Noxious People: Dealing, Working and Living With High Conflict People

istock_argue_bullyUnfortunately, dealing with difficult people is a part of life. They can be found everywhere from our own homes, to our jobs, which is way it’s important that we know how to deal with these difficult and high conflict people so that they don’t negatively affect our lives.

Noxious people can not only cause us to feel miserable, but they can also cost us job advancements, relationships, mental and even physical health.

Over the years I’ve dealt with my fair share of difficult and high conflict people and one of the most valuable things I’ve learned is to not take it personal.

I realized that most of the time when someone was being difficult with me, it actually had very little if anything to do with me. Sometimes these people are just difficult people and they are that way with everyone. Some people are just going to hate. That’s who they are. Don’t take it personal. Allow that person to be who they are, but that doesn’t mean they have to affect you. When you take it personally, you will not only feel bad or angry, but it will make it much more difficult for you to effectively deal with that person.

I wrote a post about not catching the ball, which means that you don’t have to catch whatever someone is throwing at you and difficult, high conflict people are always throwing their anger, hate and insanity at you. You can simply let it fly past you and drop to the floor (or someone else can catch it if they want). It’s sometimes helpful to visualize their negativity as a ball and see yourself not catching it, this way  it can’t affect your emotional state.

Difficult people also hate to be told anything, even when they are wrong. They don’t like to be given negative feedback, so doing so will just stir up more resistance and a bigger conflict. Instead of making statements, try asking questions instead to try to get that person to see the errors in their thinking.

For instance, recently I was speaking on the phone with a high conflict parent, asking him to come and pick up his daughter from school, who had just had a panic attack and didn’t feel safe walking home. He didn’t see the big deal and was very angry that we were asking him to come and get his daughter who walks home everyday (yes I know, most parents wouldn’t react this way, but many parents I deal with are out of touch with their children especially when it comes to their mental health). I simply asked him, “Sir, what if she has a panic attack on the way home and falls out, hits her head or worse, gets hit by a car.” Needless to say, he came and got her.

Also, asking questions can help you turn the tables. When that parent said, “I can’t pick up my daughter” I could have said, “Who CAN pick up  your daughter?”. If he would have said, “I can’t do it right now” I could have asked, “When CAN you do it?”

Also, effective communication is important. Difficult people often misinterpret what you say and will become very defensive. You have to be ready to say things such as, “That is not what I said” and “Please let me finish”.

Also, use “I-statements”. By saying “I” rather than “you”, you are taking away some of the accusation from the person and they are less likely to react negatively. For example, instead of saying, “You didn’t give me that report”, you can say, “I never received that report”.

High conflict people like to argue and sometimes no matter what you say, they will have a better idea in their opinion, that even if it is really bad, they will stick to just to be difficult. That’s why it’s important to learn to separate the issue from the person. The same works if the other person is criticizing your idea. Separate the idea from yourself, that way it won’t feel so personal.

Be assertive, not aggressive or obnoxious.

There is a difference between being passive, agressive and assertive. There is no need to be a doormat and there is also no need to be as aggressive and obnoxious as the other person may be, but it is good to be assertive. To stand up for yourself while also respecting the other person. You can state your opinion and make your points without attacking.

Since we are talking about agression, if at anytime you feel your personal safety is at stake, don’t hesitate to remove yourself from the situation and get help if needed. There is never any need to subject yourself to violence.

Lastly, difficult people have purpose in our lives. Sometimes they help us practice patience, to brain storm, control ourselves or to learn how to communicate better. Look at every encounter you have with a difficult, noxious, high conflict person, as an opportunity to practice those qualities and you will emerge a better person each and every time.

For more information on dealing with noxious people check out Noxious People: Institute of Brain Potential at

12 thoughts on “Noxious People: Dealing, Working and Living With High Conflict People

  1. Nice post….i guess sometimes i behave that way…conflicting personality. But not with everyone just with my hubby….:). You have given a very practical ways/ approach to deal with people who are really conflicting so that their behaviour doesn’t affect our lives in a negative way.

  2. WE are a dental office – and we are interested in sending our Staff to attend this seminar. I would like to request some feedback from previous attendees because it is costly to send the entire staff.

    1. It is a great training. I would probably send half of the staff and have them take good notes so that they can come back and present what they learned to the other half of your staff. I think that would save some money and still get the information across. I hope that helps.

    1. Hi, thank you for reading and inquiring. I actually went to a training held by the High Conflict Institute ( They have a wealth of information. The rest of the information I have is from everyday experiences and of course Google searches 🙂

  3. The expert on this topic is Dr. Joseph Shannon of Ohio State University. He gives talks to mental health professionals entitled: NOXIOUS PEOPLE: LIVING AND WORKING WITH HIGH-CONFLICT INDIVIDUALS.

  4. I have a friend who I have overlooked her throwing my stuff away . There nothing I have she needs or wants just when she gets in her moods she will put something in your tank break in take stuff of yours and throw it away. I have overlooked it but can’t anymore. Her issues are not with me. . I want to let her know I know . I really what to her to get help . Well no matter what I tell her you know she going to fire her up and I going to have to watch my house my car . Been friends for twenty five years . The last twenty three living in a doffs that state . Now moved back lived with her for 6 months and learned she always hear lies stories come from her . I recently went to California she said she would come by check the house and mail . I told her thank you but it will be fine. I had a feeling and it was right . I have a large dog door that I taped up from inside . Well she called while in the house said she just drove by my front door wide open and yard gates open . I said what else she tells me she will turn around and go check. I live on a busy street within not even a min she starts telling me what see sees . Nothing missing but the toilet paper she bought for I bought her garbage bags. I could go on I just don’t know how to tell her I know and how to step away from her with out her catching my house on fire ? Any advise .

    1. My advise would be to run. She is not only toxic, but potentially dangerous. This is not a situation that is going to get better and I really don’t see what purpose she serves in your life now, no matter how long you two have been friends. Detach, detach, detach… if you can’t do it all at once or are afraid to, then do it slowly, but definitely detach.

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