Difficult people are like burpees in HIIT class: no matter how much you will them out of your life, they still show up to test your kindness, patience, and yes—stamina. These folks arrive in our lives in all different forms (see: judge-y family members, narcissists, and energy vampires). But when two experts took a closer look at the qualities that truly get under people’s skin, they found that 10 stood out from the rest.
Rick Kirschner, ND, and Rick Brinkman, ND, two naturopathic physicians and co-authors of Dealing With People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, call out 10 specific behaviors that really (really) push other people’s buttons. Once you hear them, you’ll be nodding along and making all the mental praise hands emojis. According to work and life website Sources of Sight, they are as follows.
1. Tanks: These confrontational folks swing first and ask questions second. When you’re dealing with them, it’s important to hold your ground and using qualifying statements like, “From my point of view…” Don’t let them run you over. You got this!
2. Snipers: If words are weapons, then these people are sharp shooters. They know how to use sarcasm and rude comments to hit the mark on hurting your feelings. Because snipers like to operate behind thinly veiled disdain, you can stop them in their tracks by pausing whatever you’re doing or saying and questioning them directly about what their comment meant.
3. Know-it-alls: If you contradict someone who knows everything, Drs. Kirschner and Brinkman say you’re in for a mouthful. Instead, present your views in a less direct manner with phrases like, “I was just wondering,” and “Perhaps…” That way, you’re getting your point across without allowing the other person to take the upper hand.
4. Think-they-know-it-alls: Similar to the last group, these individuals hold high opinions of their own opinions. They tend to talk in generalizations, so you can check their hubris by asking them for the specifics. Go for the who, what, when, where, why and how they’re more than likely leaving out.
5. Grenades: People who bottle up their anger and then let it explode are grenade people. Likely, their anger won’t even be about the subject at hand, so your best bet is to get their attention and call for everyone involved to take five while they simmer down.
6. Yes person: After saying “yes” to every last request thrown their way, these people hold resentment for their very long to-do lists. The best way to help them out is to remind them, repeatedly, that they don’t need to give the affirmative on every last thing that’s asked of them.
7. Maybe person: These people procrastinate decision-making in the moment in the hopes that a grass is greener alternative will suddenly appear. They respond best when you give them options that are 100 percent clear and leave no room for a response like, “Er, I don’t know…”
8. Nothing person: Nothing people contribute, well, nothing. A whole conversation will pass by without a word, so your best course of action is to ask open-ended questions that will draw them out of their shells.
9. No person: When you’re on a roll and someone stops you dead in your tracks, that person is a no person. Your best option is to let them have their naysaying moment, then pivoting your chat into a more helpful and hopeful direction.
10. Whiners: I don’t think I need to explain this one. Whiners like to dwell in their perceived issues. So when you talk to them in a solution-oriented, you’re more likely to carve through their self-pity. At the same time, make sure you’re truly listening to them and addressing their concerns.
As the doctors point out, many of us take on these personas at different intersections of life. And while it’s easy to recognize know-it-all qualities in your boss/friend/sister-and-law, just keep in mind that you might moonlight as one of these difficult people, too. Now, you’ll now how to deal with yourself, too.
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