By Kirstie Taylor
Because you don’t just make life more difficult for others, you make it more difficult for yourself, too.
We’ve all met a difficult person at one point in our lives. It could be that co-worker who makes working with them near-impossible. Or maybe it’s the friend who can’t make a plan to save their life.
Or, perhaps, you’re an un-realized difficult person. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.
Whatever your circumstance may be, difficult people are essentially shooting themselves in the foot. They make it harder for people to like them and, in turn, cause a whole lot of unnecessary trouble for their lives.
And while you may not be a straight-up difficult person, many of us have some difficult people tendencies that may be holding us back. It’s hard to have thriving friendships or succeed at work when you’re creating obstacles for yourself.
So what, then, are the habits of an incredibly difficult person? And how can one work towards changing these aspects of their personality?
Let’s dive into them.
- They have a “my way or the highway” mentality.
Some people truly think they know what’s best, all the time. So much so that they push away people who disagree with them. When it comes to friendships or collaborating with people at work, you can imagine this personality trait wouldn’t go over so well.
Not to mention these people are doing themselves a disservice. Believing that their opinions and ways reign superior ends up keeping them from learning.
A 2018 study showed that people who believed their knowledge was superior to anyone else’s actually meant they had a wider gap between what they knew and what they thought they knew.
How to change this:
Adopt the mentality that every person you meet can teach you something. No matter how old you are, there’s always more to be learned. And, while you’re at it, stop thinking collaboration is a weakness.
When you work together with people and compromise on things, you achieve more and form deeper bonds.
2. They perpetuate arguments rather than solve them.
Difficult people tend to have poor conflict skills. That or they aren’t interested in solving problems because they see arguments as an attack against who they are. They want to win rather than have their ego hurt.
While there are benefits to arguing, when done wrong, it can hurt relationships between people. There’s a difference between arguing constructively (or at the very least, like a decent human being) and hurting the other person.
Difficult people don’t understand that difference.
How to change this:
Arguments aren’t an attack on your character (unless they are, but I’m talking about everyday disagreements). It’s not you against the other person; it’s both of you trying to come to an understanding.
Refraining from poor arguing skills like name-calling and yelling will help you be a better arguer. Be open to how the argument will turn out rather than expecting it to go a certain way.
3. They’re self-absorbed.
A difficult person may think highly of themselves. They’ll grasp onto their ego as if it’s their life source. Reasoning with someone like this can feel difficult. They’re often disrespectful to other people to preserve their self-image.
This makes people in their life feel unimportant like their opinions and ideas don’t matter. It can be hard to connect with someone who is solely focused on themselves.
How to change this:
There’s research that shows there are benefits to your happiness when you help others. So think of ways you can start to give, rather than take from people.
This could mean helping your friend when they move places. Or maybe it’s offering to aid your co-worker on days they seem overwhelmed. Even a simple gesture like holding a door open for a stranger is a good first step.
4. They don’t take responsibility.
What’s more difficult than someone who can’t accept when they mess up? Who can’t accept their flaws or refuses to see them?
When someone isn’t able to accept responsibility, a few things can happen. Whoever else is part of the situation builds resentment towards that person. The responsibility-refuser continues to make those mistakes. They never learn. Everyone is annoyed.
How to change that:
Excuses, blaming, and complaining are all things that need to go. It might be hard to admit that you made a bad choice or unintentionally hurt someone, but you only make matters worse by shifting the focus from yourself.
If you need to, take a step back and breathe. Come back to the situation with a more level head. Promise to do better next time and then actually put in the effort to do better.
5. Their mindset is fixed.
During my senior year of high school, my psychology teacher made us write a list of all the uses we could think of for a brick. While some people wrote things like “make a house” or “break open a window,” I included things like “pillow” and “spice grinder.”
The exercise was to explain how functional fixedness works. This same concept can be applied to people’s mindset, too. A difficult person is more likely to think life can only be as it is now. They believe their limits can’t change.
This tends to make them pessimistic and hard to grow throughout life. They’re less likely to learn new things and quicker to give up.
How to fix this:
The opposite of a fixed mindset is a growth mindset. But how can one adopt a growth mindset?
Well, first, you can start to see challenges and mistakes as opportunities to become better. You can create value around the process of doing things rather than the result. And, most important, start to become comfortable with imperfections. They’ll always be part of life.
6. They don’t reflect on their life.
Most people, at the very least, learn something from their past. For me, I learned not to date guys who string me along for weeks. For others, it’s that saying yes to every colleague’s birthday party will quickly exhaust you.
But difficult people tend to completely forgo reflecting on what went wrong in their life and how they can do better. They’re more likely to repeat the same mistakes, over and over, even if it hurts people closest to them.
Put simply: they aren’t interested in change. So why focus on anything but the present and future?
How to change this:
Reflection is a beautiful ability that humans have. It’s a way to learn from our mistakes and grow into the kind of people we want to be. It can even help people take a beat when they’re upset rather than react right away.
You can start a reflection practice by journaling. Start with writing about how your day went. Then move on to bigger events that recently happened in your life. Focus on feelings more so than just writing about what happened.
7. They don’t prioritize themselves.
While I mentioned that difficult people tend to think a lot about themselves, that doesn’t mean they prioritize their needs. They’re more likely to be the person who boasts about getting 4 hours of sleep or not having eaten all day.
And while that might not seem like such a big deal, it’s proven that lack of sleep and hunger significantly affect one’s mood. A bad mood makes for someone more likely to make things harder for themselves and other people.
How to change this:
There are cases when it’s perfectly fine to be selfish; taking care of your needs is one of those times. If you need to leave a friend’s house early to get enough sleep, so be it. If you need to grab food before a long meeting, prioritize that.
You’ll find it’s easier to be a kinder, compassionate person when your basic needs are met better. Of course, emotional needs aren’t excluded from this list either.
While no one should bend over backwards to please everyone, it’ll do many people well to realize how their behaviours affect others and, ultimately, themselves. No one likes a difficult person, and I’m sure they don’t mean to be.
Luckily, with a few new habits, it’s not hard to make life all-around a bit easier and a whole lot less difficult. The people in their life deserve it but, most of all, so do they.