Interacting with people who have difficult personalities can be a challenge. When those people are also members of our families, it often pushes our buttons even more. Now, most people are not constantly like this. We still like them and enjoy their company, but every now and then they get on our nerves. And these traits may come out in full force during conflict or a sensitive conversation. It’s hard to know how to respond in the moment. Here are six difficult personalities and how to deal with them. I created a fill in the blank script for you to use with each personality type, and I have an exciting annoucement so read all the way to the end.
In all interactions, remember to keep your cool regardless of how someone else is behaving and speak to them with respect. Maintaining calm body language and a sincere tone of voice will help prevent the situation from escalating.
The joker may not sound like that difficult of a personality to deal with. In fact, the joker may even be appreciated for their ability to provide comic relief and reduce awkwardness or tension. The problem arises if the joker starts to make fun of people in the conversation or disrupts the conversation altogether. Jokers are often looking for attention. They may also speak inappropriately during a serious conversation.
What to do:
Do not reinforce the joker’s behaviour with laughter or jokes of your own. This shows that the behaviour is acceptable. If you stop laughing, the joker will hopefully receive the message that they are not being perceived as funny and their behaviour is not appreciated. If this alone does not stop the joker, then you may need to address the issue by politely asking them to stop.
A bully is someone who forcefully promotes their own ideas. They are likely to come off as pushy as they override and interrupt others. A bully might also use intimidating body language such as leaning in too close or waving their arms. They demand the attention and take power from the others in the conversation.
What to do:
If you feel as though you or someone else in the conversation is being bullied or attacked, you may choose to address the situation immediately or ask them to talk about it privately soon thereafter. Use I-messages when speaking to prevent the bully from becoming defensive or the situation from escalating.
I put together a fill in the blank I-message that you can follow in the Dealing with Difficult Personalities Script which you can get for free. There’s more information about this script at the end of the post as well.
The know-it-all is another personality type where they are overly confident in their own ideas. They are full of personal anecdotes to try to reinforce their perception of their past success. A know-it-all’s goal is to make the others in the conversation believe that they are the only one who is right.
What to do:
Use your confidence reserves to continue to contribute to the conversation even if it may feel like the know-it-all is taking over. It is also a good idea to clarify and double check information and opinions given by a know-it-all because they may actually only be a think-they-know-it-all.
Where the previous personalities perhaps have too much input in the conversation, the withdrawer has checked out completely. This person says little to nothing. They may even show their lack of interest by distractedly looking elsewhere. If someone else tries to bring them into the conversation, the withdrawer will shrug or give non-committal responses such as, “I don’t know,” or “It doesn’t matter.”
Note: This is different than a shy, introverted, or simply quiet person. A withdrawer is actually unengaged in the conversation.
What to do:
You can encourage a withdrawer to participate in the conversation by asking questions and requesting feedback. There may have been a trigger which caused them to withdraw, so you could also check in to see if they are comfortable with the conversation.
However, it is ultimately each person’s own responsibility to contribute to a conversation. If someone else is unwilling, you cannot force them to participate.
Whiners complain – they may complain about what others in the conversation are saying, why different ideas won’t work, or how victimized they are. Nothing is ever the whiner’s fault or within their control. They put themselves down regularly and suck positive energy from the conversation.
What to do:
At first, you may feel sympathy for the whiner. However, if it goes on too long and the conversation is being derailed, this sympathy will likely turn to annoyance and frustration. Try to find out what the underlying issue is for the whiner and what message they are trying to send.
The yes-person may not seem like they have a difficult personality because they are always so agreeable, but it is actually not in an authentic or helpful way. The yes-person always agrees with others in the conversation and they offer up their services, but this comes from a need to be liked. They are not willing to give their own ideas or opinion in an attempt to avoid conflict. This means that they will go along with whatever even if they internally disagree.
What to do:
You can encourage a yes-person to engage authentically by asking them specific questions about their thoughts or opinions. You must also show that it is a safe place for them to be honest and potentially vulnerable. Doing so takes time as trust is built.
Similarly to the situation with a withdrawer, it is ultimately up to the yes-person to contribute honestly to the conversation. You cannot force it.
Another important element when dealing with any and all of these difficult personalities is to keep your own perceptions in check. You may be interpreting someone’s behaviour negatively because they disagree with you or because the conversation is not going the way you had hoped. You may even be holding onto past resentment. Before confronting someone, check in with yourself to ensure that it is not just triggering something for you personally.
In the moment when emotions are running high, it’s hard to remember all these points. That’s why I’ve created scripts for you. There is a fill in the blank message designed specifically for dealing with each one of these difficult personalities. You can get it here for free and be ready when any situation arises.
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Did you recognize any of these difficult personalities in your own life? How do you deal with them?