In life and in ministry, we all meet difficult people. Difficult people are those people who never approve of anything you do and always feel the need to let you know their disapproval. They consume much more of your time than is necessary just so they can complain about things that may or may not be under your control. These may be great people and they may have great intentions, but their emotions have taken over their brains. Their actions are not normal, and certainly not constructive. Whether they’re complaints are right or wrong, these “difficult people” can suck the life out of you.
I don’t have a foolproof way of dealing with difficult people, but I have picked up a few things over the years. Here are 5 tips for dealing with difficult people in a healthy way:
1. Don’t get defensive
When you become defensive, it paralyzes your ability to make good decisions. Most of the time, these people are approaching you with an outburst of emotion. The worst thing you can do is to respond by letting your emotions get out of control.
2. Respond with grace
No matter what they say or do, respond with an attitude of grace. When the Pharisees would complain or hurl insults at Jesus, He always kept a spirit of grace. Sure, Jesus would rebuke them. But He would also take the time to teach them to understand the Truth. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
3. Listen closely for what they’re NOT saying
I’ve found that some complaints are only the tip of a much larger iceberg. Listen for clues that might point to the larger problem. It could be that they have been hurt by you or someone else, and their complaints are just a symptom of a much deeper wound.
4. Work toward resolution
The best way to deal with difficult people is to solve the difficult situation. Look for solutions without compromising your calling or vision for the ministry. Even with the most difficult people, they will often shed light on real problems that need to be solved.
5. When necessary, cut ties
There comes a time when it is healthier for you and the other person to just cut ties. Again, try to do so with a spirit of grace, but get out of dodge. In ministry, there is way too much at stake for you to be consumed by one difficult person. For the sake of the ministry, separate yourself from that person and move on.
What tips do you have for dealing with difficult people?