Have you ever had to deal with a difficult person? Do you know how to handle difficult people?
Dealing with difficult people can be a complex and exhausting demand on your time and energy. Some people may think that simply walking away and having nothing to do with that person is the simplest way to deal with it. However, this cannot be done if the person is employed at the same company, a member of your volunteer organization, part of the congregation you attend or is a family member.
Dealing with difficult people is not always easy. So, how do we deal with difficult folks?
Jesus had a unique approach. His strategy was not one of dominance or superiority but rather one of service. When Jesus was teaching his followers during the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:27-36) he laid out a strategy in dealing with difficult people.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-31)
This type of behavior is not easy.
The Apostle Paul also gave some advice in dealing with the most difficult people. Paul felt that it was beneficial to consider the needs of others above oneself. In his letter to the Philippian church, the apostle wrote these words:
“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
It will be impossible to deal with the difficulties of other people if we fail to have a mastery of our temperament. Giving someone else the authority over how we respond or react in essence gives them the power of our soul, our attitude, and our emotions. When we lose our temper, we lose. Dealing with difficult people will not be resolved by becoming a difficult person.
Here are 6 basic steps to consider in dealing with difficult people.
Number 1 – Always speak with a tone of respect, even when you disagree. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1
Number 2 – Remember, the conflict may not be with you. The issue that developed the tension may be from a completely different source. Dealing with a difficult personality may be due to an accumulation of past events.
Number 3 – There will often be times when two people will have to agree to disagree. This step can protect a friendship and the ability to work together. It does not mean that one person is lesser or greater than the other. It simply means that this disagreement is a fact. People who are difficult to work with do not have strong negotiation skills; however, strong leaders do.
Number 4 – Projecting a gracious character can be a powerful tool for dealing with difficult people. This type of behavior is not easy and will often require an extreme investment of self-control. This takes us back to point number 1, “Always speak with a tone of respect.” A gracious personality will never be seen if there is not a tone of respect.
Number 5 – Use discretion in dealing with the most difficult people. One of the worst things to do when dealing with a difficult person is to make it a public issue. Jesus gave some instructions to his disciples on how to deal with a difficult situation. He said,
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17 NIV)
Number 6 – Never forget the advice of Jesus in dealing with conflict and difficult people. Dealing with difficult personalities calls for maturity. He taught his disciples to be mature in this manner –
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:43-48, The Message)
How are you doing in dealing with the difficult people at work, on your volunteer team or at church?
What advice do you have in dealing with difficult people?
Do you have a Bible verse that has helped you in dealing with a difficult person?
Do you have a plan on how to handle the most difficult people?