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“How do I stand up for myself against difficult people?”


Unfortunately, despite endless examples of how to behave (watching young Hugh Grant will do the trick), people have many different notions of what is and isn’t acceptable. In all seriousness, dealing with people who are just plain difficult can be really hard and can make us question how we view ourselves. I’d say the most important thing when encountering such behaviour is to remind yourself that you are, frankly, above them. If they are truly nasty, then you can be confident that they will struggle in life to make good, kind friends; they will probably always lack supportive and happy relationships. Generally, people only try to put other people down to make themselves feel better. You can be assured that any nastiness they demonstrate is really just a reflection of how they view themselves. It is challenging; try to distance yourself from such people if possible and if you have to encounter them (which we all do at times!) then try to hold on to the fact that in the long run you are and will be happier, kinder and in a better position than them. (If this fails, try blasting Taylor Swift’s “I forgot that you existed” for good measure)

“...the old adage that ‘they’re simply not worth your time’ has never rung more true!”


I have found that when it comes to dealing with difficult or nasty people, the best thing to do is to not bother! The way someone acts is only ever a reflection of themselves, and really has very little to do with you. It’s good to bear this in mind when someone is trying to make you feel small, unworthy, or in any way uncomfortable about yourself. Don’t spend energy thinking of ways to counter their aggression, and instead direct that energy towards yourself. Remind yourself that only you have the power to control how you feel, and that any bad energy they are sending your way won’t have an impact on your life unless you let it. If you spend time responding to this person’s aggressions, not only will this confirm in their mind that they are having an effect on you, but it will also eat away at you, giving more power to their words than they deserve. Maybe they, too, are feeling little at the minute, and the only way they can feel heard is through hurting others. This might just be one step along the road for them, and they will likely move past this. You’ll be helping them and yourself if you keep your eyes on your own journey and trust that if you stay true to yourself, you’ll be just fine.


To obtain the optimal outcome for yourself when you encounter difficult people, you can attempt to appeal to them with reason, or perhaps appeal to authority.

If you’re dealing with a difficult person, you can’t expect sympathy from them. If you feel able to, you could try to reason with them and convince them that your view is cogent. Often, those who are difficult to deal with are involved in a power dynamic with us. Their ascendance to power requires rationality. Thus, as long as you have good reasoning, they will at least seriously consider your opinion.

If the person is simply unreasonable or nasty, then it’s impossible to reach a consensus with them in a short period. You could appeal to (higher) authority instead of wasting your time on this person. A report to the senior level could be more effective – if it’s consistently negatively impacting you, you could maybe get someone involved?

The above are some short-term solutions. In the long-term, improving your own confidence is key. You’ll then be able to face different kinds of people and empower yourself.



Mountain View

Making Time for Friends

Unfortunately, by the time you’re at University it’s highly likely that you will have encountered more than your fair share of difficult people. It’s impossible to give an all-purpose answer to such an expansive question, but I would find it helpful to look at who these people are in respect to you. The easiest to cross off the list should be difficult strangers – they’re not in your life for a reason, and if they’re nasty… make sure they stay strangers. Don’t rise to it, don’t retaliate; the old adage that ‘they’re simply not worth your time’ has never rung more true. I know it feels frustrating, but I promise you won’t get anything out of it! However, I realise it’s not so easy when the people you’re speaking about are your friends, or even your family. It hurts all the more when it’s the people seemingly close to you that are causing you upset; if it’s ten times harder to understand, it must be a hundred times harder to distance yourself in the same way as above. All I can say is set your boundaries and stick to them. People won’t always agree, people won’t always make it easy, but I promise that if you stay true to yourself, those who are left at the end are those who really, truly care about you.