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How NOT to let difficult people ruin your day!


    My research into personality systems and the maturity continuum has given me some very useful insights into everyday people problems.  The kinds of problems I am talking about…and there are lots of them…range from the little annoyances—all the way up to the hugely frustrating and angering events.

    Toothpaste squeezed from the wrong end; things ToothpasteWrongnot put back where they belong; and dirty socks left on the floor … are just a few examples of the little annoyances — although many would doubtless class some of these as more than just a little annoying!

    Being constantly interrupted and/or talked over the toArguep of; getting regular sarcastic put downs; and being publicly belittled … are examples of the hugely frustrating and angering behavioural events—not to mention verbal and even physical threats or outright abuse.

    Clearly, human relationships are fraught with difficulty and some are even downright poisonous—the classic toxic relationshipToxic—whereby your greatest danger…in this already dangerous world…actually comes from your spouse!

    So what is happening in relationships to cause these kinds of difficulties?  Why are there any problems between people at all?  Why can’t we all just get along?

    AssociateDifferencesIn searching for answers to these kinds of questions, I came to realise that differences in opinions are all-too-often more than just differences in opinions … they are more than skin deep … and they point to some fundamental truths about human nature. In fact, I discovered that it is differences in core emotiono-mental values that lie at the heart of most differences of opinion … and these core values spring from the somewhat hidden temperament traits of people. But I also discovered that differences in temperament only goes part of the way to describing the full range of these differences and difficulties. Maturity, especially the lack thereof…and personal enlightenment, as well as the lack thereof…LightMindis the other half of the story. So, as interesting as personality type patterns are, they only give you half the picture when it comes to understanding human dynamics. You really need to understand personality and behavioural traits as well as maturity and personal enlightenment.

    When you are dealing with people, difficult people in particular, you are indeed dealing with more than meets the eye. You are dealing with more than just surface opinions. EmotionalChargeYou are in fact dealing with deep seated, emotionally charged values…as well as varying degrees of ability in keeping these emotional charges under control. Moreover, when it comes to the most difficult of people, you are also dealing with a form of god complex, whereby these people honestly believe that they are divinely special and therefore exempt from all the rules that mere mortals have to follow. In short, they have a superiority complex that arises from their own particular pattern of self-deception, whereby they are essentially beguiled by their own image of themselves. The arrogance borne of this self-deception is what we are doomed to deal with as we encounter them in the various positions of authority they have managed to wangle themselves into. These people hardly realise, as they strut their stuff around, that they are walking, talking advertisements for the immense benefits to humanity, of humility and fair mindedness!  And the way to spot them is simple, as you won’t have to do anything, they will bring themselves to your attention by violating one or more rules of social etiquette…or by misusing their position of authority if they have one:  

    How to spot a difficult person:

    CentreOfAttentionThey are generally the loudest (at least in some way that is important to them). They may dress to be noticed; have a definite strut in their walk; or raise their voices for effect — often talking over the top of others or otherwise cutting them off verbally. They talk in a self-centred manner, whereby everything always ends up coming back to being about them … how clever they are, how right they are, or how much of a hero they have been in the past. You always feel as though they are somehow competing with you even if you are working with, or for them. The part of communication they don’t care to understand much about…is listening. So no matter how skilled they tell you they are, even as a communicator, they are completely unskilled in listening because it’s never really about others – it’s always about them. They have learned to feign listening…but only in such a way as to keep the topic of conversation coming back to being about them. They really want communication to be about debate, argument, dispute or controversy – any area where they can mask the fact that their eyes glaze over if they ever have to actually listen to anyone for more than a moment or two. MissingEarPieceThey have the shortest listening spans amongst all humans and it really does seem as though God wasted a pair of ears on them!  Whatever they do manage to hear (usually accidentally, as they are pausing to think up what to broadcast next) they completely misconstrue – causing more misunderstandings and verbal diatribe. They frequently go off half-cocked because they lack the patience to wait until all the facts are in. Besides, they don’t really like facts, only opinions – especially their own opinions – and they will often brag about the fact that they are a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants manager. They tend to love emergencies and thrive on fighting fires – because they love being the centre of attention in some sort of crisis where they can feed their own sense of self-importance.  Many of these crises are of their own doing but they always manage to lay the blame elsewhere. NotMeAnd this is another distinguishing hallmark that identifies them and their management style, a very active blame culture. Everything is about blame or accusations directed elsewhere and never about accepting responsibility for their own actions – or lack thereof.  

    Now, having said all this, there are as many ways for a person to be difficult, as there are personality traits (plus a good number of learned behavioural ways thrown in for good measure).  Indeed, we can all be difficult at times…especially when things really don’t suit us…or we’re not feeling very well. But these tend to be sporadic events and thus, are more of a rarity behaviourally…than a common thread.  But with the difficult person, this is the other way around, they are difficult more often than they are not. They know how to behave properly, but will only make the effort when someone who has real authority over them is around…someone who, in their mind, can and would dole out negative consequences to them.  Otherwise, everyone is fair game for their various manipulative ploys, covert operations, or high handed, lording it over others behaviour. 

    How not to let them ruin your day: DifficultPeopleDealing

    The schematic further down the page, is one that I put together for a talk I gave at a conference.  I was there to present on the topic of ‘dealing with difficult people’.  But before you take a look at that schematic, it is best to consider the one below, which will help put it all into context:


    This is a picture that I created for a mind map I constructed on the maturity continuum, where I also highlight aspects of the developmental continuum. The key to understanding how it all works is in four key words:


    How well you develop along the continuum to maturity governs how well you are able to behave like a true adult…BabyManinstead of like a child in the guise of an adult. So, now that you’ve got some understanding of what I mean by maturity, take a look at that schematic on dealing with difficult people:



    Dealing With Difficult People 

    The key point on the schematic is point number 4…and it is best read as – Discern if the person is immature ‘so that’ you can correctly regard them as a child and not a true adult ‘so that’ you do not empower their weaknesses to control you.  Seeing them as a selfish child who never really grew up is really useful in being able to disassociate from their immature manipulations.  When you stop listening to them as an adult…and start listening to them as the child that they really are…you will find it much easier not to be offended or upset by their behaviour.  An adult whose opinion really matters can ruin your day – but a selfish child whose opinion just doesn’t…can’t.  In this sense, people can only hurt you if you give them credence – so, unless you are wearing your heart on your sleeve and are easily hurt for some other reason, you should be able to disconnect from anything that is said.  Of course, if you have discovered that you are easily hurt, you may wish to come and see me for a personality assessment, whereby we will likely uncover the deep reason for it.  

    Other important points on the schematic are at numbers 5 and 6, and needless to say, a large part of my work involves mediating differences, difficulties, and even disputes between people in family, social and professional settings.  I am even able to help individuals to be sort of thankful for the difficult people in their life…even if it’s just for what can be learned from them…in as much as they have shown you exactly who you do not want to be.  For alas, at least a little bit of the selfish child resides in all of us…for we all learned how to scream and cry for what we wanted as babies/toddlers.  So growing up and maturing is something that we all have to struggle with in this life.  And having to deal with difficult people really helps you want to stay on track to becoming a better person!

    It is also important to note that I have dual meanings for the terms depicted for the maturity continuum…and you would need to attend my personality session to discover the deeper truths I depict with these words. Of course, as interesting as a blog post can be at times, it is no substitute for an actual consultation, where you get to see full schematics on these deep issues as well as hearing the in-depth information that qualifies the main points depicted. So this is an appropriate place to put my disclaimer:

    Don’t try this at home!

    The real art in the science of what I do, lies in being able to be the messenger of unflattering news, without getting shot for it! (People LOVE to shoot the messenger when they are being told something that they don’t want to hear!). And this is why I would encourage you to hire a professional rather than do something like this yourself, which is likely to backfire on you – regardless of whether you think you are doing it with the best of intentions. The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.

    If you are dealing with a difficult person…then the best person to deal with that person…is a professional in a professional setting.  So seriously, don’t try this at home…or even at work— contact me for advice about the best way to tackle it.

      A problem shared .... is a problem halved ... and a problem shared with the right person ... is a problem solved!

      Steven Bailey-Brown

      Human Dynamics Facilitator

      45 Ventnor Avenue, West Perth, WA 6005
      Mobile: 0403 969 527