It’s common to face difficult people in life be it at work, school, in the family, random people in the lift, at shops, while standing in a queue or even in the same house. These situations cannot be avoided because we all are different people with different temperaments, backgrounds, and different perspectives seeing things from varying angles.

The best way to deal with such people is to identify their characteristics, know how to cope with, and learn how to deal with them.

 Signs of Difficult People

The difficult people that you encounter in life may have at least one of the following signs:

  • Attention-seeking
  • Negative and Pessimistic
  • Snubbing
  • Flying into a rage
  • Always right; want to win every argument
  • Unreasonable; illogical
  • Finding faults; blaming others for their problems
  • Not accepting mistakes; lying
  • Playing victim
  • Stubborn; don’t want to change or improve; not open to suggestions
  • Know-it-all; don’t like their authority to be challenged


Coping Strategies

1) Remain calm

Once you recognize any of these signs in someone, the most important thing then is to maintain your composure and not react to him. The moment you lose your calm, full-blown conflict will ensue. When the opposing party is already in a negative state of mind, you do not want to get engulfed in their negativity. Remaining calm and walking away from the situation tactfully without letting the negative vibe affect you is the best option at such a time.

Remember that you do not want to stoop to their level in reacting rashly. Always be aware of your actions. You are not responsible for the way they behave but you have total control over your OWN behavior. Constantly remind yourself even in times of peace that you will not indulge in any rash action. Make loads of dua and ask Allah to make things easy.

“O Allah, I seek refuge in You lest I misguide others , or I am misguided by others , lest I cause others to err or I am caused to err , lest I abuse others or be abused, and lest I behave foolishly or meet with the foolishness of others.” (Abu Dawud)

2) Identify the trigger buttons

Avoid topics that you know would trigger them. State the facts in a way other than being very direct or curt.

Also, what is it exactly that triggers YOU off? Not everyone will act or behave in the way we want them to; maybe that ticks you off. If you know the person very well, you would know what to expect. Being prepared to expect a certain behavior from the other person will help in letting it pass you without getting annoyed.

3) Beware of the temptation of being right

Avoid getting sucked in arguing or defending yourself. Even if they perceive you to be wrong, it is not the end of the world. An adamant person may not change his opinion anyway so it is better that you stay out of it. Being quiet is superior to winning.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever gives up telling lies in support of a false claim, a palace will be built for him in the outskirts of Paradise. Whoever gives up argument when he is in the right, a palace will be built from him in the middle (of Paradise). And whoever had good behavior, a palace will be built for him in the highest reaches (of Paradise).” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

Be tactful in your dealings. Sometimes it is better to work towards maintaining peace than being right. 

4) Limit interactions

Set boundaries and limit interaction. With time you will realize that it’s alright to keep a certain level of distance without being impolite even if you live in the same house with that person. It’s not necessary to engage in a full conversation with them each time you see them especially when you know it will lead to conflict. Your happiness and peace is more important.

Let him have his say, and leave the conversation there. Keep your cool. Don’t let the negativity of the other person affect your mind, emotions, actions and words.

5) Identify your response pattern

We all want to have ideal relationships with others but we need to realize that some things cannot and just would not change; we have to take it as it is. We need to analyze the situation and ask ourselves: Why is this happening? Could there be an angle to this situation besides what I am seeing and interpreting? What if it is me who is aggravating the situation? What is the best way I can use to deal this situation with? Surely, it is not that the other turns good, before suddenly turning nasty again!  Rather, it is highly likely that it is us who gets comfortable with them, only to be completely thrown off when there is an unexpected outburst from them, leading us again into shock, pain, grief and anger.

So identify the response pattern, because unless you change the way you respond and react to stressors, this cycle of stress and anger will be repeated over and over again.

6) Look at the positive aspect

Those you perceive to be ‘difficult’ might have within them other qualities that are good. Focus on those merits. Do not ignore the good things they do, nor avoid appreciating them.

7) Be kind

Try to remain quiet; be polite instead. Doing so will actually make them aware of their violent behavior.

“And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. But none is granted it except those who are patient, and none is granted it except one having a great portion [of good].” (Surah Fussilat; 41:34-35)

8) Don’t take it personally

Their outburst is a reflection of the conflicts they are undergoing with themselves. It might be due to their upbringing or something they are facing in life. It’s not you who is the problem. It could be their way of compensating for their inferiority complex by gaining false strength from dominating over you, and you would only be feeding it by giving in. When the situation gets tensed, leave that environment after saying something short but polite or saying nothing at all. Remember: we do not want to mirror that person’s destructive behavior and react in the same way. Even if they don’t realize their mistake at least you will have maintained your sanity and higher self.

9) Remain patient and stick to Salah

Allah knows what you are going through and has promised huge rewards for those who endure hardships with patience.

“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah] who are certain that they will meet their Lord and that they will return to Him.” (Surah al Baqarah: 2:45-46)

“Say, “O My servants who have believed, fear your Lord. For those who do good in this world is good, and the earth of Allah is spacious. Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.” (Surah az Zumar; 39:10)

As Muslims we need to bring out the best in us in terms of our thoughts and actions. It may not always be easy. Look beyond this situation and into the future; you will realize that this won’t last long. Soon a phase of good times will come by and you can try your best again to stand outside the situation then and not drag yourself into it. We can use these difficult times to improve ourselves and grow.

10) Change your surrounding

Involve yourself in different activities and hobbies. Keep a circle of positive people around yourself so that you don’t lose your sanity. Try talking to a trustworthy person and sharing your feelings with them. It helps in releasing the negative feelings and getting another perspective. It also helps to know that you are not the only ones suffering, and other people too go through such situations.

11) Acceptance

Accept that this person will not become the perfect person you wish him to be. Sometimes it’s not that the person is attacking YOU but it’s that they are going through a difficult situation or are not able to express themselves. Don’t let their ineffectiveness control you.

12) Give excuses

Try to understand what aggravates the other person. There surely would be an underlying issue which is what comes out as a very untoward reaction. We need to be careful before judging people too quickly and not let shaytan play with our minds.

13) Remember the good company you have

Think of those people who love you and would do anything to be with you, who’d love to listen to your voice, and would wait hours for a response from you.

In Part-2 of this series I have mentioned the type of mindset we need to have when approaching or dealing with a difficult person. And, also what if it is “US” actually, who is the ‘difficult’ one! How do we know it and what do we do then? 

**Originally Published on:

Have you ever come across a difficult  person? How did you deal with that situation? Looking forward to your comments below. 

15 Replies to “Dealing with Difficult People- Part 1”

  1. Suggestions 2,4,8 and 10 are pure gold. I learnt them the hard way but I’m glad that you have put this down for others to read and implement. It’s all about being conscious of ourselves and being self-aware – this is key in analyzing our own behavior and dealing with conflicts that arise in our relationships. Jazakallah Khair.

  2. These are great suggestions. I know a difficult person that I come across in larger family gatherings and it can really take a toll on me at times! I usually have to tell myself to be patient and to minimize interacting. I really like the tip about how it is not about me but rather the person and what they are going through. Thanks for this!

  3. You have to face these kinds of people every day I guess specially people who are so negative about everything.
    I’ll follow these steps while dealing with such people because they are quite irritating actually.

  4. JazakAllahu khair sister in Islam for sharing your knowledge, advice and lessons learned. This is yet another blog post that is worth reading and sharing for Allah’s sake.
    Sometimes God Allah makes us meet difficult types of people also to earn our sins if they refuse to apologize or amend their bad attitudes. Through mingling with some of these folks one’s good qualities like steadfastness are Insha-Allah strengthened and you recognize who your real friends are from those who just pretend.

    Allahu A’lam <3

  5. جزاكم الله خيرا dear sister. You have no idea how much this post means to me right now.
    May Allah bless you and your family.

  6. I love that Prophetic duaa (Abu Dawud) you mentioned. I have never come across it before. This is excellent advice for helping Muslims manage difficult people, without it ending in conflict.

  7. This is a beautiful post. I’m dealing with this a lot right now in fact and it can be a really difficult thing to handle. Thank you for the great tips!

  8. I believe everyone has their own nature and they cannot be changed. So now I do not take anything personally and just prefer to ignore them.

  9. Very well written observations Naila dear. From my own experiences I truly endorse your suggestions.It has helped me a lot in dealing with such people However, sometimes it becomes too hard to ignore such behavior from people whom you are unable to ignore and distance your self from. Ultimately, seeking refuge from Allah Almighty is our only solace.

  10. I really love the suggestions here. I try very hard to stay away from number 3 in particular. I think identifying someone as ‘difficult’ and having that play in your mind during every interaction as well – is another problem! Number 12 addresses that really well. I’m looking forward to part 2!

  11. I enjoyed this post because I can relate to it. I have actually been dealing with difficult people lately, my only coping mechanism was to keep calm and ignore the nasty/mean comments. I will start using more of the strategies you mentioned in your post.
    Thanks for sharing

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