How To Best Deal With Difficult People In Professional Contexts
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Learn communication skills needed for best dealing with difficult people at work. These techniques will help you deal with colleagues, different personalities, big egos and peoples' attitudes and insecurities at the workplace. Communicating effectively with people you can't stand or don't like is a valuable skillset!

In school when we had group projects, we sometimes had the luxury of choosing our teammates. And while that may not have always been the case, there were moments when we had the power to decide who we’d work with.

Now as an adult, that’s more of a rarity and as it turns out sometimes we are even required to work with difficult people. And we don’t have much of a choice but to make it work.

Today, I’m sharing techniques for dealing with difficult people at work.

Let’s get it.


(1) Find Your Cool
Being calm will ensure that you’re in control of your emotions and your communication. It’ll also also you to make decisions on the fly. To the other person you’ll also appear centered and collected. For these reasons you’ll also exude confidence and respectability.

Finding your cool is not always easy. It requires you to be in the proper headspace. Taking 10 min to do breathwork or a meditation would set you up for feeling calm. And when you interact with the person, (i.) be succinct in saying only what you need to say, (ii.) use low tones to exert your authority, and (iii.) assert yourself by using the power of low inflection.

(2) Change Focus
You probably know the expression, “It's no use crying over spilled milk” meaning once something happens it happens. We can rewind time and prevent the milk from spilling. Taking this approach to difficult people and problems they may have caused will initiate problem-solving mode. Figure out the actionable steps that you can take to remedy the situation.  

(3) Respect and Rapport
When you focus on treating people respectfully it sends the message that that’s how you want to be treated as well. Sometimes people need the reminder, so showing respect can help the other people find it within themself to be respectful as well. And alongside respect is rapport. When you build rapport, you’re establishing respect. Rapport creates trust and a sense of closeness. When someone feels close to someone else, it’s less likely they’ll be as difficult as they were initially being.

If after all this, there still seems to be a fundamental disconnect between you and the difficult person. Then you might try to speak more directly about the issues that you’re experiencing. Explaining how what they’re doing is having a tremendous impact on the team, on deliverables, on company morale, work culture, etc. might be the key to transforming this difficult person.

Let’s say you try these three steps as well as talk to them about specific issues with communication, behavior, attitude, etc. but they still don’t seem to be working for your specific situation then there are two more options. You could remove yourself from the context, meaning physically remove yourself from the same space as they. Limit interactions with this person and keep them as short as possible. In other words, you’re essentially ignoring them.

And if ignoring them doesn’t seem to cut it, then you might need to escalate. Take the matter to some higher authority figure. By that point, you’ve probably already gotten perspective from others, in the way of managers, colleagues, friends to know this is not a one-off. Bringing this in front of people could allow a different perspective and alternate angle on the situation. WHat’s their read and how should you proceed? In some situations, the only option left is to escalate it to your supervisor or manager. This should only be used as a last resort, so tread with caution. The best case scenario would be that you do steps one through three and follow that up by talking to them candidly about the real ramifications of their actions and behavior.

Every difficult situation will be unique. And unfortunately there is no magic formula when dealing with difficult people at work. So as you employ these strategies keep that in mind and try your best. The more rapport you have with someone, the better communication outcomes you will have.


Alright Explearners that’s it from me today. If you liked this lesson be sure to give it a big thumbs up. If you prefer to listen to this lesson, check out our podcast. And head on over to our blog for the full transcript of this lesson. And if you want to help our channel continue to grow, share this lesson and our channel with anyone who wants to improve their communication skills and social skills. I’ll see you in the next one!

Happy Explearning ⚡⚡⚡

About the Author and the Explearning Academy:

Mary Daphne is an expert in communication, executive interpersonal skills, and personal development. She is the founder of the Explearning Academy, a platform dedicated to helping individuals enhance their social fluency, boost their careers, and elevate their social game. Through immersive group coaching programs like the Executive Communication Lab and self-guided journeys, participants gain the social superpowers and career catapults they've been searching for. If you're ready to take your negotiation skills to the next level and connect with like-minded individuals, visit and explore the various plans available. Join the Explearning Academy community and unlock your full potential.

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