If you have read about the 20 types of difficult people, you might have started to see difficult people everywhere. It must be very scary to think you are surrounded by them, but I think it is very important to define each difficulty better, because there are not that many of them out there.
Usually, we call others “difficult” when we find them hard to deal with. Although we find it hard to deal with them, this does not make them difficult people. Sometimes, the combination between people highlights their difficulty, so to make sure that the difficulty is not just a conflict between the two of you but something general, check that this behavior is a pattern that appears in this person’s communication with others as well.
If more than three people think they have a dysfunctional relationship with this person, and for the same reasons, it is usually a sign that the problem is with the difficult person and not with the combination of both of you. If others share mixed impressions of that person, we should take a closer look at our particular interactions with him or her.
For us to consider someone as difficult, we also need to make sure that the behavior is not temporary but consistent. We all have times when we show off, we all joke sometimes and even say something sarcastic, but it does not make us difficult. Usually, it needs to happen consistently over a period to be considered a problem. If someone is suddenly difficult, he or she is not a difficult person – they are just experiencing a temporary challenge they cannot handle. In that situation, maybe there is something we can do to help them.
Here are types that can be mistaken for being difficult and we need to be careful before considering them difficult.
- Exhibitionists – We would not call popular people “difficult” just because they are popular. Real exhibitionists are not popular, which is why they try to become popular in ways that make others like them even less.
- Experts – It is important not to confuse between smart and knowledgeable people that are generous with their expertise and those who push their expertise even when they are not asked for it.
- Jokers – Funny people are not necessary difficult. Some funny people know when it is time to laugh and when it is time to be serious. Dysfunctional jokers use their humor to avoid emotionally challenging situations and keep cracking jokes even at very inappropriate times.
- Dinosaurs – Not every old-fashioned person who keeps tradition and does things the old way is a difficult person. There is much to learn from elders and they can be kind and wonderful mentors if they practice some flexibility and generally avoid judgment. I have had a chance to meet some elders in my leadership programs and thought they were graceful and open-minded. Young people can be dinosaurs too if they stick to what they know and defend it while keeping their mind closed to new ideas.
- Show offs – It is important to distinguish between people who are proud of themselves and show offs. While proud people tell about their successes and achievements when the conversation is around the topic of their success, show offs do it constantly and not necessary in relation to the topic of conversation.
- Shy – It is very natural for people to be reserved a bit in new company, so do not judge them in situations where they are totally new and with lots of new people. Not everyone can approach strangers, extend their hand and say, “Hi, I’m Yvonne”, but there is nothing wrong with them. This is only a problem when it starts affecting their daily life.
- Astronauts and loners – We all want to be alone sometimes. We all want to let go sometimes and do nothing at all, but it does not make us difficult. It makes us human. It becomes a difficulty when this desire takes over our life and disturbs our relationships with others.
- Competitive – Some competition is healthy and can be a motivator for some people. It becomes a difficulty when we feel we must win and are devastated when we come in second. It becomes a problem when we win and forget that losing person has feelings too and view people as “winners” or “losers”.
- Gossips – Be careful not to consider every talk about others a bad thing. If you talk about others when they are not around, but you say good things about them, this also does not make you a difficult person. It makes you wise and kind.
- Two faced or Vague – Some people do not explain themselves properly because of language and/or culture differences. People who speak another language have unusual vocabulary and accent that might make what they say seem unclear or vague. It makes it difficult to understand them, but does not make them difficult people.
- The “special one” – We all have a desire to be unique. This is natural and common. We become difficult when we stick out in a bad way or when the desire to be unique overrides the desire to be in good relationships with the people around us.
- Approval seekers – We all want the people who love us to approve of our behavior and reassure us that we are loved and appreciated. It becomes difficult when we demand this approval and when we increase it from an occasional desire to a strong need.
Join me next week to find out why difficult people become difficult. In the meantime, I would love to read about your discoveries of difficult people around you.
Have an easy day,
This post is part of the series How to Manage Difficult People:
- How to manage difficult people: Energy Consumers
- How to manage difficult people: Types of difficulties
- How to Manage Difficult People: More Difficult People
- How to Manage Difficult People: Who is Not Difficult
- How to Manage Difficult People: What are They Missing?
- How to Manage Difficult People: What They Really Need
- How to Manage Difficult People: Helping a Difficult Person
- How to Manage Difficult People Using "Why?" and "What?"
- How to Manage Difficult People: A Holistic Approach