Who's your nemesis?

We all have (at least) one--that person who really gets under your skin. Sometimes they throw passive-aggressive digs your way, other times they attack you directly. Different method, same result: You can't stand them.

But how do you react?

You might subscribe to the "don't get mad, get even" philosophy, but that'll probably only make things worse. On the other hand, if you try to just grin and bear it, you're likely to eventually blow your top--leading you to say or do something you later regret. 

There's a smarter way to handle these types of people. It's the emotionally intelligent approach.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions. I like to call it making emotions work for you, instead of against you.

So, how do you use emotional intelligence to guide you when you're being provoked?

Try doing the following:

Approach the person directly.

Make sure to do this in private, and not in a confrontational way. Instead, approach them out of genuine curiosity, to ask them why they do what they do.

You could say something like: "I might be wrong, but I've gotten the feeling that you're upset with me. Have I done something to offend you?"

Believe it or not, the person may have no idea of how you perceive them. This simple conversation may be all that's needed to change their behavior.

But what if the person admits that they just don't like you? Or you get the feeling they're going to continue to try and get under your skin? 

When writing EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, I interviewed Dr. Drew Brannon, a psychologist who spent more than a decade advising high-level athletes, teams, and coaches on how to deal with trash talk.

"If someone is trying to get in your head," Brannon said, "it should build your confidence in some respect, because it confirms that you are a threat to them and their objectives."

But how do you keep your emotions balanced?

Try the "green-light" method.

Brannon says it helps to think ahead and prepare for how you will react. He calls this skill "Green Light," because it allows you to move forward with your own plans and goals without being distracted by the actions of others.

"With Green Light, I teach clients to have a plan, a preestablished routine of how to respond to trash talk," said Brannon. "With this type of programmed response, you know exactly where to go with your thoughts when opponents talk trash, helping you stay focused on the task at hand. Green Light works because our minds function best when we know we have the ability to meet a challenge. When the moment comes, you simply do what you've trained for."

You can apply the green-light method to your own nemesis.

For example, you might decide to simply ignore the person. Don't engage and walk away from any type of provocation. Or you might be able to mentally block them out. 

At those times when they've really gotten under your skin, it helps to get your mind off of the offense. Try going for a walk, making a phone call, watching something you like on YouTube--anything that keeps your mind engaged and off the other person, giving you time to cool down and bring your emotions back to balance.

Above all, remember this: 

While emotional intelligence can help you manage your relationships, ultimately you can't control another person's behavior. 

But you can absolutely control your reaction to others' attempts to provoke you. In doing so, you'll demonstrate your EQ--and make your emotions work for you, instead of against you.