Dealing with difficult people

Published on: April 11, 2019

Chamber News & Views

You’ve heard of helicopter parents and known plenty of latch-key kids. But what about a porcupine employee, friend or family member? They do exist.

We all know those people; when they open their mouths, everyone wants to hurt them. You know who I’m talking about, right? Yep. That person. They may be great parents. If they’re working, the boss would probably say they’re good at their jobs. As volunteers? Perfect. But if you’re around one too long, it’s like rubbing up against a porcupine.

A couple of little jabs you can take. But after a while, they just suck the life right out of you. After too many encounters, you’re exhausted, mentally drained and longing for an escape route.

So how can we deal with difficult people? First of all, don’t try to sugar-coat their difficult behavior. You need to deal with it head on for your own sake. Problem is, the world is filled with wounded people, some more than others. And unhappy people cause problems. They are hovering around, just looking for a target to unleash upon. Don’t be that target.

Barbara Markway of Living the Questions offered some good advice: She claims you technically must start off with verbal de-escalation. Here are some tips to accomplish just that: First, stay calm. When a situation is emotionally charged, it’s too easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. Then, don’t judge. You probably don’t have any idea what the other person is going through.

Don’t return anger with anger. It will only add fuel to the fire. Look around to see if there is anyone who can help. There’s strength in numbers! Avoid smiling — seriously. It looks like you are mocking the other person. Also, stay away from humor — which is always my go-to. It’s probably not the time nor place.

Don’t argue or try to convince the person of anything. Trust your gut. If everything is going downhill, you need to look for an escape plan. And remember, one response does not fit all situations. Remain flexible and stay focused on de-escalation.

And when all is said and done, give yourself credit for having gotten through this nightmare. It takes a lot of restraint not to act like a jerk when someone is in your face and behaving badly.

In doing research for this column, I came across a term I had never heard: Lawnmower parents. I’ll let you know if they turn out to be bad guys you need to avoid.

Lynne Conlan is Executive Director of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce. Call her at 813-634-5111, or email