We have all dealt with difficult people. It’s frustrating. While some people have unreasonable demands, others are just plain mean. I know I can be a difficult person, so I know first hand that it takes real skills to deal with difficult people. There are many mean people in this world, and you cannot avoid them all the time. Sooner or later, you will need to deal with them (or me). On this, I would like to give you some practical tips on dealing with these mean or unreasonable people.
Mean people are usually weak (in the inside)
Unless they are psychopaths, mean people are usually mean for a reason. It can be because they have been cheated on or taken advantage of before, and are afraid to be hurt again. To protect themselves, they might act mean to defend their interests (whether they want to protect their wallets, or their hearts). Sometimes, being mean is just a strategy to keep others on their toes. So, when dealing with mean people, you have to first try your best to find out why they are being so mean. Usually, mean people are mean because they are weak. Be understanding.
Get to know them personally
To understand mean people (or any person at all), you have to spend some time and effort to understand why they are being the way they are. Ask questions. Ask about themselves, about their lives, about their experiences. Try to get to know them as individuals. Most people don’t like mean people, so others probably want to avoid them. By approaching them positively, they might just open up – because they probably want to know why you are so interested in them when others avoid them.
Make observations and show appreciation
Try not to be nosy, but make critical observations. Make compliments and show appreciation. For example, if you observe that person has taken an effort to wear matching shirts and blouses, compliment her. If she’s wearing nice earrings, ask about them. A pair of earrings might lead her to tell a story on how she got them. A person’s dress reflects that person’s values and character. Making meaningful observations also shows that you care about them. This will diffuse tensions and create an opportunity for meaningful dialogue.
Disarm them by being genuine
Most people dislike “fake” people – or people who simply pretend to be caring only to get what they want. This is not good. You have to be genuine. If you are not genuine, most people can eventually see through your intentions, and they won’t want to continue a meaningful conversation with you (or will only try to exploit you). You have to show them that you genuinely care to know about them, and want to find out what’s on their minds.
Be honest and tell them how it is
There is no better way to show genuineness by being honest. Don’t tell lies. Always tell them the truth. As a matter of fact, you are dealing with a person because you need her help. Tell that person why you need her. Usually, even if the person doesn’t like you, she will still listen, because she probably won’t bother to stop you from talking (i.e. by putting her hand on your mouth to shut you up). Tell that person the honest truth. Mean people might be mean, but it doesn’t mean they are stupid. They can still understand what’s going on. So, try to persuade them to want to help you.
When nothing else works, show respect
Sometimes, you do all of the above and nothing works. That person just does not want to help you. But never ever jump to conclusions – maybe that person just can’t help you because his hands are tied, but he can’t tell you the real reason. For example, that shopkeeper might really want to give you a refund, but he can’t, because his wife is the real boss. But he’ll never admit that! You might never really know the real reason, so it’s always counter-intuitive to break off contact on bad terms.
So, when nothing else works, simply tell that person, “Look, I understand that you could not help me this time, but I’m sure there will be other opportunities in the future. I would like to really thank you for your time today. But if you do change your mind, or if circumstances change, please let me know. Likewise, if there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.” He might just call you when a new opportunity arises. Trust me.