5 Steps to Handling Difficult People

How to Handle Difficult People

The term “Asshat” seems to be catching on. Today my guest blogger, Liv, has her own take on how to handle difficult people aka Asshats.

I love what she’s learned from her ex and think her practical advice will help not just in the love life arena, but also with family, friends, co-workers and bosses.

Here’s Liv from Live By Surprise:

Asshats are everywhere. It may be your boss, your co-worker, your customer, your server, your ex, your whatever. Asshats will come and go, and you’ll learn new things about dealing with them from each one.

Sometimes, they’re even passable as human beings when you first meet them. The asshat may make it past the sniff test and even become your friend, your boss, or your significant other. Once this has happened, it’s much more difficult to get them out of your life. And if you’ve had children with an asshat, you’re pretty much stuck.

Asshats may be able to mask their behavior for a short time – but their behavior will eventually betray them. You’ll get better at spotting them after you’ve dealt with a few.

how to handle difficult peopleUtterly ruthless, these individuals are incredibly resilient, fearless and not constrained by ethics or a moral code.

Beware if they have you in their sights. Their complete disregard for anyone but themselves often leads to blow-back for those around them. And if that happens, it is never, ever (at least in their mind), their fault.

I have a lifetime of experience of dealing with asshats – and of course that one special someone who keeps coming back – but I’ve finally taken the time to sit down and appreciate all of the things that I have learned as a result.

1) Once an asshat, always an asshat

While going through my divorce, my therapist said to me, “if he was like this while you were married, why do you expect him to be different now?”

The realization really jarred me: it was true.

Stop wishing the asshat was different. Don’t expect a change in behavior. Asshats don’t suddenly become aware of their asshat status and reform their ways.

In the entire history of asshats, there has never been an asshat who has suddenly become a nice person (without a full frontal lobotomy).

2) Asshats are not good listeners

Asshats are limited to one function at a time. When you’re talking, the asshat is thinking about what they’re going to say in response, even if it has nothing to do with what you’re saying.

They can’t listen and think at the same time any more than they can chew gum and walk.

You will never convince an asshat that you’re right and they’re wrong. Reason and logic are not skills an asshat understands or appreciates.

Despite their inability to listen, your listening skills should be fine-tuned.

When your conversation with an asshat is getting heated, step back and take a breath. Try to understand why they’re being asshatty.

Sometimes (although not always) you can figure out what you need to do to stop the behavior. If not, you may need to cut your losses and save your strength for another day.

3) Don’t get defensive and accusatory

The asshole’s goal is to get your goat. Don’t respond emotionally. The asshat will take it as a win, and you don’t want them to think they’re winning.

Always take the time to prep yourself prior to dealing with an asshat.

Remain confident. Keep your tone neutral. Stay on task. Don’t get distracted. You know what you need – get it and get out.

4) Handle aggression assertively

If the asshat you’re dealing with is aggressive, either verbally or physically, then regardless of who they are, it’s OK to walk away or put the phone down.

If needed, you can return to the conversation when the asshat has calmed down. No one has the right to compromise your sense of personal safety and well-being.

As well, feeling threatened may throw you off.

As I said in number three, you need to remain in control of both yourself and the situation. If you’re not – you can always come back to it later when the situation has cooled.

5) If you don’t have to deal with an asshat – don’t!

If you were simply dealing with a difficult person, you might be able to set aside your differences and come to a compromise.

Most of the time, when you’re dealing with an asshat, this is not possible. Step back and really examine the situation.

Is it worth the stress? Is there someone else who could deal with this situation better? Is the situation even worth dealing with?

As I learned from the movie WarGames (1983), sometimes “the only winning move is not to play”. Always know what your limit is, and if you’ve hit it, walk away.



Liv is the pseudonym reformed divorcee and single mom – now remarried, coparenting and working mother of three.

She’s been a featured writer on DivorcedMoms.com and her work can be found on ScaryMommy, HuffPost Divorce, MockMom and Sammiches and PsychMeds.

You can find more at http://www.livebysurprise.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter (http://twitter.com/livebysurprise)

6 thoughts on “5 Steps to Handling Difficult People”

  1. Maaaaaan I wish I’d read this SO LONG AGO! Still…que sera ser-was, and I’m where I am now because of all that is past. So…on balance I’m quite glad for the presence of my asshat.

    1. Lizzi I totally get that. I don’t think I’d have the sweetheart I have had I not been through all of the rigamarole! No experience is a waste.

  2. I know SO many people who have to deal with asshats- and I have a few in my own life too. This is SPOT ON advice. It really sucks when you don’t have a choice, and must interact with them- I know a lot of divorced friends who endure the same plight. UGH.

  3. I’m not keen on talking about life as if it is some game…that said, I totally dig and relate to that movie quote, “the only winning move is not to play.”

    Glad your current mate is everything but an “asshat!”

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