Difficult People

Before I can advise you on how to deal with difficult people, we first have to define who they are:

  • Needy
  • Pushy
  • Superficial
  • Passive-aggressive
  • Actively aggressive
  • Critical and judgmental
  • Chronic complainers
  • Stubborn and argumentative

Try to maintain a spirit of respect and put yourself in their shoes to see if you can understand why they are acting the way they are.

If they talk down to you, are condescending or sarcastic, don’t get defensive and don’t feel hurt.  In both cases, you would be letting them take control.  Instead, listen and acknowledge how they feel.  But at the same time, you need to express your feelings about how they are treating you.

When you draw attention to the way you are being treated, don’t get hostile.  Many widows have a great deal of trouble dealing with criticism and so it’s natural for us to feel hurt and a bit defensive.  Disarm them by acknowledging what truths are in their criticism.  Then they usually back off, and that is the best time to use the “I” statements and tell them how you feel.

  • “I’m feeling put down.”
  • “I’m feeling inadequate.”
  • “I’m feeling misunderstood.”
  • “I feel angry”

Then add, “But I know there is some truth in what you are saying and I want us to work this out.”  Are you having trouble dealing with a difficult person in your life?  If so, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this person’s opinion matter to me?
  • Do they have a point that matters?
  • Do they care about me?
  • Are they hurting and need me to listen?

Sometimes difficult people simply want to be listened to.  They don’t want help or advice.  If you do try to help these difficult people, know that they may get more annoyed and complain even more.

Some widows are terribly afraid of talking about a conflict openly, in much the same way as some people fear heights.  They believe if they open up it will only get worse.  This is where you need to use the “I feel” statements and actively listen to them.  You may be hurting and desperately want to make your personal relationships better, but even if you try your best some difficult people may just have to be left alone so you can move forward.


Mary Francis, The Sisterhood of Widows

  1. dolly
    | Reply

    Those are some very helpful points of advice. When a person (me) is talked down to, they (I) feel like a loser, so stand up and say how I feel when they are talking like they are. Thank you.

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