10 Tips for Communicating With Difficult People
Communication is key
Communicating with difficult people can often be a stressful and frustrating experience – but it doesn’t have to be.
Communication with others is a two-way street, so our actions and reactions can make a huge difference in how the conversation will go.
While there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for communicating with difficult people, there are things we can do to help avoid or diffuse tense situations before they get out of hand.
10 Tips for communicating with difficult people:
- Be clear about your values and the things you are unwilling to compromise. The clearer you are about what you want, the more likely you are to achieve it—the clearer your goal, the better the chances of success.
- Remember that the people you’re talking with are individuals. Each person has their own distinct circumstances and opinions and ways of coping – things which may not make sense to you. This is a fact of life, so it’s best to keep in mind that trying to change people is generally a fruitless pursuit and instead simply accept people for who they are.
- When possible, explain the reasons behind your actions and reactions. Do so in positive, constructive terms instead of just giving orders or making demands. People are often much less likely to feel defensive or angry if they understand the reasoning behind what you’re saying.
- Accept that there are times when you won’t get along with people and that doesn’t mean anyone is “right” or “wrong.” Sometimes we just don’t click, and even if you think someone is wrong, their opinions may not be so different from yours once you take a closer look at it.
- Practice active listening. This means really listening to what the other person is saying and trying to understand where they are coming from. It also means not interrupting, jumping ahead or teasing them when you have your opinion on something. It’s not easy to do, but it’s very important – and something people don’t usually tend to do on their own.
- Learn to recognize the signs that someone is angry or upset around you and use your judgment when it is appropriate to show them empathy or put aside your own feelings. It’s hard to admit it, but it isn’t always easy for us to be empathetic in difficult situations. However, it’s important to remember that others may not be in the same situation as you, and their anger or frustration is an outward expression of how they are feeling.
- Use “I” statements for personal positions. For example, say, “I feel like…” instead of saying “you” were/are… For example, “You never . . .” or “You always . . .” seldom leads to an open-minded discussion.
- If you feel you are not being heard, try summarizing what they have said or paraphrasing it in your own words. This will leave no room for misunderstanding and give them a chance to clarify any unclear points. When explaining your own position, be sure to restate that you still understand their point of view – even if they don’t agree with yours.
- Do not assume that you know what the other person means. It can be easy to jump to conclusions, but this can cause communication problems and escalate arguments more quickly. Instead, if you have questions, ask them clearly and directly, and wait for a response before moving on.
- Seek therapy. Many people struggle to deal with difficult people in their lives. It can feel like there’s no escape. Therapists are experts in human behavior and can help you learn how to effectively manage difficult people and feel better about your overall environment.
While there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ recipe for everything you will face in life, these tips will help you to be more aware of how people relate to you when you communicate with them. The more you are aware of yourself and others, the more capable and confident you will become in daily interactions.
At Washington Psychological Wellness, we have therapists who are specialized in better communication skills. Our qualified mental health professionals can help people deal with letting their feelings out more effectively.