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How to Deal with Difficult People

Are you happy?  Does happiness seem elusive with an here-today-gone-tomorrow appearance in your life?  The truth is that searching for happiness is a pointless quest.  It’s simply not out there.  But, don’t let that dissuade you from your desire to be happy!  The good news is that you can create happiness.  It’s within the ability of everyone to be happy*.  In my series Creating Happiness, I will show you how.

How to Deal with Difficult People

If you’ve been following the Creating Happiness series so far, you understand the importance of goals and have (hopefully!) set some SMART goals to get you started on the path to building your happiest life.  If you haven’t already, you may soon encounter someone in your life who attempts to stand between you and your goals.  (Or maybe you just think that’s what they’re doing!  More about that later.)

What can you do when difficult people get in the way of your goals?  First, you need to know that are different types of people who are standing in the way of your happiness.  Let’s examine those people and their motives.

 The Well-Meaning Loved One

This person is a dear friend, your mother or someone else in your life who gets a little worried when you start making changes.  You want to lose weight, but she worries that you’ll get too thin.  You want to go back to school, but she worries that you’ll be too stressed with another responsibility.  Of course, you should consider if this well-meaning person could be right.  And the second that you figure out that she is needlessly worried, you should forge ahead.  

What could be this well-meaner’s motivation for swatting down all of your hopes and dreams?  Well, I believe it’s likely genuine care and worry!  This person probably lives her own life in some amount of fear.  She  jumps straight to the worst case scenario and she is one of the Debbie-Downers of the world.  Maybe this person has experienced first hand what happens when someone diets dangerously or takes on too many responsibilities at once.  Maybe she was that person and wants you to learn from her mistakes.  

I listed the well-meaning love one first because this can be the most delicate of the six to detangle from.  Because you know this person really does have your best interest at heart, you want to be sensitive to their concerns.  The best way to handle this type of person is to sincerely listen to her concerns.  Don’t immediately dismiss them.  Listen and thank her for sharing her insight.  Love her for caring about you.

Then, after you’ve given her time to say what’s on her mind, proceed with your goals but refrain from sharing your journey or your progress with this person.  Once you have accomplished your goal, she will see that you are just fine and your relationship will still be intact.

The Dependent

The Dependent needs you.  And worse, he needs you to stay exactly who you are.  This person may make you question your motives for pushing forward or your ability to reach your goals.  He may bring up the negative things about your life in order to bring you back down in the dumps with him.

 What’s his motivation?  If you change, if you find happiness, his own happiness is at risk.  Maybe this is the person you are most likely to commiserate with.  If you aren’t miserable, then he will have to be miserable all by himself.  If you get healthy and happy, then you might leave him behind!

You need to realize that the only person you are responsible for is YOU.  If you are not happy and healthy, you don’t have anything to give to anyone else.  Now is not the time for an emotional charity case.  You fix YOU and then you will have something of value to offer to others.

To diminish the presence of this person in your life first you have to stop sharing the negative with him.  Refrain from telling him about your failures or upsets.  Let him do the talking for a while, but refuse to become emotionally invested or fall back into old habits of complaining about all that is wrong with your life.  As he sees you begin to transform, we can hope that he will be inspired to do the same.  Once you have reached your goals and are firmly standing on the side of happiness, you can give him a hand up if he is interested in doing the work.

The Controller

 The Controller can be dangerous or abusive.  I must be blunt when I talk about the controller.  This person needs to be in control of you for the sake of her own happiness.  This person is often a parent or a partner/spouse.  In order for her to feel her best, she needs to keep you in check.  She is likely to scoff at your goals and make you think that you will never accomplish them.  She may attempt to trap you by pointing out perceived failures, so she can catch you messing up.  She may even sabotage your efforts and then tell you that she knew you would never be able to meet your goal.

Her motivations are not in your best interest at all.  As you begin to change, you are shaking up this person’s world.  Maybe she needs you to be dependent on her so that she feels needed and secure and powerful.  Maybe change scares her.  No matter what her reasons, you have to be careful around this person.

Never share your goals with a controller.  Don’t talk about your plans at all.  Just go do what you need to do.  You do not owe this person an explanation for your actions.  A relationship with a controlling person is often not a relationship worth saving.  It’s abusive at its core and one of the most unhealthy types of relationships that exist.  You may find that once you have gained some goal momentum and some happiness that you can  no longer tolerate having this person in your life.

The Green-Eyed Monster

You know what this is and maybe you’ve even been in this role before!  This person is jealous of your successes.  He will downplay your successes and make you question whether or not you’ve actually done anything worth talking about.  He may respond coldly or seem less than excited for you when you accomplish something new.

The motivation here is easy to figure out–this person is jealous!  Maybe he is struggling in his own life, maybe he is a one-upper (we’ll talk about them soon!), but either way he is toxic.

Again, don’t share your goals with this person.  Once you determine that he isn’t going to be happy for you, don’t put yourself in that position anymore!  Just live your life and, just like with the controller, you may find that you don’t want a relationship with this person once you are healthy and happy.  A true friend doesn’t let his jealousy stand in the way of his sincere happiness for another friend.

The Coat-Tail Rider

Oh, this person is very happy for you.  She encourages you with an awkward amount of zest.  She asks a too little often how things are going on your way toward your goals and she cares a little too much about the outcome of your life.  The more you accomplish, the closer she gets.  She doesn’t seem to care about the trivial details of your life, though, she only seems to care about the things that might benefit her in some way.

As with the green-eyed monster, the motivation of the coat-tail rider is not difficult to determine.  She wants a piece of your glory!  What’s yours can be hers, or so she thinks.  As she sees it, if she’s around when you are doing well, she can at least have your scraps without having had to do any of the work herself.

What do you think I’m going to tell you do about this person?  That’s right.  Don’t share your goals!  When she asks how it’s going, tell her things are fine and leave it at that.  After a while, she will hopefully assume that you have stalled your progress and will move on to greener pastures leaving you to enjoy the fullness of your accomplishments.

The One-Upper

This person has a lot in common with the green-eyed monster.  Maybe he’s a little cold when you talk about your plans or what you’ve already accomplished.  Maybe he’s down-right rude and pretends that your successes are nothing.  Regardless, he’s always got a story that is bigger and better than yours.  You’re barely finished sharing your latest success before he’s half-way through his own tale of glory.

His motivation is a combination of jealousy and a need to always be at the head of the class.  He’s ultra-competitive and takes everyone else’s accomplishments as a personal loss for himself.  If you aren’t telling him how awesome he is and instead sharing how awesome YOU are, his ego can’t take it.

You know what I’m going to say, folks.  Stop sharing your goals and accomplishments with this person!  Let him believe that he’s the best.  That is, unless you are a one-upper, as well.  If you are, you’ll find my advice to keep quiet about your success very difficult when you are with this person.  


Now that you understand the motivation behind some of the difficult people in your life and how to handle them so that they don’t get in the way of your success and happiness, start practicing my tips for dealing with them.  In fact, you may need to set some goals around dealing with specific people in your life before you are able to complete your life goals.  

Relationships are important and it’s never okay to be cruel to another person just to get them out of your way.  Speak to easy and difficult people in a manner that keeps kindness at the forefront while helping you to ease out of the dysfunctional parts of the relationship.  No one person is all good or all bad and most difficult people have no idea that they are difficult!  Even the abusive ones.  That doesn’t mean you should pity them or try to change them.  It’s not your place to EVER try to change another person, no matter how much you love them!  You should always focus on changes you can make within yourself, but you should never hesitate to fling off the heaviness of a toxic or difficult person so that you can create happiness and live your best life. 
How to Deal With Difficult People