8 Tips for Teens to Learn How to Deal with Difficult People
As teens develop into adults, they must learn how to appropriately deal with difficult people to be successful in their lives. Difficult people are simply a fact of life – whether it’s because your personalities clash or because the person has some qualities or behaviors that irritate you. Particularly, as teens head to school again, they are bound to face a teacher with whom they just don’t click. Learning to deal with difficult people is an important skill teens need to develop to ensure their future success.
While research shows that supportive relationships are good for our mental and physical health, maintaining difficult relationships is detrimental to our health. Negative people can drain your energy. As much as possible, teens should surround themselves with people who have qualities they admire, and avoid interactions with people they find difficult. However, inevitably, they will have a family member, teacher, coach, teammate, fellow student, or co-worker that is difficult to be around, but is not someone they can simply eliminate from their life. Use those instances to teach teens these tips to handle difficult people:
- Accept Everyone for Who They Are
You cannot change other people. How they talk and behave is not under your control. If you try to change someone, you will only become frustrated and the other person will become defensive. Instead, recognize that everybody has strengths and weaknesses, and choose to look for the positive aspects of the other person. That does not mean that you have to become close to them, or that you should ignore their flaws. For example, you should never accept abusive behavior. Or if the difficult person is unreliable, you would not put them in a situation where you needed to depend on them. However, use your optimism to recognize that everyone has value, and that this difficult person has good qualities, too.
- Keep Calm
If you are dealing with a difficult person, more than likely this person has triggered your anger more than once. Lashing out in an emotionally charged state only makes the relationship more strained. Someone who is calm is seen as being in control, centered, and more respectable. It is best to avoid discussing topics that you know tend to cause conflict with this person. But, if a discussion does spark anger, then wait for everyone to cool off before jumping into the discussion. Once emotions have died down, you can more easily and tactfully address the issue.
- Examine Yourself
Don’t forget that most relationship difficulties are due to a dynamic between two people rather than one person being “bad.” Consider for a moment whether you are creating some of the problem. Conflict is often born when people are overgeneralizing (statements such as “you always” or “you never”), insisting on being right or “winning” the argument, forgetting to listen, being defensive, or blaming others. Are you guilty of any of these behaviors? If so, alter your response, and you might find the person changing their response to you, as well.
- Be Respectful
Everyone wants to feel valued. No one wants to be treated as though they are incompetent or stupid. While you don’t have to foster a close relationship with this person, acting polite and respectful will help a great deal. Follow the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
- Try to Understand Their Point of View
Try to give the other person the benefit of the doubt that they are not trying to be difficult. There is always some motivation for behavior, so consider for a moment what triggered their reaction. Could you have hurt their feelings? What is preventing them from being friendly or cooperating with you? How can you help meet their needs so the situation can be resolved?
- Don’t Respond
Sometimes the best thing to do in the case of a negative person is just to ignore their behavior. If they send an email that makes your blood boil, take a deep breath and don’t bother responding. Get on with your life, and don’t give them the big reaction they are looking for. Just like the little kid on the bus who pulls another child’s hair, sometimes ignoring them simply makes them stop because they’re not getting the reaction they want.
Of course, ignoring some obnoxious comments is easier said than done. When a conflict arises, ask yourself a few questions,
- “If I do not respond to this person, what is the worst thing that can happen?”
- “If I do respond, what is the worst thing that can happen?”
- “In the grand scheme of my life, will a reaction to this person contribute to the things that matter most to me or help me achieve my goals?”
Answering these questions can give you a broader perspective to the situation. Sometimes you will realize that reacting to the person will only upset you and waste your energy.
- Express your Frustration in a Safe Way
When the difficult person in your life has pushed all your buttons, find a safe way to express your anger. One of the best ways to do this is to take out some scrap paper and write down all the random and negative thoughts you have freely without editing. Then, crush that paper into a ball and toss your negativity into the trash.
Many people choose to vent their frustration by talking about the situation with others. While talking with a trustworthy confidant can absolutely make you feel better and potentially offer you new ideas for moving forward, be careful not to rehash your anger frequently with lots of people. It’s tempting to retell the story to an audience, but you are actually making the situation worse. Every time you revisit your anger or dislike of the person, you are making it stronger.
- Surround Yourself with Positive People
While difficult people may just be a part of life, you can offset their negativity by making sure you have a support group of people around you that meets your emotional needs. Rely on people who have proven themselves to be trustworthy and supportive, and you will likely find that the difficult person’s impact on your life is minimal.