Difficult People

Some people are just difficult.

They might be stubborn, obnoxious, prideful, arrogant, rude, opinionated, too quiet, too anxious, too negative, too loud, or just plain weird. Or…they might just not be like you.

Maybe you have a hard time reading them, understanding their body language or are unsure of how they think and process information.

We’ve all come across these people. Maybe at times we have BEEN these people.

Some people...are just difficult.

Some people…are just difficult. THE OFFICE — Pictured: Steve Carell as Michael Scott — NBC Photo: Mitchell Haaseth

I find that the default reaction (self included) is to ignore them, marginalize their position or exclude them completely. It is much easier to simply dismiss these oddballs as being too negative or too difficult to work with. It is a lot nicer and comfortable to not have to deal with those you don’t quite understand, don’t agree with or don’t like.

But perhaps we miss something when we do not even take the time to try and get to know those we do not understand and learn how best to communicate with those who are different.

In my previous job, I learned within a few days of being hired that my boss didn’t communicate well with the staff. Most had a difficult time getting his attention, communicating with him and achieving any sort of meaningful dialogue that moved their projects forward. One Sunday during church, I approached his wife and asked, “What is the absolute best way to communicate with your husband?”

Her response was simple. “Email him. He is very very visual. He needs to see everything, not hear it. When I really need to get him to understand something, I email him myself.”

Some people are more visual.

Some people are more visual.


From that day forward, when I needed to communicate something very important, I wrote it down via email or written paper. I used pictures and charts when possible. This changed my ability to not only communicate better with my boss, but also understand him as well.

Remembering that everyone is different, I quickly picked up that other members of the staff all communicated differently. Some visual, some audible, some just wanted to have a sit-down face-to-face conversation or draw everything on a big white board. Another staff member in the same church was much more audible. He needed me to explain everything out loud rather than type it in an email. Another, just needed to do everything face-to-face, talking it out…along with several rabbit trails during the conversation, but always still reaching our conversational goals.

Some people are more audible.

Some people are more audible.

So when you are faced with what appears to be a difficult person you can’t connect with, do you just move along? Or do you try and figure out how best to communicate with just that person?

My recommendation is to find someone who does know them well…a spouse, a friend of theirs, someone who has worked with them for a long time, a previous employer, somebody who knows them better than you! Ask them, “What is the best way to communicate with this dude?”

Then, employ that method and see what happens!

Some people just communicate better in person or face-to-face.

Some people just communicate better in person or face-to-face.

If you want to take it a step further, ask that same person additional questions to find out what they’re about, who they are, what their dreams and passions are, what they like and dislike, what is their past history of working with other people. After you get a basic idea, the better plan would be to also ask this difficult person those same questions!

All these things will help you to better understand this challenging person and help you to better communicate with them. This will help not only your side of the equation (or project, or cohort, or whatever), but will most likely also help theirs!

Proverbs 18:2 suggests we must learn to understand others, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” We need to learn how to understand each other, how we each communicate and learn from what each other has to offer.

If we all do this, perhaps we won’t have so many difficult people.

And perhaps…I won’t be so difficult.