How to Deal Wisely with Difficult People

How to Deal Wisely with Difficult People

We have all encountered difficult people. Whether they are constantly negative or brashly insensitive, it can be frustrating to handle those who require “extra care.” Even in the Bible, we see Moses having to deal with Aaron’s bad choices (Exodus 32) and Jesus resolving issues with the Pharisees (Matthew 23). Whatever the case may be, we cannot always avoid interpersonal conflict. Yet, how we react in the midst of irritation will, without a doubt, draw people towards Christ or turn them away. As His ambassadors, it is our job to be mindful of our interactions with those we deem difficult and ask the Lord for wisdom on how to move forward. According to Joseph Hellerman’s book, When The Church Was Family, proper conflict resolution within the body of Christ makes us a stronger witness for the gospel we proclaim. If Christians cannot settle disputes under composure, how can we expect others to look to us as an example of God’s light?

For this reason, we must explore God-honoring ways to deal wisely with difficult individuals. Here are 10 effective ways I have discovered can make a major difference in your interactions.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

  • 1. Lead with love.

    1. Lead with love.

    Slide 1 of 10

    When dealing with a person who causes us distress, we must make a choice to lead with love. Allowing Godly love to take the lead places us in a position to hear from God on how to handle the interaction. God’s love is unconditional and places the other person’s need above your own. As seen in 1 Corinthians 13, true biblical love is:

    • Patient
    • Kind
    • Does not boast
    • Is not easily angered
    • Honors
    • Keeps no record of wrong
    • Rejoices in the truth
    • Protects, trusts, and always perseveres. 

    With these guiding values, we place ourselves in a position to have loving interactions that can honor the Lord.

    Photo Credit: Unsplash / Paola Aguilar

  • 2. Be kind on purpose.

    2. Be kind on purpose.

    Slide 2 of 10

    One way to handle the office bully or “negative Nancy” in your life is to be intentional about your relationship. Think of ways to bless the person unexpectedly. Offer to buy them lunch or leave an anonymous note to remind them that someone cares about them. In most cases, the reason a person is unkind has little to do with you. Making a choice to break the tension shows them that they can let their guard down with you. Even more so, this gives you a chance to display the love of Christ through your actions.

    “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

    Photo Credit: Unsplash

  • 3. Be the hope in the toom.

    3. Be the hope in the toom.

    Slide 3 of 10

    As Christians, we should be the light in the room. When we walk into a space, people should feel our joy and genuine care for them. In other words, we should be a breath of fresh air for those we encounter. After all, we are called to be the light of the world! By allowing our speech to be seasoned with grace (Colossians 4:6), free from bickering and gossip, we can counteract the negativity in the room. Even when others are sharing their frustration about the “difficult” person, we can go a different direction and seek to eliminate the destructive chatter. As we infuse our faith with our actions, we will see that people will start to mimic the love and happiness we share. Just like bad company corrupts character (1 Corinthians 15:33), purposeful positivity is contagious.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock

  • 4. Ask the Lord to help you see them the way He does.

    4. Ask the Lord to help you see them the way He does.

    Slide 4 of 10

    Have you ever asked the Lord for new eyes? Years ago, I worked with a very controlling person. After spending time with her, I learned that she had been abandoned by her father, was the youngest sibling, and experienced lots of disappointment. With this new knowledge, I was able to recognize how her life was full of situations she could not control and of which she had little voice. Thus, the Lord revealed to me that her behavior was a result of feeling powerless over the many years. Moving forward with our interactions, I learned that it was important to allow her to have a buy in and to listen to her heart before reacting to her. To this day, we have developed a great friendship. It was through prayer that God gave me empathy and understanding.

    Photo Credit: Unsplash / Etty Fidele

  • 5. Pray for them.

    5. Pray for them.

    Slide 5 of 10

    The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies. As simple as it sounds, it can be hard for us to intercede on behalf of those who have treated us poorly. Our prayers for others should not be “make them learn their lesson” or “fix them Lord.” In many ways, this is a self-centered prayer as we are addressing the way their actions affect us. Instead, we can pray for God to reveal himself to them and that they will come to know God’s love. I have found that by praying for those I dislike, God changes my heart towards them. Additionally, praying for them has helped me to release the bitterness I had grown to associate with them.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock / RyanKing999

  • 6. Confront the issue.

    6. Confront the issue.

    Slide 6 of 10

    There will be times that require you to stand up for yourself. We see that Jesus was not one to cower. He spoke boldly for what He stood for, even in the midst of persecution. Though Jesus was often honest and blunt about matters, he chose to speak in grace and in truth. Though people may have found offense in His words, His speech only reflected the heart of God. In the same manner, we must reach a point where we can share our grievance in a way that is honoring. This will take prayer for wisdom on how to relay your heart. Though we cannot control how they will respond to our complaint, we can control our response. When facing a tough situation, review what the Bible says about handling disagreement and move forward in a way that does not compromise your testimony (Mathew 18:15-17).

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock / AntonioGuillem

  • 7. Make an effort to move forward.

    7. Make an effort to move forward.

    Slide 7 of 10

    At a certain point, you have to choose to move forward. A person who wronged you last year should not still be getting punished for their actions. Though some offenses may require a change in relationship, this does not mean we have permission to treat people poorly. Remember, Godly love keeps no record of wrongdoings. We should seek intentional ways to mend the bridges that once divided us and salvage relationships. After all, we all grow and mature over time. How a person dealt with you five years ago is not necessarily how they will deal with you now.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock

  • 8. Listen before you speak.

    8. Listen before you speak.

    Slide 8 of 10

    We all have two ears and one mouth. Yet, for some reason we talk much more than we listen. James 1:19 reminds us to be slow to speak and quick to hear. Right after this, it tells us to be slow to anger. It is clear that the amount we listen may impact how fast we are frustrated. In most cases, when we practice active listening, we can truly understand the other person’s side. Active listening includes the following elements:

    • Restating and summarizing
    • Validating
    • Probing
    • Silence

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock

  • 9. Do not voluntarily accept abuse.

    9. Do not voluntarily accept abuse.

    Slide 9 of 10

    When in doubt, choose to be peaceful and cordial, even when it is difficult. There are some people who truly represent the phrase, “misery loves company.” Due to this, they make every effort to belittle you, harm you, and not value your presence. In these scenarios, we are not obligated to stay in relationships where our mental, emotional and physical health are in jeopardy. We teach others how we desire to be respected. Make an effort to tell the other person how their actions are affecting you. If this does not solicit immediate change, you can forgive them and place space between you and the person. We must learn to love some people from a distance. 

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock / Wavebreakmedia

  • 10. Reserve the right to disengage.

    10. Reserve the right to disengage.

    Slide 10 of 10

    After we have tried to resolve our issues biblically, there does come a point where we have to be willing to stop engaging the matter or person. Making the choice to end a conversation or relationship should not be taken lightly or used as a way to control and manipulate the situation. Instead, there are some conversations that must be ended with a simple, “Thank you for sharing that with me, let me pray about it more and get back with you.” In the same manner, there are some relationships that require time and less communication to heal. It is important that we choose to disengage before we say words we will later regret. Reserve the right to disengage, recognizing moments when you need to pause, take a deep breath, come back to a conversation, or end a toxic relationship.

    Overall, when you are intentional about allowing God to be glorified through your interactions, you will find that the most trying relationships can result in deeper connections. 

    Victoria Riollano is an author, blogger, and speaker. As a mother of six, military spouse, Psychology professor and minister’s wife, Victoria has learned the art of balancing family and accomplishing God’s ultimate purpose for her life. Recently, Victoria released her book, The Victory Walk: A 21 Day Devotional on Living A Victorious Life.  Her ultimate desire is to empower women to live a life of victory, hope, and love. She believes that with Christ we can live a life that is ALWAYS winning. You can learn more about her ministry at victoryspeaks.org.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock