Monday, April 01, 2013

Psychology 101: Dealing with Difficult People

Each of us has probably done something that hurt or disappointed someone else. The chances are remote that anyone intentionally says or does hurtful things. 

But what about careless words? thoughtless? impulsive? angry words?

Or no words at all?

Dead silence.
Or worse, ambivalent words. Non-committal. Disengaged. Feigned apathy.

“What would you like to do?”

“I don’t care.”

“Where would you like to eat?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Do you want A or B?”

“Whatever. You pick.”

And then when you pick, they aren't happy. But then, would they be happy in any case?

In my view, this is dysfunctional, juvenile and temperamental. It expresses a dog-in-the-manger attitude that says, “If I can’t be happy with my current circumstances, then no one else is going to enjoy themselves either”. The dis-engaged person isn't expressing his/her true needs, he/she is just expecting others to be a mind-reader and fulfill every desire. This is the worst kind of  prima donna attitude: “The world should just make me happy without me having to speak a word or lift a finger.” 

On occasion this behavior is revenge-based. "You didn't do what I wanted, (or you hurt me) so now you're going to pay the price." 

What’s sad is this behavior produces no change in either party.

In my experience, people who act this way usually fall into two camps. They either 1) really do have an over-inflated sense of their own self-importance and feel others should cater to their every whim, "Because I'm right!" or 2) they hate themselves and are behaving in a way that guarantees others will dislike them, thus confirming their bias against themselves. 

There are other possibilities, but these are the more common and both border on an irrational view of relationships. This type of person frequently creates drama and/or division in a family or friend group (“I’m not happy until you’re not happy”). They subconsciously want attention (and bad attention is better than no attention). They get their way through emotional blackmail but even when they get what they want, they are discontent because they had to ask for it. Then when you try to get them to see how they are acting, they withdraw, pout, make excuses: "I'm just tired", or turn the tables: "Who are you to talk? You were mean to me last week."

How do you deal with this kind of person if you’re stuck with them? 
  1. Do you let them off the hook by finding excuses? “Oh, she’s in menopause” or “Oh, he’s under a lot of stress at work”. Or do you take the blame? "I must have done something wrong."
  2. Do you care enough to confront? If you name their behavior for what it is, would they believe you? Are they capable of seeing the futility of their behavior? Do they even want to be different or are they genuinely mean-spirited? 
  3. Or do you cut them off? Where does love, grace and forgiveness come in if they are unwilling to repent of this habitual conduct?


  1. I've dealt with those kind of people and basically decide what I am going to do. If they want they can join in, if not, I'm going ahead anyway to do what I planned. My opinion is that these people want control and when you don't give it to them, their power is diffused. I don't let them ruin my time or day any more. Life is too short. Sometimes you can talk about things later when the person in that 'mood' realizes you are not tolerating their behaviour. At the time, talking generally doesn't help anyone.

  2. I am dealing with a individual just like that rude mean unforgiving so full of hate no matter how good I am still hates me for no reason what have I done