Vanquish difficult people with your verbal powers



Comic Con, Lecce, Italy

They’re everywhere. At work or school, at the store, in your personal life…possibly in your dreams. I’m talking about difficult people. We can all be irritable or indecisive at times, especially when we’re overworked or under stress.

I get hangry (so hungry I get angry). It’s because my blood sugar drops extremely low. So, if I don’t eat when my sugar drops, I try to keep quiet. Part of it is to preserve my energy, my metabolism is very fast, and I burn through nutrients in no time. The other part is I can’t make up my mind at that point, I get impatient and can be grouchy. All I can think about is eating. And who wants to be in that type of conversation? Not me, and I’m a firm believer in treating people the way you want to be treated. So, in this rare instance, I will keep quiet! My solution, I try to have something to snack on with me at all times.

Some people are so unpleasant that they make having a reasonable talk almost impossible. Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid these types of conversations. Learning to handle them will help you get more done, and give you more peace of mind.

Most people don’t know that others have a hard time talking to them. Did you know that 80% of people have no knowledge that they act negatively, and don’t realize the impact they have on others? It makes sense. Do you know what people think of dealing with you?

Lots of people tend to avoid disagreeing with difficult people, and if they do, they fear significant anger. Or they don’t say anything the first few times, and then snap. I’ve been guilty of this more than once, and you know what, it only succeeds in making us look unreasonable, and it doesn’t give the other person meaningful feedback.

The types of difficult personalities

Let’s take a closer look at some of the kinds of people that might be hard for us to deal with, and some communication tips.


two angry women

There are four different types of bullies.

Chronic bully: These are usually people who are bullies in every area of their life; they bully people at work or school and in their personal life. Chronic bullies are the hardest to change, but they are responsive to rules, rewards, and punishment.

Opportunistic bully: This is the most common type of bully at work or school.  They are different from a chronic bully because they do not bully in other areas of their lives, it’s because at work or school their actions have been rewarded in some way.

Accidental bully: This type of bully is unaware of the effect of their actions.  When confronted, they stop, apologize, and don’t do it again.

Substance abuse bully: Most addictive substances make people become more uninhibited and social manners disappear, creating a person who bullies when they’re under the influence.

Ways to communicate with a bully

  • Stay positive and focused.
  • Stand up for yourself.
  • Be firm.
  • Make it more personal; use their name and say words like “I believe.”


Cheerful businessman explaining colleagues over computer

Complainers are quick to point out problems but rarely try to fix it.

Ways to communicate with a complainer

  • Actively listen to their concerns.
  • Respond to emotion with goals.
  • Ask questions such as “what would you like me to do with this information?”.
  • If complainers are highly emotional, try not to react.  Instead, say something such as “you sound very upset.”
  • Move them from finding imperfections to problem-solving.

The silent type


The silent type doesn’t say much; they respond either “yes” or “no” to questions.

Ways to communicate with the silent type

  • Instead of asking closed questions, ask open-ended ones to get more than yes or no.
  • Try different kinds of questions to get the answers you need.
  • Let them know about your plans and ask them to participate.

The “yes” person

Group of friends watching funny videos

The yes person tells you what they think you want to hear. How do you talk to someone who seems to agree but doesn’t follow through with anything?

Ways to communicate with the yes person

  • Try to find out what is truly happening and describe negative consequences.
  • Encourage them when they share challenges.
  • Show that you’re interested in what they’re saying by nodding and asking questions.
  • Get them to commit to something and write it down.

The “no” person

Two female students having an argument.

The no person will say no to every request, no matter how small.

Ways to communicate with the no person

  • Connect with them by trying to find some common ground.
  • Recognize that they have some positive intent.
  • Use their thinking to suggest solutions.
  • Let them be a part of your plans to get them engaged.

The know-it-all

Woman Drinking From Water Bottle

The know-it-all always seems to have a better way of doing things.

How to communicate with the know-it-all

  • Have all the facts before you meet.
  • Paraphrase what they’re saying.
  • Recognize their doubts by using the word “maybe.”
  • Focus on their positive intent and not on what they’re saying.
  • Ask them to suggest solutions.
  • Let them be a part of your plans.

Combination of types

Multiracial couple talking

The most challenging of all may be trying to communicate with someone who is a combination of more than one of these personalities.

How to communicate with someone who is a combination of types

As an example, we’ll look at a person who is a know-it-all, just-say-no, bully. Combine styles to match their types.

  • Have all your facts upfront and stay firm.
  • Connect with them and use “I believe” statements.
  • Recognize their positive intent.

There is a common thread that ties communicating with different people together, stay positive and focused. It will go a long way in building healthy relationships.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember:

  • Accept that there will be differences.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Understand what’s behind their actions.
  • Create and use a plan that will help you work with the person.

Do you have any tips that you’ve used to deal with a difficult person, or that you have noticed have worked on you?

39 replies »

  1. Well written Samantha! I deal with all types of difficult people at work that you mentioned. Aside from firm, I try to be calm, cool, collected and friendly when I deal with difficult people. I find that too many people get defensive when you disagree with their opinions. So, I start off by acknowledging that I respect their opinions and take it from there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Marko! That is a great approach, I try to be too. I agree that many people get defensive when you disagree. Really great approach you take! Thank you for sharing it and have a wonderful day 🙂


  2. Wow you blew my mind with this article ! Well written and absolutely necessary to know. I almost feel like I need to print it out and post it at home, work or both. Truly important points you brought up here. I think I’m guilty of being a mix at times but what really works for me is to just slow down and not take things personal. I feel like I can do that better at work than home as at home there are more emotions involved. I always ask the other difficult person whether or not they would talk or treat someone the same at work ? And that they should just think of the person they are bullying or yelling as their boss or co-workers because we all know that at work we must behave. Just a tactic I use that works most of the time. Love how you and I share the hangry part. Like you, my blood pressure drops and I cannot even lift my head of the table so yes totally try to have snacks in between, otherwise I am a complete mess ! Thank you so much for this wonderful article. Truly enjoyed it

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much Rudina! That truly means a lot. I am also better at it at work because it does feel less personal. It’s harder to separate a personal relationship. It’s interesting because I have worked in environments where yelling (even at bosses) was done and there were probably more bullies than there were others. I had to get out quickly, very toxic. Your approach is great because it is something that probably disarms them quickly. Thanks for sharing that excellent tip! And now I know that we will have to have snacks or be near food when we’re together because it will be messy hahaha!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well written and broken down simply for easy communication, these are some excellent tips– in my personal experience with the “bully” type, I find it can sometimes help to remove any and all personal connection. If I can get the “bully” to separate their personal self from the ideas we are discussing, I find it much easier to approach a subject without them feeling the need to take the offensive. This also works for separating yourself from your own ideas, so the “bully” response feels less personal. When the conversation isn’t personal, they don’t have to defend themselves, just their ideas, and you don’t have to defend yourself, just your ideas. If you still come out in disagreement, it isn’t about the person, just the ideas they are expressing, these sort of differences are much easier to accept than conflict on a personal level. I’ve found this can help keep things on-topic to avoid personal insults with the “bully” type.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much. I’m really glad you found it well written and easy to go through. I love what you say about communicating with a bully. That is a very effective technique that you use. Very well said as well. I appreciate you adding this excellent piece of advice, and outlining your steps and reasons why it is effective! It is very helpful for others reading the comment. Thanks so much for sharing it. Have a wonderful start to the week.


    • Thanks so much Karen! I’ve been working hard at not ignoring the conversations because they don’t go away (as much as I wish they would!!) I hope you find some of the information helpful. Have a wonderful day 🙂


    • Thank you very much Kathleen! I hope you find some of these tips helpful so you can start engaging in the conversations more. They don’t go away and unfortunately the other person (or people) will never know they aren’t effectively communicating with others. But I hear you, it is so much easier sometimes just not to engage. I hope you have a great day!


  4. I can’t say much more than I’ve read in the comments. This is an excellently written article. A lot of thought and effort was put into it and I appreciate it. These are very useful tips for both work and personal situations

    Liked by 2 people

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