Dealing with difficult people is, well, difficult. All the mind tricks and self-restraint in the world can't make it pleasant. But there are degrees of torture.

There's a difference between letting their negativity seep into your entire day, driving up your own stress and causing a whole host of horrible mental and physical health outcomes, and just being momentarily annoyed before moving on.

How can you manage your inevitable encounters with difficult people to ensure their craziness is a blip on your radar rather than the start of a long-term mood dive? While you can't control the behavior of your unhinged client or colleague, you can control how you respond to them. Oprah.com recently offered a list of mantras to help you do just that.

Their bad behavior is rarely about you.

What I love about these suggestions from author M.J. Ryan is how short they are. When someone is screaming at you, it's hard to remember anything more complex than that you are not allowed to sock them in the face. But Ryan's suggestions are so simple that you're likely to remember them even in the heat of the moment.

'Presume goodwill,' for instance, is only two little words. Why could repeating such a simple mantra in response to someone else's bad behavior have such a powerful effect on your own reaction? "When someone acts in a way you don't like, it's only human to make assumptions about his intentions and motivations," explains Ryan. "Unfortunately, these conclusions... are often wrong."

"True, people can be unkind, inconsiderate, oblivious, or downright mean, but it's rarely intentional. Most folks are too focused on themselves to intentionally try to provoke you," she continues.

The result of failing to remember the self absorption of others is that we often assume people are being difficult on purpose, which is really, really hard to empathize (and therefore deal) with. It's much easier to stay calm with someone who is screaming because of his own insecurities or flipping out because she's afraid for a loved one, than it is to deal with someone you believe is simply trying to demean or bully you.

Instead, "try defaulting to the opposite assumption," suggests Ryan. All you need to do to accomplish this shift in perspective is to remind yourself of this mantra.

Check out the post for several more mantras along these lines if you found this one helpful.

What's your top tip for keeping your cool when dealing with difficult people?

Published on: Sep 27, 2017