Adulting 101: 5 easy ways to deal with difficult people

We know that getting along with an ‘enemy’ can be tough, but one important aspect of being an adult is learning how to effectively do this in a calm and mature way

Charlotte Ames-Ettridge |

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Whether it’s a teacher, classmate, boss, or colleague, you are guaranteed to encounter at least one person in your life who is almost impossible to get along with. While you may never learn to like this person, you can hopefully learn to live with them. Here are a few ways to stop difficult people from getting you down.

Stay calm

Humans haven’t changed much from our caveman days – when confronted with an “enemy”, it’s natural for our adrenaline to kick in, making us panicky, defensive, or angry. However, this could lead you to do or say something you’ll later regret, and could especially land you in trouble if that person is your parent or teacher. Try to prevent knee-jerk reactions by taking a deep breath and counting to 10. Take the time to listen to whatever the other person is saying, because sometimes, all people want is to feel heard. True, they may not be going about it the right way, but listening can still help defuse the situation.

Pick your battles

Try to decide when someone is worth your time and patience, and when it’s best to simply walk away. If it’s possible to keep your distance from the person in question, then do so. Don’t feel guilty about putting your own well-being first, and cutting off contact with someone you know is going to upset you. Of course, there are some difficult people we simply can’t avoid. In that case, think about whether you’ll gain something from them in the long term; if it’s the teacher who’s marking your assignment, or the financially generous relative, then putting up with them may be a necessary evil.

Change your perspective

When someone is being rude to you, it’s very difficult to see things from their point of view – but it’s still important to try. Think about what it is that the person actually wants from you, and why the situation may be difficult for them. For example, if your teacher yells at you, it could be because he or she just wants you to succeed, and teaching is a very demanding, challenging job. They may still have treated you unfairly, but at least you’ll be able to see that you are not really the problem and their attack isn’t personal.

Take control

We’ve all had a conversation that felt more like an interrogation. When this happens, try to shift the focus away from you and back onto the other person. That way, you can guide the conversation and even change the subject. For example, if your classmate asks why you won’t do their homework for them, you may feel like you owe them an explanation. But you’re not on trial here; they are the ones with the problem. So deflect the question and instead ask them what they are struggling with. Remember, it isn’t a counter-attack, so you don’t need to be accusatory. But don’t be afraid to be assertive and stand up for yourself, either.


It can be really draining dealing with difficult people, so make sure you take the time to look after yourself and not allow others’ negativity to affect your well-being. And if you successfully manage to navigate your way through a difficult encounter, don’t forget to congratulate yourself on your excellent people skills!

Edited by Ginny Wong