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How to deal with difficult people

We have all had, have and probably will have to deal with difficult people in our lives. People that may not be difficult in general, but somehow just manage to be difficult with or to us. They could be people at work such as a boss or colleague, friends, or even family members.

Dealing with difficult people is arguably one of the best skills that we can learn in life. It shows strength of character, patience, humility and a deep understanding of others and ourselves. It shows that we have persistence and endurance not just in achieving our goals, but in our personal and professional interactions with people.

We at Lumi have had a fair share of experience in dealing with difficult people. In some cases, these were people that took it upon themselves to bring us down, that behaved like they wanted us to be miserable and stagnant. For all of us in our different situations, there were times when it felt like hell. Trying to deal with these people day after day eventually took us to the point where even the thought of them made us feel sick. We even got sick over it, taking a long time to recover. But these are relationships and experiences that although terrible at the time, have made us stronger and given us so much more perspective over people. Sure, none of us are going to be perfect at dealing with people that we find difficult and we will all no doubt show frustration and even anger within these contentious relationships in the future. However, we can try.

There are definitely strategies that we can use in order to adapt ourselves to different people and relationships. Here’s a few that we have learnt over the years:

Strategy 1: Try to see the person as a person. It’s important to recognise that everyone has value. Everyone has a purpose. It can take a lot of courage to recognise this in difficult people – because it’s natural for us to just want to think the worst of them. Seeing the value in someone is particularly difficult when they are attacking us or going out of their way to hurt us or bring us down – or at least, that’s what we perceive they are doing. All we want to do in this situation is dehumanise them, as it’s easier to be hating on someone when we don’t see the human side to them. But we would encourage you, re-humanise these difficult people. See them as a person with value, strengths, gifts, and loves. Someone that has hopes and dreams that they want to see fulfilled in their life. It might be a daily or even hourly choice to ‘re-humanise’ this person, but the more you do – the more you build your strength of character and perspective. And if you do this, chances are – you’ll probably feel better about yourself too.

Strategy 2: Know that there’s more going on. Rarely is someone angry, bitter, vindictive or manipulative for no reason at all. There is almost always a reason. Whether it’s a deep-seated, historical reason or something that has happened to them recently, they might be going through some serious stuff. Who knows what they may be struggling with? This person may have lost a loved one, be suffering from crippling depression, be going through a long-term break-up. Yes, it’s not right if they are taking out any of these things on you, but understanding this can help bring out the softness in our hearts for them. Think about how you would want to be treated if you were going through a hard time – no doubt, you would want understanding from people, and even to be cut a bit of slack. Sometimes it only takes a small amount of courage to be the bigger person.

Strategy 3: Know that we might be that difficult person to someone else. It’s a tough pill to swallow, we know. But sometimes, people that we meet in our lives just don’t think we are that great. Sometimes, people genuinely think that we just grate – on them and on others. The defensive part of us might arise when we think about this – they obviously just don’t know me, they have no idea who I am, who are they to judge me? But legitimately, if we have found many people throughout our lives  difficult – it’s likely that at some point, people have found us difficult. A wise person once said to one of us, ‘You know, the things that you don’t like about others is often just a reflection of what you don’t like about yourself’. Wow. This one hurt – because we knew that is was true. So, it’s not only possible that you find people difficult because they show up parts of you that you don’t like about yourself – it’s also possible that you do the exact same thing for others.

We might have had no idea that we are driving someone up the wall, or we might have completely known that person didn’t like us, but it’s important to be aware. And hopefully, it helps us gain perspective. If we want to be treated with understanding when we might be pains in someone’s arse – then shouldn’t we at least try and do the same for others?

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Strategy 4: Practice the virtues – patience, kindness and humility. Yep, the tough ones – but really, the basics. If all of us were always patient, kind and humble, the world would look like a very different place. One of the reasons that these virtues are so powerful is because they are selfless. They say to others – including people we love and people that we may struggle to love (!) – I care about you. Even though you drive me crazy, I care about you and I’m going to treat you with gentleness. Practicing this also demonstrates another virtue that we love here at Lumi – self-control. Self-control in not getting angry, self-control in choosing kindness instead of frustration. Self-control in being humble instead of defiant and judgemental.

“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.” – Thucydides.

We encourage you to practice these strategies in order to strengthen your approach to all the people in your life. The progress might be slow and steady, but practice patience with yourself and know it’s a journey. We’d love to hear how you go – so let us know! Email us at and maybe we can help you along the way 🙂


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