Monday, March 8th, 2021

R Shopper Columns


Part I

Recently, I was asked to speak on how to deal with difficult people. My first task was to determine what makes a person difficult. What personality traits do we find that makes it difficult to relate to?

When I was teaching, I asked my students that question and the following is a list from one college class..

Lack of dependability: We can't count on them. We have learned that they will disappoint us or let us down.

Exaggeration: They try to make themselves look good by making things better or worse than they really are.

Tendency to show off: They want to be center stage and most of the time they are not interested in what we are doing or saying. In a conversation, they can't wait until we take a breath so they can talk about themselves.

Sarcastic, Grumpy, Critical and fault finding, poking fun at people behind their backs: When a person is sarcastic, we do not want to be vulnerable around them because we can not trust them. We are afraid they will put us down or embarrass us in some way so we have to be on guard.

Sense of inferiority: We find these people taking a lot of energy from us. Many times they present themselves as a helpless victim. Often when we try to rescue them, we become their victim.

Gossip: We cannot trust these people either because we know that if they are bad mouthing another person, they are probably doing the same with us.

Hot tempered: We find ourselves walking on eggshells with these people because they are touchy and easily annoyed. We have to weigh every word we say as well as how we say it with them.

Indecisive people: They seem reluctant to give us an answer or make a decision. They put us on hold. We find ourselves waiting and waiting.

People pleasers: People that will tell you 'yes' but don't follow through. They make many promises in order to please us because they are afraid to say what they really want. They want everyone to like them so they tell us what they think we want to hear.

People who always have a problem: There are some people that always seem to have a problem. They seem addicted to problems and seem to draw energy from talking about them. They go from one person to another. The listener never feels that the 'problem person' is interested in the listener or resolution.

Next month we will continue focusing on difficult personalities such as a rigid and critical person. We will explore ways to deal with these difficult people.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700