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How to Handle Difficult People

Plagued by a passive-aggressive mom or an overly dramatic best friend? Here’s how to identify and deal with these hard-to-handle personalities.

| January 27th, 2012
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How to Handle Difficult People

Extremely difficult people are everywhere—they lurk at the grocery store or behind the wheel of a taxi or in the next cube. They sit around the family dinner table or sip Mango-tinis at your monthly girls’ night out.

Chances are, one (if not all) of these six difficult personality types have gotten on your nerves. The good news? We’ve got some strategies on how to identify and deal with them.

The type: Rude

“One of the five classic dimensions of personality is agreeableness,” says Art Markman, Ph. D., Psychology Advisor and author of Smart Thinking. “Rude people are way on the disagreeable end of spectrum.” In addition, a rude person is probably something of an extrovert. “In order to be rude, you have to be willing to be disagreeable and disagreeable publicly,” Markman adds. He points out that rude people aren’t always rude; it depends on the situation—they may be charming to their mothers, for instance.

MORE: Are Beautiful People More Rude?

Where you might run into them: At the local supermarket tallying up your groceries or at every family get-together in the form of your obnoxious big brother

How to deal: It depends on how likely you are to bump into them again, according to Markman. “If it’s the cashier who’s exhausted after a long day and talks back to you, it’s probably not worth getting excited about,” he says. You can tell some drive-by rude person what you think of them, but as Markman points out, life is short.

However, if it’s a relative (whom you, realistically, can’t avoid), they’re not going to change without some help. Markman suggests sitting down with the relative and telling them how what they said or did made you feel. “This puts the burden on them,” he says. “Is it their intention to make you feel this way?”

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