7 part series: How to Deal with Difficult People: 3/7

How to Deal with Difficult People ~ Part 3 of 7


3 ways to strengthen your relationship



If you or someone you know would benefit from understanding why people behave so stubbornly and learning practical strategies to turn bullheadedness into levelheadedness, you are reading the right article!


In this 7 part series, you are learning:



Sometimes, dealing with people can seem like a contact sport. Have you ever felt that way? Before we dig into the specifics of strengthening your relationships on and off the field, there are a few things to note:


The relationship building strategies listed below apply more to family, friends and other close relationships. Although there are things listed you can do with colleagues you work  with or other difficult people.  


 A question I get a lot is, “How do I keep my sanity and take care of my *%&# mother or father? Of course, you can substitute mother or father for any other person you may provide care for. When anyone seems ungrateful, bitter, angry, etc… it is certainly taxing physically and emotionally.  Here are three ways to strengthen your relationship: 



1.    If possible, change the environment.


Food – Fun – Laughter. The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. Well, okay, maybe not everybody! Most people enjoy great food and if they are ‘removed’ from the environment you are typically in together, you may find common ground. I have done this countless times with family and colleagues. It’s amazing what you learn about someone when taken out of their element.




Aim to get underlying issues to the surface; addressing the root cause of their difficult behavior. This is particularly valuable if you have an idea of what’s causing it.



2.     Understand the three C’s.



Have you ever had someone who just wouldn’t stay away from you to the point that you felt suffocated? That’s a clinger. How about the controlling type ? Oh, and then there’s my personal favorite: the competitive type. Let’s take a look at these difficult types of people and some practical solutions.




 With clinging types, show them how to handle things on their own. If they give you praise about how much better you do something and would you do xxx for them, don’t do it! Be strong, coach them to take responsibility for themselves.  You might even tell them you need them to do something. If they lack follow through and walk away, well, you have one less clinger on your back.


The key with controlling types is to be (act) strong and steadfast. At heart, they fear they are inadequate. Making other people feel bad is their defense mechanism. Be strong and stand up for yourself. Above all, if you feel a contest of who’s right and who’s wrong coming on—you’ll never outplay them. Just let them think they are right. It’s not worth your energy. Caveat: If you are married to a controlling type, ignoring their rants is only going to make YOU feel worse. You must address this issue alone or through a professional or risk having your physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual health compromised.


Competitive types want to win…sometimes at all costs. Most competitive types  are also generous as it improves their self-image. If you have a strong disagreement,  stay ‘poker faced.’ If you show emotion, it only serves to fuel them more. Graciously exit the conversation by saying you need to research or think about what they’ve said.



3.    Emphasize the positive.




a. Talk about good memories with them (assuming you have some).




b.   Ask legacy building questions (if it’s a family member). My blog post, creating a legacy to honor your loved ones give you specific questions to ask. Click here for part one,

part two or part three of the legacy series.




c.    Be courageous and share things from your life about when you felt unneeded,  unappreciated, etc…If you show your vulnerability, they’ll see you as someone who understands what they are feeling. It may help them open up and share insights with  you.


It’s your turn: Do you have anything to add? Do you have a successful way to deal with difficult people? What’s your favorite part of this article? Please comment below.


Next up: How man’s best friend can also be man’s savior


Dedicated to YOUR success,



Tandy Elisala Bio Pic

Tandy Elisala, MA, CPSC, ACT, CHt, TFT-fAlg, is founder and CEO of Center for Inspiring Greatness.™  Tandy is a Care Giving Expert, Certified Professional Success Coach, Author and Consultant. She is certified in various alternative-healing modalities. Tandy has 25 years’ proven experience as a corporate executive, speaker and coach.  Tandy was a full-time caregiver for both parents simultaneously while kicking cancer’s butt a third time and raising three children as a single parent. Tandy lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her three kids, two dogs, and three cats. Tandy’s book, Healing Through the Chaos: Practical Care-Giving is available for pre-order at http://www.tandyelisala.com.

© Copyright 2013, Tandy Elisala, http://www.centerforinspiringgreatness.com and http://www.tandyelisala.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline and bio, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Tandy at tandy@tandyelisala.com.





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Tandy Elisala

Family Caregiver Coach, Cancer Empowerment Advocate and Chief Inspiration Officer at Center for Inspiring Greatness | Empowered Family Caregiver
Tandy Elisala is passionate about helping family caregivers go from being overwhelmed and stressed to empowered and calm. Tandy went through cancer four times and learned how to heal using conventional, complementary, and alternative therapy. Tandy left her corporate career to take care of both parents simultaneously while raising three kids as a single mom. She took care of both parents for 2 1/2 years until their respective deaths. Tandy now teaches what she learned on her journey. Tandy is a family caregiver coach, a multiple best-selling author, inspirational speaker and mom to three adult kids, one angel dog and one diva cat.

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23 replies
  1. Stephanie LH Calahan (@StephCalahan)
    Stephanie LH Calahan (@StephCalahan) says:

    Great tips. I especially like the tips for the clingy person. At one time I struggled with people that felt that I could “do things” for them and used all kinds of reasons. While I was happy to help, it left me drained. Over time, I learned to empower them to do a lot on their own. They were stronger and I was less stressed. Win-win.

  2. Christine Alejandro
    Christine Alejandro says:

    Tandy: More great advice on a subject matter relevant to all! I definitely agree with item #1 (changing the environment). Meeting on “neutral ground” tends to level the playing field & takes territorial issues out of the equation. In addressing the 3 C’s, it’s important to address/acknowledge the fact that some of us are “people pleasers” — making the task of dealing with difficult people all the more challenging! It is important for us to recognize that character trait within ourselves, realize it’s impossible to please everyone all the time (and unhealthy to even attempt to do so) & heed the advice you gave in order to improve the lives of all involved. Thanks again for sharing your words of wisdom!

  3. Monna Ellithorpe
    Monna Ellithorpe says:

    Hi Tandy,

    I enjoyed reading your article. It is challenging sometimes to deal with the different moods and personalities of people. My husband (God rest his soul) and I had a shirt that had “Cranky” printed on it. When one of us was in a bad mood, we would put the shirt on and the other knew to leave the other one alone until the shirt came off. The neighbors got a kick out of us but it worked for us.

    Have a wonderful New Year. Monna

    • TandyMain
      TandyMain says:

      Monna, I must say I absolutely love your comments. You made my day! The ‘Cranky’ shirt idea that you and your husband used is a FABULOUS idea. I’m sharing this with others. You may very well save marriages!

  4. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    I am stopping by from the FB group , UBC! I just wanted to say that I really learned a lot from this post. I am taking a lot fo great ideas to use in my own life. Thanks!

    • TandyMain
      TandyMain says:

      Hi Stephanie, thanks for stopping by! I am glad you are enjoying this series on how to deal with difficult people. Let’s take January by storm!

  5. Robbie
    Robbie says:

    Thanks, Tandy. SO MUCH good advice! So many strategies and perspectives I wish I’d known about so many times. Most often my response to hard-to-deal-with people has been to withdraw or walk away, and presume the conflicts won’t matter in the long run.

    Now, I’m determined to read all seven parts in your series. Thanks for posting!

    • TandyMain
      TandyMain says:

      Hi Robbie, I had to chuckle at your withdraw or walk away comment:-) You are definitely not alone in taking this action when dealing with difficult people. Your perspective is pretty good though in that most conflicts won’t matter in the long run. Knowing how to effectively deal with difficult people though can reduce any stress in the process. Thanks for stopping by!


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