else who works with or around you, be mindful of this: things said in secret are not usually as secret as we think they are. “Venting” may seem therapeutic, but it can often come back to bite us when the bad things we said gets back to the other person. Venting isn’t worth the temporary satisfaction when it will inevitably come back to haunt us. It always does. Maybe not every time, but eventually, it does.

If you must get it off your chest, save it for the privacy of your own home—not the break room. 

Do Some Self-Examination

Here’s a revelation no one likes: not even me. Sometimes, we’re the “difficult” person. Ouch. I know! But hey, we’re not perfect. I’m not. If we’re honest, we push buttons just as much as we can be pushed. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your rocky interpersonal relationship is just step back and really check yourself. See if you are actually contributing to the problem. Is your behavior, whether intentional or not, rubbing someone else the wrong way? When you already don’t like someone, regardless of the reason, you’re far less likely to treat them generously—so maybe it’s us that needs to change. 

Be Slow to Anger & Quick to Apologize

When we deal with the people that we routinely find ourselves in conflict with, it's easy to slip into a state of defensiveness. We want to put walls up, get angry, and be right no matter what. Dig our heels in and stand your ground. While that can be a useful attitude in some situations, it’s not very beneficial for mending bad relationships.

A gentleman who wants to diffuse tension between themselves and a “difficult” person does two things: one, he keeps his emotions in check. He doesn’t let himself get angry. That means body language stays calm and easy, and tone never raises. It also means that he’s quick to apologize when he’s done harm. Even if you don’t really think you should apologize, a gentleman knows the value of extending an olive branch and meeting halfway.

Sometimes, you have to take the first step to make peace.

What are your best tips for dealing with “difficult” people in the workplace? Let me know in the comments!