7 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

Being able to communicate effectively is integral to succeeding as insurance and finance professionals. We do it on a daily basis, but there are times, whether you’re talking to a client, your manager or even a colleague, you’ll find someone who can be downright difficult.

At some point, you’ve probably had to deal with someone who is negative and defensive and resistant to everything you have to say from the get-go, and you know that things could escalate out of control very quickly.

So how can you break through the barriers that difficult people put in place and build a working, effective relationship?

According to management consultant Gabe Nies, there are some easy things you can do to turn any difficult situation in your favour:


One of the most common reasons people can get defensive is because they do not feel as if they are being heard or understood. Nies says that by simply listening to them validates their opinion and position and is the fastest way to move forward


According to Nies people tend to resist you more when you resist them. Instead of sticking to your guns, concentrate on their point of view and make sure you understand it.

“What do they want? If you were in their situation, what would it feel like?” asks Nies.

Seeing something from their point of views offers a different perspective and is an effective way of finding an agreeable solution to a problem.


Before you even begin the conversation, take a moment and think about how you want to feel once you’ve engaged them. Nies notes that is important to understand “How you want to make them feel.” He also suggests that being flexible is a must – the more flexible you are, the more likely they will be too.


According to Nies, everyone has something or someone that will influence them. Find out who (or what) influences the difficult person, whether it’s a colleague, a family member or even an ideal and try to use these things to relate to them.

“Think outside the box and know you have many routes that lead to where you want to go,” says Nies.


A great tactic for breaking through resistance is changing the subject and agreeing on something totally different. This creates a bond between the two of you and can often make the task of dealing with the issue at hand easier.

“Even a negative bond might do the trick, but be careful not to create a habit of negative bonding,” notes Nies.


One of the biggest no-no’s when dealing with a difficult person is giving in to negativity. Nies advises us to downplay the situation and try to make it less overwhelming for them. Sharp, rehearsed responses or long-winded emails can escalate a difficult situation and drawing attention to their behaviour will only inflame the situation worse.

According to Nies, being calm and listening with care is the best strategy as more often than not, their position will shift from being defensive to feeling understood.


Everyone conforms to their own specific pattern of behaviour. Certain situations or phrases can trigger off the same reaction time and again.

When dealing with someone difficult, Nies recommends interrupting the pattern by asking a question that is completely off-topic. This has an unbalancing effect and circumvents the triggered pattern of behaviour, allowing you to approach the situation proactively, rather than defensively.

Originally published at: https://theinstitute.com.au/members-centre/articles/2014/02/7-tips-for-dealing-with-difficult-people