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

Facts versus Opinions

I’m an introvert and a very introspective person. That’s no secret to those who really know me.

Most of the time when I go out with people I find myself sitting back, watching and listening. It may seem like I am not engaged in the conversation, when in actuality, I’m probably more engaged than the people talking.

It’s fascinating. I enjoy doing it. I can do this for hours and not say a word, yet am totally absorbed in the entire conversation, not just what is being said, but how it is said and the true meaning behind it.

I’m listening, analyzing, watching mannerisms, expressions, analyzing those. Listening to speech patterns and tones while all the while analyzing the entire conversation.

I learn a lot about people this way, and about myself. That’s why one of my favorite quotes, I forgot where I got it from, is “I hear what is not being said.”

This brings me to tonight.

Tonight I was telling a story and got rudely interrupted in the beginning of the story by two of my friends who felt the need to voice their opinions as if they were facts, before even hearing the entire story.

I sat back, listened to them, analyzing everything, and waiting to see if they would be courteous enough to ask me to continue my story, but they never did. They were so high up on their self-righteous, egotistical horses, that they never came back to my story.

Some people would have found this rude, I found it a bit irritating, but mostly, I found it intriguing because I was learning so much about these people and how they think, even how they think and see me. I was learning more than I think they knew they were teaching me about themselves, which is the beauty of extrospection.

As I sat and listened, I realized that my two friends were making a mistake a lot of us make from time to time, especially in this political environment. They were mistaking their opinions for facts.

Naturally, we are drawn to information that supports our beliefs. Sadly we tend to stick with those beliefs even in the face of evidence that proves them wrong, and may even believe in them more, as a form of protest or as a defense mechanism.

In many cases, factual evidence seems to matter very little.

As I watch the political coverage, this is played out daily, but one doesn’t have to watch CNN or MSNBC to see this. We encounter this all the time, perhaps even within ourselves as I encountered with my friends tonight.

At one point when they were closing the restaurant we were at and we were the only customers left, they were still engaged in idle conversation, sipping their drinks as the staff was waiting for us to leave.

I told my friends that we should probably pick up the pace, but they told me I should just relax. I replied that I like for people to be respectful of my time and I like to respect other peoples time.

They quickly retorted that we were patrons, paying money and that they would gladly wait for us because we were given them business. They then went on a rampage that included something about the economy and the customer is always right, to which as always, I just listened and analyzed and then replied that I was sharing my opinion, not stating a fact.

They then backed off, but I realized that they were stating their opinions as blatant facts, that as long as a drink was on the table, the business should wait patiently for them to leave.

I didn’t try to elaborate on this with them, because like I stated earlier, even if I could present facts on why we should be respectful of the staffs time and leave so that they could clear the last table, I would have been met with more opinionated hostility, but why?

We all know what it feels like to be proven wrong and what that means to our sense of self and even our sense of credibility. It often gets us to question not just that one thing, but a host of our other beliefs and one thing many people are afraid of doing, and will sometimes fight to death before they do it, is to take a real examination of their self.

Many relationships fail or stall because one or both partners have different opinions and neither one is willing to reconsider, change or even tweak theirs. Instead they fight over and over about the same things, pointing the finger at each other.

These are of course largely unconscious thoughts, which make them that much more powerful. Still, stating opinions doesn’t make them right or facts.

People who are more self-confident tend to be more willing to re-examine their opinions and it’s important that fro time to time we all do this to become well-rounded, well-adjusted people who are able to have healthy relationships with not only other people, but with ourselves.