We’ve all been in a situation where we have had to deal with a difficult person. It may be just a one-time moment, or it may be you have to deal with this person every day. Encounters with difficult people often lead to conflicts and emotional stress.

Whenever we deal with a person like this, our fear response is activated. We either fight back and defend ourselves or walk away. Ultimately there is a conflict that is either left unresolved, or worse, becomes escalated into a terrible situation of disagreement and bitterness.

It is never easy dealing with a difficult person, as conflict often goes hand in hand. However, there are ways in which we can take charge of the situation and not let petty fights spiral into bigger conflicts. We can de-escalate the tension and minimize confrontations with difficult people with effective communication, patience, and empathy.

It may seem difficult and sometimes even counter-intuitive (remember our fear response), but by keeping the lines of communication open, we can be able to avoid having conflicts. Here are some of the ways in which we can avoid conflict when dealing with difficult people.

Listen and Empathize

Most of the time, difficult people need to feel they have been heard. For that reason, empathy is one of the key tools used in customer service-related industries. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, and it is helpful whenever you need to avoid conflicts. Try to see where the other person is coming from and look closely to see if they have a need that should be addressed.

Learn to listen intently to understand their point and not simply react nor be defensive. Give them a chance to speak up and air their grievances, while you remain calm. Remember there will be no resolution to any conflict situation if both parties are talking at the same time.

Remember We Don’t All Think The Same Way

One of the hurdles we encounter when coming face to face with a difficult person is that we both think differently, and our thoughts are our own. We hope they think the way we do and hope they can see our way is the best way. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and the sooner we accept this reality, the better we will avoid conflicts with difficult people. Basically, don’t be a difficult person yourself!

Set Boundaries

Once we have accepted that they are challenging to deal with, we need to set boundaries with this person, especially if it is someone we have to deal with daily. You need to communicate clearly, and in a non-threatening way, that you don’t tolerate certain behaviors. By doing so, you can avoid disagreements with them before another conflict arises.

By accepting the fact that these types of people are around you, don’t get frustrated when they don’t comply or cooperate with you as you wish they would. Make sure you avoid putting any blame onto them, as this can lead to bigger confrontations. Acting defensively might be a natural response to dealing with difficult people, but in doing so, it can aggravate the situation.

Know What You Can Control

We cannot control other people, but we can control how we respond to them. You know yourself more than they do and you are in charge of your own emotions. Try your best to stay calm and composed, yes it may be difficult, but it will benefit you in the long run.

Take slow deep breaths to help you think clearly and to avoid giving in to your fear response. Choose your words carefully and think about what you will say before you say it. If you do, you can lessen tension and hopefully avoid conflict altogether.

Avoid Judging Their Behavior

Instead of judging them, show compassion, because you may not really know the source of their frustration, even if you think you do. If you give them the respect they deserve as a person, and if they do not reciprocate, then let it go and distance yourself from them.

Avoiding conflicts with difficult people is not easy. It’s hurtful, emotionally upsetting, and extremely stressful! However, you can learn to take control of yourself. It takes a whole lot of patience and self-control. You can be the bigger person in a situation when you practice the above steps. Remember to be empathetic towards others. Restraint is the best response to anger and conflict.