How To Handle Difficult People Like a Stoic: 14 Strategies

In this new article you’ll learn how to handle difficult people like a stoic.

Difficult people can significantly impact our daily lives, making interactions stressful and unpleasant. Whether it’s a cruel boss, a critical friend, or a needy relative, dealing with someone who consistently exudes negativity can be exhausting. You may dread these interactions and wonder how to improve the situation.

By learning to stay positive and addressing the person’s behavior directly, you can regain control. In extreme cases, you might need to limit your time with the person or cut ties altogether. Here are some steps to help you manage difficult people starting today:

How To Handle Difficult People Like a Stoic:

1. Maintain Composure

When faced with criticism, whining, or outright hostility, it’s natural to want to retaliate. However, responding with negativity only escalates the situation. Keeping your cool prevents you from fueling the fire and helps diffuse tension more quickly.

  • Think Before You Speak: Take a moment to consider your response rather than reacting impulsively. This pause can help you avoid saying something you’ll regret.
  • Control Your Emotions: While it’s natural to feel anger or hurt, responding with yelling or walking away won’t improve the situation. Aim to stay calm and collected.

2. Empathize with Their Perspective

Understanding the root of a difficult person’s behavior can help you respond with empathy instead of defensiveness. Often, such behavior stems from past negative experiences.

  • Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Consider what might be causing their behavior. Recognizing that a critical person might also be deeply self-critical, for example, can help you respond more kindly.
  • Show Kindness: Sometimes, a smile or a kind word can go a long way. While it might not transform their behavior, it can make interactions more bearable.

3. Don’t Take It Personally

Realize that the difficult person’s behavior is often more about them than it is about you. Try to brush off negative comments and not take them to heart.

  • Brush Off Negative Comments: If someone’s bad mood affects everyone around them, remind yourself it’s not a personal attack.
  • Address Personal Attacks Directly: If you are being singled out, it may be necessary to confront the behavior head-on rather than ignore it.

4. Redirect the Conversation

If the person tends to dominate conversations with negativity, take control by steering the discussion to more neutral or positive topics.

  • Change the Subject: Gently guide the conversation to a different topic when it veers into negativity.
  • Be Direct When Necessary: If subtle changes don’t work, clearly state your discomfort and suggest a new topic. For example, “This topic makes me uncomfortable; let’s discuss something else.”

5. Assess Your Role in the Situation

Sometimes, a difficult person’s behavior may stem from a specific grievance against you. Reflect on your interactions to see if there’s a misunderstanding or past incident that might be influencing their behavior.

  • Reflect and Apologize if Necessary: If you realize you might have contributed to the tension, a sincere apology can help mend the relationship.

6. Use Humor to Deflect Negativity

Grumpy individuals often don’t realize the extent to which their negative moods affect others. Using humor can be an effective way to lighten the mood and bring a smile to their face, even if it’s against their inclination. However, it’s important to ensure that your humor is gentle and not perceived as mocking.

  • Lighten the Atmosphere: A well-placed joke can break the tension and shift the conversation to a more positive note.
  • Be Mindful: Make sure your humor is lighthearted and not directed at the person’s expense, which could worsen the situation.

7. Address the Issue Directly

When a difficult person’s behavior consistently impacts your happiness, it’s crucial to address the issue head-on. Open and honest communication about what bothers you can help clear the air and set new boundaries.

  • Be Honest and Specific: Clearly articulate how their behavior affects you. For example, if a family member constantly complains about your parents, let them know how this negativity is impacting you and that you prefer not to discuss it anymore.
  • Choose the Right Time and Place: Have this conversation privately to avoid embarrassing the person and to ensure a more productive dialogue.
  • Stay Calm: Approach the conversation without anger to prevent it from escalating.

8. Separate the Person from Their Behavior

Criticize the behavior, not the person. This helps in addressing the issue without making it personal, which can lead to defensiveness and further conflict.

  • Focus on Specific Behaviors: Point out particular actions that are problematic rather than making general statements about the person’s character. For instance, if your boss only gives negative feedback, request a meeting to ask for more balanced feedback, including positive comments.
  • Be Constructive: Frame your critique in a way that aims to improve the situation, not to make the person feel bad.

9. Set Expectations and Enforce Consequences

In some cases, it’s necessary to clearly outline what behavior needs to change and what the consequences will be if it doesn’t. This approach is more suited to personal relationships than professional ones.

  • Establish Clear Boundaries: Clearly state what behavior is unacceptable and what will happen if it continues. For instance, if your great aunt continually complains during your visits, let her know that you will reduce the frequency of your visits if she doesn’t change her behavior.
  • Follow Through: To be effective, you must be prepared to enforce the consequences you’ve set. If the negative behavior continues, you might need to skip a few visits to reinforce your boundary.

10. Stand Firm Against Criticism

When dealing with someone who frequently criticizes or cuts you down, it’s essential to stand up for yourself and not cave in. Assertively defending yourself helps to deter further negativity.

  • Respond Confidently: If someone falsely accuses you, calmly correct them and provide evidence if necessary. For example, if someone unfairly criticizes your appearance, assert your confidence by saying, “I like the way I look.”
  • Avoid Apologizing for Uncontrollable Factors: Do not apologize for things beyond your control, as this shows weakness that critical individuals might exploit.
  • Be Assertive, Not Aggressive: Stand your ground firmly but respectfully, showing that you are not easily swayed by negative comments.

11. Take Action Against Bullies

Bullying, whether in school or at work, is a serious issue that should not be ignored. Bullies often have a history of being bullied themselves, but this doesn’t justify their behavior. Bullying can lead to depression and low self-esteem, so it’s crucial to address it promptly.

  • Confront the Bully Calmly: When confronting a bully, stay calm and composed. Bullies thrive on eliciting an emotional response, so showing anger or sadness can embolden them.
  • Seek Further Action if Necessary: If confronting the bully doesn’t stop the behavior, consider cutting off contact or taking additional steps to protect yourself.
  • Report Workplace Bullying: In a professional setting, inform your manager or HR department about the bullying. If the bully is your boss, you may need to explore other job opportunities.

12. Resist Being Dragged Down

Difficult people can spread their negativity, affecting everyone around them. To avoid being influenced by their negativity, make a conscious effort to stay positive.

  • Maintain Positivity: Focus on staying positive throughout the day. While it’s natural to vent occasionally, avoid dwelling on the negative situation too much.
  • Avoid Holding Grudges: Remember that difficult people often have their own struggles. Focus on the positive aspects of your life and be grateful you’re not in their position.

13. Surround Yourself with Positive People

Balancing your interactions with difficult people by spending time with positive, supportive individuals can help mitigate the negative effects.

  • Seek Positive Company: Spend time with friends and family who are loving, generous, and cheerful. Their positive energy can help replenish your own and prepare you for interactions with difficult people.

14. Limit Your Interactions

When dealing with extremely negative or abusive individuals, it’s important to limit your exposure to protect your well-being.

  • Set Firm Boundaries: If a family member or coworker is particularly difficult, set clear limits on the time you spend with them. For example, limit visits to a difficult parent to an hour per week. If even that is too much, reduce it further.
  • Prioritize Your Safety: If the person is physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive, prioritize your safety by minimizing contact or cutting them off entirely.


Dealing with difficult people can be challenging, but there are effective strategies to manage these interactions and maintain your well-being:

  1. Maintain Composure:
  • Keep your cool to avoid escalating the situation.
  • Think before you speak and control your emotions.
  1. Empathize:
  • Try to understand the root cause of their behavior.
  • Show kindness and empathy to diffuse tension.
  1. Don’t Take It Personally:
  • Recognize that their negativity often reflects their issues, not yours.
  • Address personal attacks directly if necessary.
  1. Redirect the Conversation:
  • Steer discussions away from negative topics.
  • Be direct if needed, expressing your discomfort and suggesting new topics.
  1. Assess Your Role:
  • Reflect on whether a past event might have triggered their behavior.
  • Apologize if you find you’ve contributed to the problem.
  1. Use Humor:
  • Lighten the mood with gentle humor, ensuring it’s not at their expense.
  1. Address the Issue:
  • Have an honest conversation about how their behavior affects you.
  • Choose a private setting and stay calm during the discussion.
  1. Separate Behavior from Person:
  • Criticize specific behaviors without attacking their character.
  • Provide constructive feedback focusing on improvement.
  1. Set Expectations and Consequences:
  • Clearly outline unacceptable behaviors and the consequences of crossing boundaries.
  • Be prepared to enforce these consequences if needed.

Stand Firm Against Criticism:

  • Assertively defend yourself against unjust criticism without caving in.
  • Present evidence if necessary and maintain your confidence.

Take Action Against Bullies:

  • Confront bullies calmly to avoid giving them satisfaction.
  • Seek further action or report bullying if it persists.

Resist Negativity:

  • Stay positive and avoid letting their negativity affect you.
  • Vent appropriately without dwelling on the negativity.

Surround Yourself with Positive People:

  • Spend time with supportive, positive individuals to counterbalance negative interactions.

Limit Interactions:

  • Set clear boundaries on time spent with extremely negative or abusive individuals.
  • Prioritize your safety and well-being, cutting off contact if necessary.

By applying these techniques, you can better handle difficult people, maintain your peace of mind, and create healthier interactions.

Thank you for reading this article about how to handle difficult people like a stoic and I really hope that you take action my advice.

I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.

Przemkas Mosky
Przemkas Mosky started Perfect 24 Hours in 2017. He is a Personal Productivity Specialist, blogger and entrepreneur. He also works as a coach assisting people to increase their motivation, social skills or leadership abilities. Read more here