When I was taking karate with my son many years ago, I remember our Sensei telling us that the best response to a blow coming at you is not to be there. It surprised me at the time and even disappointed me. I was learning all these wonderful self-defense moves and I wanted to be able to use them! If someone tries to punch you, get out of the way! And so my best advice in dealing with difficult people is to avoid them. Unfortunately this will work in only a small number of cases. Most of the time we cannot avoid these people. We either work with one, are in a social group or organization with one or maybe we are living with one! What do we do?
My second suggestion for those of us who cannot avoid them but who do not see them all the time is to be pleasant but do not engage. Keep your contact minimal. Smile, be respectful but do not go deeper than that, i.e., keep it superficial. Going beyond respectful pleasantries could be a recipe for disaster.
If that won’t work in your particular situation, I’d say this – look for something positive about them (not impossible). Compliment them (sincerely, don’t be fake). Be nice to them and offer to help when appropriate. You may be labeling someone “difficult” who could, with some patience, empathy and understanding on your part, become a friend. Sound incredible? It isn’t. This approach is most desirable if the person plays a significant role in your life.
I have worked with difficult people in the past. Every time I truly believed it would be resolved as soon as I left that employer. Wrong. There will always be challenging people coming in and out of your life. Get used to it and learn how to cope. Try one of my suggestions depending on the situation. I believe it will make your life less stressful and might even make you a better person. God bless.