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How do YOU Deal with Difficult People?

How do YOU Deal with Difficult People?


Allow me to introduce you to Mrs. M.

She's one of those holier-than-thou individuals. She's condescending and manipulative yet portrays herself as the poor victim. Mrs. M. lives in her own self-absorbed, self-centered orbit and can never find any compromise. She can be downright mean and has a storehouse of scathing, critical and cutting remarks for anyone or anything that doesn't submit to her every whim.

Get the picture?

In short, she's one of those people whom you just don't want to bump into. Ever!

And here we were slated to spend an entire weekend together. Thirty-six hours in close proximity of this woman! There was no escaping this weekend either.

What to do?

Some moments I answer that looming question with the following:

a) Brace yourself for anything that the woman might say and prepare your own onslaught of sarcastic, biting and abrasive comments in response to hers.

b) Keep waking up in the middle of the night, full of anxiety so that by the time this weekend actually arrives, you'll be too bleary-eyed and exhausted to even notice her.

c) Look in the mirror and practise giving really dirty looks. Even if you can't think of a comeback, these icy glares will be sure to put her in her place.

d) Call up the airlines, pretend you are Mrs. M. and have her ticket cancelled.

e) Let everyone who might be at this weekend know (and even those that will not) how difficult this woman is. You'll be doing them a service and sharing your feelings will make you feel lighter.

Other moments, I realize the self-defeatism of the above and try to come up with something a little bit more sensible. Here's the "other moments" list:

a) Breathe. Long, deep breaths. Imagine breathing out all that negativity and inhaling goodness and blessings.

b) Keep away. Plan to socialize with other people as far away from Mrs. M. as possible.

c) Think of the Teflon analogy. It's the example a friend and I use of some special people who are able to allow life's difficulties to just slide off of them, like Teflon, without absorbing any negativity. As Mrs. M. does her act, visualize her comments sliding right off you.

d) Use the opportunity to grow as a person. Focus on and thank G‑d for all the goodness in your life. Instead of getting all worked up, retorting or lowering yourself to her level, have sympathy for a person who has never learned the meaning and beauty of a more loving, sharing and generous life.

e) Do something constructive with the experience. Hey, maybe write an article about this for And maybe even ask your readers to submit their own tips of how they deal with such toxic individuals.


(Stay tuned. I'll let you know which list wins out…)

Chana Weisberg is the editor of She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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Anonymous ma April 15, 2013

a sporting event Many people are watching sports on TV. How could a social situation be compared to a sporting event?

Imagine Mrs. M. who says she is a victim, who is critical of others, who is insensative, is like a player on the field who is the high scorer. She fakes: She blames other players, falls down crying when she is not hurt. Sometimes she breaks the rules. The coach sends her out to bully in order to hurt a good player so he cannot play. She plays for her own survival, her own paycheck, to win.

How does a referee handle this player on the field?

And also men have been trained to tolerate this type of behavior and not respond to it in kind but let the referee and coach deal with fairness.

A referee is trained to add more time to a game if he determines that a player has been faking being hurt in order to stall.Or if a player commits a foul to stop a goal, he may get a penalty.

Where is justice?

She is a formidable player who many need to be followed so she does not score or foul. Reply

TJ Michigan April 13, 2013

I've struggled with very difficult people. I have attempted to see them as wounded, love them where they are, see them with the eyes of God, prayed for them, etc. the best I could for more than 20 years. But awful/abusive people continue their awful behavior. There is absolutely no pleasing them.

I love G-d and I believe the Bible is true. However, I find many religious people give pious-sounding advice that offers no practical help in dealing with very difficult, or even abusive, people. Just love them? Yes! But what does that mean? Do what ever people demand? Allow abuse?

I have no desire to be nasty to people. We are all human and have weakness, wounds, and struggles. However, I do not think that the fact that people are wounded ought to give them an excuse to be abusive. I am trying to learn how to lovingly set healthy boundaries. This may mean no longer having relationships that are abusive. I'd love tips on practical and realistic ways to deal with difficult people. Reply

Anonymous June 27, 2008

There is a difference in difficult people and folks who misuse their religion!

For difficult people, it always helps to have the eyes of God...He created them and He loves them as much as He loves me. Knowing God has a plan for everyone, maybe they are fitting into it in a way I do not understand.

For the religiously abusive, I still think I have the eyes of God for them.....they make me angry and I have no use for their foolishness! I spend as little time with them as possible and go in the opposite direction every chance I get! God never said I had to put up with their foolishness! Reply

Sarah June 27, 2008

Well, I handle difficult people, by trying to put myself in their situation, and trying to see the difficulties this person has to be the way they are. Obviously they are not happy. So I feel sorry for them, and with a deeper compassion I try to embrace them and try not to pay attention to this flaws.
It's not easy I know. But i had quite a few difficult people in my life, and the most difficult was a very close family memeber. I guess we have to always make an effort to love every jew. Reply

Jack Hould Blenheim, ntario, Canada April 24, 2008

Dealing With Difficult People There are so many people in this life that require constant attention. I've accomplished 30 years of my life with a very isolated work environment, and it was humor in the work place that helped for me. Through thick or thin I loved taking care of my weakness, strength and my humor and much courage I have gain more strength, and appreciation of taking the good and leaving the bad. Courage, courage and to be very humble is what we all require to learn much so. It takes a long lasting, and many many years to experience great and lasting friendship. Try to make friends from the heart, and not friends to pretend. We are all required to do our jobs to our best ability, as life goes by so fast so do not be so hard on yourselves. It took me a very very long time to practice patience. The sufferings I have seen in my life has me able to love and pray dearly to my L-RD. When the damage in ones life is so true, then look up to G-D, open up your hearts to him and believe very strongly. PRAY Reply

WDZ Waterford, MI April 24, 2008

Use Humor? To Jack Hould, above: Are you saying that using humor can work? I think humor is always good and worth a try, but please differentiate between merely irritable people who pass through our daily experience and seriously up close and personal DIFFICULT individuals or family members for whom this is their continuous interraction, for whom most things have been tried to no avail, and for whom therapy or medications are rejected. The damage inflicted by these people on their loved ones is not humorous! Reply

Jack Hould Blenheim, ntario, Canada April 23, 2008

Dealing With Difficult People The way I deal with difficult people, and this has many times worked. I snore very very hard then I pinch my elbows, then I ask them if that person has kissed them selves on the cheek this morning. I never forget to add on to question that person if he or she was loved as a child. Be very serious but jolly. Now let them know that there is a spider in their hair. That settles it. So be it. Reply

Anonymous kan tziva, usa February 26, 2008

difficult people the one who deserves it the least, needs it the most.
something to always remember across the board in life Reply

Lindsay MI February 24, 2008

Dealing with Difficult People I believe I've tried all of the above listed suggestions, & I still get overwhelmed. I can't get this person out of my life, as she is my sister. And she'll always be the selfish, mean person that I cannot avoid. TIme after time of the same attitude, it wears on a person. Now I'm turning into Miss Negativity. But honestly I've tried a lot, I even took up yoga & considered prescirption medication. How do you deal with Mrs. M when she's a family member that everyone else babies to avoid her outbursts??? Reply

Malka chicago, usa February 18, 2008

How You Deal With a Difficult People Just try to love them even more, your good example will eventually open their eyes. Reply

Yehudit February 14, 2008

Mrs. M Invite her to help you with things on the weekend. She doesn't know how to reach out and deep down inside, she probably wants to be accepted and loved, like all of us. Acknowledge her and make her feel wanted - reach deeper than the protective shell that she emanates - see what happens.....AND -
Shabbat Shalom to eveyone,
Yehudit Chana bat Yitta bat Frayda Reply

devorah February 7, 2008

Thank you so much Eli, you touched my heart. I have succeeded to have a good life despite him; everyone knows him for what he is. Ironically, he has started a new hobby of singing in groups, and to hear his cheer and helpfulness is amazing, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. I know my kids love me and tolerate him. This forum is a wonderful source of strength for me. Financially, i cant leave him. Thank you so much for caring! Reply

Eli Coral Springs, Florida February 7, 2008

To Devorah 24/7 walking on eggs Devorah, my heart goes out to you. I lived through what you are living daily with my husband as well. I did what you are doing, every therapy, strategy, and effort I could make for him (and for myself to just survive.) I derived only hurt, verbal assaults and abuse. He prevented me from attending my own grandson's pidyon haben, my own father's shiva. He (orthodox rabbi, from many generations on both sides) even refused to grant me a Get (Jewish divorce) at the end! His own children do not speak to him. It was not me. I am much better off without him. The head of the Jewish Tribunal (Vaad Harabonim) told me that he is just pure evil. I hope this will give you strength. Please know that you have choices. Living with difficult, unreasonable, irrational, or even emotionally ill people daily is a different matter entirely. G-d gives us the choice between good and evil and tells us to choose good. Choose good for yourself, dear Deborah. Reply

devorah February 7, 2008

I have read all the above advice, and the strategies and they work, but when the difficult person is related, 24 hrs a day, the stress is tough. Walking on eggs or just keeping things bottled up, works but isn't a solution. It seems that my husband and I can barely have a normal conversation, we always find something to find fault with each other. I went for counseling, he would not attend, and what I got from the sessions, was to husband myself, take care of myself and not to stress over my partner's issues. I am responsible for myself and not fixing him. He didn't attend my grandson's bris, or our son's graduation. Both were flights away and his excuse was the dog. I went proudly by myself. Reply

Anonymous February 3, 2008

former friend you did not help----no comment!! Reply

Anonymous Sydney, Australia February 2, 2008

Distancing yourself In my experience toxic people are people whose behavior is toxic for you and if you don't protect yourself, you become poisoned from the toxicity, just as if you had drank poison. I believe you have to distance yourself and learn to say "no." It is easy in trying to be a "good" and "helpful" person (which most of us consider ourselves and want to be) to become a doormat to these people and let them fling their demands or behavior at us. Their toxicity is from their self-absorption,not allowing in anyone else's point of view, and believing their needs are paramount to anyone else. They are "me-orientated," and as you say manipulative. I learned to distance myself physically, and when I couldn't do that, develop selective hearing when they speak, and most importantly I learned to regain control for my needs by saying "no" when necessary. Manipulative people can only manipulate when they have someone prepared to be manipulated. Reply

Eli Coral Springs, Fl January 31, 2008

Detachment from Difficult People Dear W. Bloomfield, MI,
I love your coping strategies and thank you for sharing them. I use the first two, and would like to understand the neon balloon idea better, how to detach. Detaching is something I am currently working on, so it would be helpful to me. Also, I think there is a difference between detaching and distancing from 'others' and from close 'family.'
The latter is more difficult, as anonymous in Israel with cousin in Tx found out. Reply

Anonymous January 31, 2008

FORMER FRIEND (COUSIN) My former friend/cousin upset me every time she phoned. When I mentioned this to her son, we all stopped speaking. I moved to Israel, they live in Texas. I don't have their email addresses and I often think about all this and can't sleep! Reply

Anonymous W. Bloomfield, MI January 30, 2008

Difficult people One indicator of maturity is realizing that we cannot change other people. Find a coping strategy. Mine are: Finding something admirable about that person and praising that trait; avoiding people who set me off, because it is toxic for me; and lastly, visualizing that person as a neon balloon, so I can detach from his/her negativity. Reply

Dorothy Bienen Royal Palm Beach, Florida January 30, 2008

Mrs. MMMMMMMMMM Don't we all know people like that, Chana! Your advice is marvelous and well taken! I can think of one more way to deal with a situation like that; just counter act that negativity with positive deeds!!! There is your mmmmmmmitzvah!!!!! Reply

Often we need a break from our daily routine. A pause from life to help us appreciate life.

A little pat on the back to let us know when we're on track. A word of encouragement to help us through those bleak moments and difficult days.

Sometimes, we just yearn for some friendship and camaraderie, someone to share our heart with. And sometimes we need a little direction from someone who's been there.

So, take a short pause from the busyness of your day and join Chana Weisberg for a cup of coffee.

Chana Weisberg is the author of Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman and four other books. Weisberg is a noted educator and columnist and lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul.
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