Columnist: How do you deal with difficult people?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 11, 2015

Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

They seem to be everywhere. We just cannot seem to avoid them. They are vexatious to our spirits to say the least. They are difficult people who appear to dislike everyone and have a grudge against the world. Nothing ever satisfies them.

They are difficult people.

We work with them each day. We encounter them at the bank, in stores, in our neighborhoods; they are simply unavoidable. They are our children, in laws and even our friends.

Do you remember the movie “On Golden Pond” starring Henry Fonda and his daughter, Jane? The movie is about a daughter, Jane, who was estranged from her father, Henry Fonda. The two argued incessantly and over the years appeared not to remember the original source of what caused their combative relationship. They essentially began to believe that it was expected of them.

Dealing with difficult people can cause your blood pressure to rise, especially when you have to work with them. Some result to violence as a solution to their problem.

In fact, it appears that in recent years workplace violence has actually increased with some employees believing that their working environment is so hostile that the ultimate solution is to use force, sometimes killing their co-workers, bosses and even themselves in the process. Before taking this type of action, how would you deal with the following types of people?

Assertive or aggressive

These are people who want to force their views on others or to let off steam. They like to provoke those around them. They believe that others around them will equate being aggressive and hostile with being efficient and knowledgeable.

When dealing with this type of individual, resist the temptation to counterattack. It intensifies the situation, but does not contribute to a solution. In fact, if it is a customer-service situation, you might try apologizing.

Nothing takes the steam out of an argument faster than a quick “you are absolutely correct. How can we make it right for you?”

The perpetual victims

I have a very serious disdain for this personality type. Victims are generally depressed and believe that they have been mistreated by you, the system or the world.

To deal with a victim, just listen. Let the person tell you his or her story. Victims have an insatiable craving to be heard.

Comforting them, however, is an exercise in futility. They “own” their problem and do not want it taken away from them. They are sometime in search of a caretaker; do not allow that to become your job.

Sarcastic or cynical

These types of individuals use words as weapons. These are people who say hurting things, which they mean, under the veil of just being playful.

Avoid the pitfalls of sniping back. If you feel their comments may be indicative of a personal grudge, address it immediately and set limits as to what will not be tolerated in the future. Does anyone come to mind?


You definitely know them. They place very little value on your input. They are quite likely insecure about their knowledge or skills. Their endless flow of wisdom is actually a way of making them feel important.

If you place a know-it-all in charge of your business, be advised it can have disastrous consequences. These are people who do not know how to put a “period” at the end of their comments.

The yea-sayers

They are sycophants. They agree with anyone that is in charge or who can advance their personal agenda. All too often, however, they are completely incompetent.

Everybody knows one. They are afraid of exposing themselves to public ridicule, and therefore, are reluctant to express their own opinion. Beware of this type of person as well, their loyalty is only to themselves.

Question. Are you one of the above? What would friends and associates say?

Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at