Dealing with Difficult People


A discussion on the challenges presented by fatigue and bias when dealing with difficult people

Being exposed to a conflictual situation whether in the workplace or social environment is for most people a highly stressful and emotive experience which they would quickly want to put behind them. This stress is often exacerbated beyond computation in those cases where the “person on the other side” is a high conflict difficult person who thrives on being unco-operative, uncompromising and vexatious.


In order to make strides towards resolution it certainly is advisable to endeavour to gain understanding of the possible motivations for the difficult behaviour before walking away in utter frustration from both the situation and the person. Be alert to the following:



Fatigue plays a major role in keeping a conflict in a circulation simply because when people are tired they lose the ability to control their communication skills as well as filter out negative and vexatious discussions that are lacking in veracity and not based on reality. Do not be afraid to take a time-out or strife-break. Not every issue needs to be immediately discussed, it can wait over to another day.



False assumptions and bias will, if left unchecked, gain a life of their own perpetuating a cycle of conflict between the parties on increasingly intensifying levels. If you think that a person may be operating from a position of bias or false assumption gently direct them to this, without acrimony or animosity (no one is immune from bias and everyone has made this mistake at some stage in their life) give the person an opportunity to think it through and rectify it where relevant. Be aware of your own bias when you deal with other people’s potential bias.


There are a myriad of other factors that come into play in conflict situations and situations involving vexatious and difficult people. Irrespective of who is “on the other side” you need to tread carefully in conflict, especially when dealing with high-conflict difficult people. Wherever possible, take yourself emotionally out of the firing line – detach yourself emotionally from the problem,  it’s very often not about you but about that person’s inner turmoil and chaos, listen earnestly and attentively and be alert to options for resolution of the problem. If you must walk away from the person or the situation do so knowing that you have at least considered and been alert to the issues of fatigue, bias and assumption.


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