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How to deal with difficult people in your life

How to deal with difficult people in your life

We all have gone through this. There is someone in your office, family, or university who hurt you without any reason. Whenever you see or hear about this person, your heart sinks. You get into the fight or flee mode. Oh, here he/she comes... Not again. We do not want to see the face of that person. We do not want to hear anyone talking about this person. We want this person to disappear forever from our life. I have gone through this many times. Whenever such a person appears, your first response is, “What is he/she has in store today to hurt me? Should I ignore him/ her, or should I act nice so that he/she wouldn’t hurt me again? Oh, God... Why me?”

In some cases, we develop spitefulness for that person (Shh.. that is our secret; we do not want to share with anyone). We want to take revenge. When we think about that person, we think about harming them. We do it silently., If you are superstitious, you might go to a sorcerer to conduct some black magic on that person. We tend to rejoice when he or she gets into trouble.

Yes, I and you have had such people in our lives. Not one may be many of them in our life journey so far.

But let me tell you a secret. The person who hurt you was not anyone other than you. No, don’t dismiss this statement as a prattle of a spiritual enthusiast. To Comprehend this statement, first, you have to look into yourself. The world you see around is a reflection of your own view of the world. We project our reality into the world and try to understand the world in light of our projection. We are the producer, director, actor, and the sole audience of this movie.

Now let us examine why these people are difficult to deal with.

In general, we never bother to see the other person’s view of the world, so we fail to understand them. Try to know where they stand and why they behave the way they do. These are the people who have problems in life; they are frustrated; they are angry at almost everything.

 In our work environment, we have come across one or more of the following archetypes.

People who refused to listen to you. They may not even raise their head from their laptops or mobile phones whey you talk or explain your problems to them. They stonewall you.

Others always compete with you. They watch what you are doing and then try to do a step above you. Moreover, while doing this, they will make sure that you will know that they are doing this.

Then there are these terrible tempered people. You fail to find the reason for their behaviour.

Not to forget the gossiper, whom you find in every organization.

Let me repeat; these people are all basically good. But they are in pain, they are frustrated, they are ambitious in the wrong way. They are not bad people.  

It is effortless to deal with pleasant, cheerful, and positive people. However, your interpersonal skills are at their high when you deal with difficult people. No doubt, you will be successful in your career and life in general if you can learn to manage the stressful situation arising out of their behaviour. Yes, you may have guessed it right. I am talking about equanimity.

With great love and affection, I would remind you that every being in this world has innate goodness in them. No one is evil in this world. However, in most cases, their goodness is covered with Karmic layers formed by the interaction with the environment. By environment, I mean the society, family, surroundings, dogmatic beliefs, etc. Once the Karmic plaque is removed, you will find their goodness glowing.

That being said, let us examine how we can practically implement this attitude in our life. As usual, I shall give you three tips or rather, three methods to deal with difficult people in your life.

Step 1: Realise that it is their Brain, not them.

American physician and neuroscientist Paul D Mclean divided the human Brain into three parts for the sake of the study of emotions. These parts are (1) The Reptilian Brain, (2) Mammalian Brain, and the (3) Rational Brain, in the sequence of evolution.

In most cases, the other person’s difficult responses are due to their overactive reptilian Brain. The reptilian Brain senses or rather looks for danger all around it. Any external stimuli coming is first perceived as a threat. In the reptilian Brain, the threat is generally a danger to the life itself. However, in the modern context, this can be translated as a threat to one’s job, threat to loss of love, threat to the well being, threat to freedom, etc.

The three responses to the outside stimuli in this phase are (1) Flee, (2) Fight, and (3) Freeze. Let us call this the F3 mode. Whenever the Brain identifies (in most cases falsely) external stimuli as a threat, it prepares the body into one of the F3 modes. It prepares you to run away (flee), fight with your enemy (fight), or immobilize your body (freeze).

The difficult person you will have to deal with, most of the time, are in the Fight Mode or F2 mode. The person in the F2 mode always tries to push you into F1 or F3 Modes. Let us examine how to deal with the person who gets into the fight mode with you most of the time.

The person in the fight mode acts mostly irrational. He or She wouldn’t want to rationalize the situation. When dealing with a person in the F2 mode, do not try to undermine their authority or annoy them. Never take the situation lightly – I mean, do not laugh or try to lighten the mood. Instead, listen without interruption. Do not try to justify yourself. Do not ever feed the fire by arguing or getting involved. Don’t try to win – you don’t have to.

Instead, accept the situation as it is. If you did something wrong, accept it, apologize, and take responsibility. However, the difficult part would be to keep calm if you have not done anything wrong. The person is making a false accusation against you. In such a case, try to understand their emotion and wait until the situation calms down to present your case. Then, try to offer solutions. Do not ever get into the F1 or F3 situations by fleeing or freezing. That means, do not walk away and do not surrender.

Please realize that the other person is behaving this way due to their fear arising out of the misinterpretation of the external stimuli by their Brain. Their views are clouded. Pity them.  

Step 2: Believe that there are no Bad People in this world.

There are no bad people in this world. People act up due to their external conditions and karmic baggage.

A bullying co-worker may be highly insecure in his work environment. She or he may have irrational fears about his job. He is trying to compete with you or gossiping about you only to keep his job secure. He may have problems at home. Without the job, he may have severe problems with his family. His fear of life prompts him to see all external stimuli as a threat and magnify fear. They behave that way based on their level of awareness and humanity.

If someone hurt you, do you want to hurt him back or try to understand them? A famous quote attributed to Confucius goes like this: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

The primary step in building any relation – whether it is in your organization, family, or university – is to understand and realize that there are no bad people in this world. It would help if you genuinely believed this. Hold on.. don’t brand me as an idealist or the one living in a dream world. I do think that everyone in this world is good - Humans, animals, and plants alike. There is intrinsic goodness in everyone, just like that our default state is happiness. The problem is that, unfortunately, we don’t realize it.

If someone acts difficult with you, do the following technique:

  1. Breathe... Breathe as if your life depends on it.
  2. Smile .. Smile at you and the world. Keep the smile on your face until the situation passes.
  3. Do not judge
  4. Forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful tool to keep you calm. Forgive the person for whatever wrong done to you. Forgive yourself for thinking bad about or behaving harmfully to that person in the past.
  5. Think of at least five good things that person has done. These could be good things done to you, the organization, their family, nature, or even the universe. I am sure you will find many good things because people are good.
  6. Express Gratitude. While breathing in, express gratitude to the person. Be thankful for giving you this opportunity to practice restraint. Be grateful for whatever good the person has done (as in No. 4). Be grateful that you are coming out of the difficult situation

Step 3: Practice “Just Like Me” Meditation

“He whose self is harmonized by yoga sees the Self abiding in all beings and all beings in the Self; everywhere he sees the same” – Bhagavad Gita 6:29

 “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” – Matthew 5:44

“Realizing that the other person is also just like me is the basis on which you can develop compassion, not only towards those around you but also towards your enemy. Normally, when we think about our enemy, we think about harming him. Instead, try to remember that the enemy is also a human being, just like me.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“Just Like Me” meditation is a compelling compassion meditation developed by the Buddhist monks. In this meditation, we try to align entirely with others. There is no otherness in nature. Everything merges with the universal self. The most important thing is to be in the path. In the path, no effort is ever lost, and no obstacle prevails. Once in the path, we feel the oneness with nature and the effortless actions. 

Practice “Just Like Me” meditation for the next 21 days. 

Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight. If you are sitting in a chair, make sure that the feet are firmly on the ground. For the first 3 minutes, follow your breath, and visualize the person you want to align with. The person you wish to meditate on could be a difficult person in your organization or even someone close to you. You may even look at the picture of the person before starting the meditation. 

Once you are settled, read the script below slowly to yourself. Make sure you read slowly and stop for contemplation after each sentence.

“This person has a body and mind, just like me.

This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts, just like me.

This person has, at some point in his or her life, been sad, disappointed, angry, hurt, or confused, just like me. 

This person has, in his or her life, experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering just like me.

This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.

This person wishes to be healthy and loved, and to have fulfilling relationships, just like me.

This person wishes to be happy, just like me” 

Once finished reading, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. If you can, try to focus on a point between your eyebrows. Visualize that you are part of the whole. There is a seamless link between you and nature, an all encompassing link, the path. Keep breathing. Sit in this position for another 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly open your eyes. Drink water.


We are all, by default, happy. We are responsible for bringing unhappiness to us. 

The key to happiness is to see others in you and you in others.