Keep your sense of humor.
Humor can be an extremely effective way to neutralize difficult behavior, soothe anger, and diffuse tension. Look for something funny about the situation that the other person will also find comical.
The goal is to laugh together, not at one another. That way, the confrontation may end with both parties being happy and without one or the other having to be “right.”
Separate the person from the behavior.
Everyone has a story. Everyone has a reason why they act the way they do. Usually, people are difficult because they believe it will get them what they want… not because they are horrible, mean people.
Of course, nothing justifies behaving badly, and you don’t want to support bad behavior. But, concentrating on the issue at hand, rather than seeing the other person as a demon, will move you a lot further along the road to resolution.
Change the focus by being proactive instead of reactive.
Some difficult people are like a revolving door, they go round and round in the same direction, in the same spot, and never get anywhere. Some may want to draw out the drama and tension. You do not have to follow their lead.
You can interrupt the pattern of conflict by creating a distraction that takes things in a completely different direction. Sometimes, simply changing the subject can help ease tension surprisingly fast. Try asking the person a question that has nothing to do with the current discussion or bring up a safe topic that you know you both will agree on or have in common.
Try not to take things personally or become defensive.
It can be hard not to feel injured emotionally by someone else’s negativity. Difficult people often seem to be trying to make others feel uncomfortable, inadequate, and incompetent, but that does not mean there is any truth behind their verbal assaults.
No matter what words may be thrown your way, keep in mind the anger and aggression in those words reflect poorly upon the person voicing them... NOT on you. Do not let someone else’s inappropriate behavior affect your confidence or make you feel responsible when you are not. Avoid falling into that trap.
We have all been there. Whether within our own families, at work, purchasing something at the local mall, or in a social situation, we have all had to deal with difficult people. And, as much as we may wish we could wave a magic wand to defuse the situation, there are no surefire, failsafe ways to effectively handle argumentative or confrontational people. We can try a host of different tactics that may or may not help. In the end though, the only real control we have in these instances is over our own emotions, words, reactions, and actions.
Remaining calm, cool, and collected when dealing with difficult people can help. The more we maintain our composure and the less combative we become, the more level headed we will remain and the better we will be at managing conflict and discord. Obviously, this can be a lot easier said than done.
Below are a just few thoughts you may find helpful the next time you interact with someone who tests your patience. Of course, the ideas will not apply in every situation. Feel free to take them or leave them.