By Colleen Kettenhofen

Know why you shouldn’t tell people your problems? Eighty percent of the people don’t care, and the other twenty percent are glad you have them.” ~ Lou Holtz


Do you know any difficult people? Have you ever worked or lived with a difficult person?

Of course! We all have.

Are you a difficult person? If you’re honest with yourself, you can be difficult from time to time, right? The question is how do you deal with the chronically difficult people – you know, those who manage to get under your skin every time?

A key component in overcoming adversity and bouncing back higher is learning to live, work, and (in some cases) love difficult people. Because there will always be difficult people.

I’m reminded of those who want to quit their jobs because of “difficult people.” Yes, sometimes I hear this as I go around the country speaking on, “7 Magic Wands for Making Difficult People Disappear.” But what will these people likely discover in their next job? More difficult people! As a wise mother told her daughter and me in high school, “Learn to deal with them. There will always be difficult people at certain times in your life.”

Sound advice. But how?

Here are a couple of “magic wands” for making difficult people “disappear.” If only in your mind…

Magic Wand #1: Counteract the difficult person’s aftertaste.

Have you ever noticed that an early-morning negative interaction with somebody you’d call a“difficult person” can set the tone for the entire day? Have you struggled to shake off a negative aftertaste and told yourself, “Hey, just ignore that person and move on,” but the feeling lingers? What can you do?

Difficult conversations mar your day because you become so bothered you keep processing the emotions evoked by the interaction. To blunt the impact, save this processing for later.

How do you accomplish that? By immediately stepping into a positive environment. Have a cup of coffee with a friend, make plans for the weekend, read the comics (even for a minute), laugh about something. In the midst of a positive environment, you’ll gain a new perspective for processing your emotions. Alternatively, you can engage in an activity that uses a lot of brain cells. You’ll get so busy, you won’t have time to think about the negative interaction.

So do the opposite of processing your emotions immediately. Before you know it, you’ll have counteracted the aftertaste of the conversation and won’t think about that difficult person the rest of the day! (Author’s note: More in another article if this is your boss).

Magic Wand #2: After something “difficult” happens, take a moment to ask, “Did that person’s personality clash with mine, or did she or he not do what I wanted?” Your answer explains why you think that person is “difficult.”

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and immediately dismissed that person as a jerk? Have you ever gotten annoyed at someone who didn’t call you back and, under your breath, concluded, “This person is a butthead!”

You’re likely to call people jerks or buttheads for one of two reasons: (1) because of a personality trait that person possesses that clashes with your own, or (2) because that person simply didn’t do what you wanted in that moment.

Let’s look at an example of the first. A friend of mine has difficulty with a co-worker whom she describes as “anal retentive” and calls a perfectionist. Not surprising, my friend is the complete opposite. She also has a hard time understanding this colleague because she says she’s too blunt with others. Their ways of handling situations differ completely. And sometimes their personalities clash.

Adding to that, they were raised differently when it came to resolving conflict. While the “blunt” person learned to be direct, my friend was raised with the belief that “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” In this case as in many, different people equal difficult people.

If you possess personality traits that clash with someone else’s, try to resolve issues in person or, next best thing, over the phone. Nowadays, people in the workplace are challenged by important messages getting misconstrued via email.

Here’s an example of the second. My friend got asked out by a guy she really liked. He was regarded as an easy-going gentleman to those who knew him well, but he never asked her out a second time. She instantly dismissed him as a jerk. However, once she realized he was “difficult” because he didn’t do what she wanted him to do, she got over it!

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” ~ Actress Carrie Fisher


Colleen Kettenhofen is an award-winning speaker, author, media veteran, and devoted animal lover who has presented keynotes and seminars before thousands in 48 U.S. states and five foreign countries. She has conducted more than 1,100 programs on leadership, dealing with difficult people, presentation skills, and change/stress management. Colleen is the author of “Secrets Your Boss Isn’t Telling You,” as well as the creator of 10 unique audio programs. For more information, or to sign up for Colleen’s newsletter, visit