A Holistic Approach To Dealing With Difficult People

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Believe it or not there’s a holistic approach to everything.
You just have to shift your perspective a bit and zoom out to see the larger picture.

When you’re addressing a situation with your eyes on the whole picture, you’re taking a holistic approach.

Though mostly associated with health, wellness or spirituality, holism is a concept that can be applied anywhere.

Holism includes the many parts of something, not just one aspect.
It’s considering how the many parts make up and are interconnected to the whole. 

I go a little deeper into holistic health in my very first blog post.

In holistic psychology, it is a person’s whole entity that is considered. Not just their emotions, behavior or mind. 

So when we deal with a so called difficult person holistically, we are considering not just every aspect of them, but of all involved. 

We are considering the journey that led them to difficulty, as well as what led us to them. 

We avoid just labeling them as difficult and take action on avoiding interaction, or maybe better preparing ourselves to deal with them. 

Sadly, we have to educate ourselves and prepare for interactions with people like this because they are quite common.
They also openly lack the empathy and awareness that would allow them to see how they negatively affect the people around them.

I’m going to assume you’ve dealt with or are dealing with a difficult person that you are in one way or another “stuck” dealing with and are looking for ways to lessen the explosions, blame and threats. 

Dealing with difficult people is a skill that everyone should know. Hopefully by the end of this post you will understand how to deal with difficult people in a way that is not just effective, but also holistic. 

What Is A Difficult Person?

A difficult person

A difficult person is someone who is just that. Difficult.

They are known to have a short fuse, aren’t open to hear anyone’s thoughts or perspective, demand things, play victim, spread rumors, gossip….

I can go on. 

They are narcissistic in nature. 

Some actually have undiagnosed narcissistic personality disorder.

Think of a toddler. They are known to be “terrible”, though I personally disagree. 

However, the reason most people see toddlers as terrible is because they are still developing their prefrontal cortex. The area in the brain that processes and regulates emotions. 

They are completely unable to do so and have to learn what is and isn’t acceptable in the world.

However when you’re an adult, behavior like such is unacceptable.
We have have to reach a point of realization, that we are not the center of attention.

A lot of my experience on dealing with difficult people comes from interactions with narcissistic people. 

Here Are Some Other Words I Might Use to Describe Difficult People:

  • Toxic
  • Narcissist
  • Energy Vampire
  • Parasites 

Qualities Of Difficult People:

  • Are dramatic and feed off drama.
  • Will use your response as fuel for more drama
  • Will react and not respond 
  • Believes everything is all about them 
  • If they do you a favor it usually comes with a “you owe me”
  • They are always right 
  • Blames everyone else
  • Emotionally unpredictable 
  • Explosive 
  • Never have anything nice to say, always criticizing, generally negative

How Do Difficult People Affect You?

Frustrated

Dealing with difficult people can leave us depleted, drained and done.

You’ll find yourself becoming reactive and that’s because they are very good at finding your triggers. They know exactly what to say to get you to their level, because after all that’s what they want.

They want you to be as miserable as they are.

If the difficult person is someone at work, it can affect your productivity. Work becomes a negative space and you start feeling uneasy just clocking in.

I remember working in a toxic environment. It used to be a place where I felt so much joy, doing what I love.

Unfortunately after a few months of working with a toxic boss, I began to dread going into work. I wondered what mood they would be in.

I’d wish for a full schedule so that there would be no time for interaction.

It eventually made me realize I had to quit.

Unfortunately, there are some cases where we can’t resign from the difficult person in our lives.

It’s usually when they are family, or when you share children with them, where it begins to feel somewhat hopeless. 

You begin to wonder if this is just something you have to deal with forever. 

Well, the answer is no.

You don’t and you shouldn’t. 

The long term stress associated with dealing with a difficult person is known to affect your health.

On a spiritual level, dealing with toxic people can greatly affect your energy.
So it is very important to have a regular spiritual practice and create energetic boundaries.

I’ve noticed myself that during times I keep a consistent regular spiritual practice, the difficult people seem to disappear or find other people to feed off of.

However, we can easily get caught up with life and won’t always have the time to work energetically. So here are some effective tips on dealing with difficult people.

5 Holistic Ways to Deal With A Toxic/Difficult Person.

Be Direct

Being direct with difficult person

When interacting with anyone you should always be direct. 

However with a difficult person, you must. 

Being honest is very important because these people will attempt to twist things and if they find an opportunity to catch you in “the wrong” this will only make it harder to deal with.

Being upfront about how you feel and letting them know where you’re coming from also allows them to let their guard down. 

A lot of the time they assume that you are like them, and are trying to be difficult too.

You want to approach them in a way where you neutrally communicate and avoid tension. 

Anything else will be fuel to them.

Stay Calm & Focused 

Staying calm and focused around difficult person

It might be hard if you’re generally sensitive to conflict, but it’s very important to stay calm. 

Remaining calm is vital because anything else is exactly what they want, an emotional reaction.

This is their fuel and it gives them more reason to continue to be difficult.

When you’re calm and focused you also wire your body to note that this isn’t a stressful situation. Which is helpful if you’ll be having long term interactions with this person. 

You want to limit the exposure to this person as a ‘stressful event’, which is definitely easier said than done.

If you do catch yourself unable to remain calm, you should definitely take that as a sign that you need to step away.

Don’t beat yourself up over it either. These people can be master manipulators, and will get you fired up every now and then. 

The goal is to be aware and stay grounded so this happens less and so you can focus on re-centering when or if it does happen again. 

Say Less & Listen More

Openly listening.

A lot of the time these energy vampires will pretty much reveal themselves if you let them. 

When you keep from reacting to their comments, threats, demands they will eventually expose themselves in the process of trying to get you to react or even better, they will get bored and move on. 

The method I use is called ‘Grey Rock’. It’s when you respond with little emotion, or with one word responses. 

No explaining, no questions just a yes, no or okay. 

This keeps them from finding something you said to twist and turn into more fuel.

However, if you’re able to, the best method is no contact.

No contact is just that, zero interaction.

However it’s nearly impossible for people who work with or share children with a difficult person. 

In that case, the grey rock method is highly encouraged. 

Respect & Avoid Judgment Buy Seeing Them For Who They Are

Two people openly talking.

No matter who you’re coming across, respect goes without saying. 

At least that is my personal belief. 

I have no interest or intentions on being disrespectful to anyone, even those who don’t respect me.

Yes, even the difficult people who I cross paths with. They are human after all, and even further, they clearly have something going on in their lives that is causing them to behave the way they do.

So there does need to be some level of compassion.

However their life problems or past traumas are definitely not an excuse for their harmful behavior. 

A line must be drawn and they must eventually be held accountable for their actions.

There are ways to protect yourself and stand your ground while also being respectful.

However, I do want to add that sometimes, despite all the efforts of respect and consideration you bring when dealing with a narcissistic type person, you will always be wrong and accused of being disrespectful.

Remember, they do not ever think they are the problem.

However, when you continue to treat them how you treat everyone else they will eventually become bored because once again, they’re goal is to get you upset and reactive. 

Establish Healthy Boundaries 

Wire fence representing boundary between difficult person

Above all, it is absolutely crucial that you set healthy boundaries with these people. 

Though at times it might seem all you’re doing is constantly building walls, standing your ground and showing them how you want to be treated, doing so will ensure you have proper boundaries. 

And to be clear these boundaries don’t necessarily mean anything to a difficult person as they are usually very entitled.

But the more and more they are met with a nice strong thick wall, the less they will return for fuel.

The goal is to be consistent and firm. 

As I mentioned above, there will be times where you find yourself reacting, angry and typing out explanations all over again.

This is absolutely normal and you shouldn’t feel defeated. 

You just need to find an outlet for your frustration that does not involve them.

Sometimes venting to a trusted friend helps, or writing out your response on a piece of paper and then ripping it up.

Just remember you can always recenter and remind yourself why you need to refrain from reacting. 

When To Walk Away From Difficult People

When to walk  away from difficult person

There comes a point in an interaction with a difficult person where you must walk away, or stop responding.

This can be quite hard for people who need to have the last word. 

But it is essential for your protection. 

Here are some situations where you should just stop and walk away:

  • You notice them get loud and aggressive
  • You realize they are saying irrelevant things to upset you
  • They bring up the past 
  • Your mental or physical health is being affected 
  • You find yourself repeating the same things over and over 

All of the above are reminders that this person does not care to understand or consider your feelings. They just want to be right and in control and anything you do that threatens that will make their behavior worse. 

Seek Support

Two hands supporting each other

If you are in a relationship with a toxic person. Seek support.

Whether it’s therapy or just someone to talk to so you can process the constant stress that’s experienced.

Oftentimes when someone has never experienced dealing with a narcissist, they have no idea how it can affect someone’s life.

It can be very isolating and confusing. 

If you’re in a relationship where you don’t feel safe, or if there is any form of abuse, please seek help. The emotional and mental abuse that comes from these people can be very damaging and create lifelong health issues. If there is any fear at all please reach out to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline at 800-799-7233

Abuse is abuse, it does not only have to be physical. 

Overall, difficult people are unavoidable to some of us. It’s important to have the right tools and perspective to handle them in a way that better serves your overall health and wellness. Do you have a difficult person in your life? Please share any tips you have that work well to deflate tense situations. 


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4 Comments

  1. I work with some very difficult people and even do I’m using some strategies you pointed out here, is still challenging and mentally draining me sometimes. I think I need to put in place stronger boundaries.

  2. I hope your article will spread wide, especially this month when the world celebrates non-violence! And hopefully will help a lot of people. I’ll pin it, too.

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