Tips for Dealing with Difficult Personalities

While there is no ideal way to handle those with certain personality disorders, there are approaches that can help to minimize the damage. In general, the following steps are useful.


Everyone deserves and needs to be heard, regardless of their problems.

  • Try to separate out the valid concerns from the barrage of complaints or attacks
  • Don’t overreact-either negatively or positively — but don’t under-react either


If you allow them to, certain people will dominate meetings, discussions, and your time; you may not be able to stop this entirely, but you can contain it by putting boundaries around the time spent.

  • Structure interactions by setting up specific meeting times, phone call times, or even email times and refer all issues or communications to those times
  • Don’t avoid all contact, but put limits around the contact
  • Do not try to be a personal friend; limit your interactions to business (socializing is not generally a good idea)


Ignoring the problem, tolerating unacceptable behavior, or appeasing by giving into unreasonable demands or offering undeserving rewards will only perpetuate the problem.

  • Confront unacceptable behavior clearly, consistently, and calmly
  • Put limits around unacceptable behavior
  • Find the balance between confrontation with reasonable consequences on unacceptable behavior and overreacting with implausible or unworkable consequences or limits
  • Act consistently and in accordance with your own values


We are often unable to change the behavior of a difficult personality and we can never change their personality, but we can protect others from their behavior.

  • Do not allow the person to remain in a position of unchecked power over others
  • Provide a safe channel for people to raise concerns about these behaviors
  • If abusive behavior to others cannot be stopped, consider imposing more serious consequences
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find sorrow and suffering enough to dispel all hostility.”Henry Wadsworth Longfellow