Types of Difficult People

Difficult people get themselves sorted into categories, just so we can develop a strategy for dealing with them. If you pick up almost any book on the subject, you will find descriptions of these people and some suggested ways of dealing with them. Below you will find information on the difficult people that we encounter the most and our suggestions for dealing with them.

The Stubborn One


  • Stuck on their position
  • Unable or unwilling to see other points of view


  • Engage them in discussion and debate.
  • If you know you are correct, be persistent.
  • Provide documentation to help support your case.

The Quiet One

They may be quiet because they are:

  • Bored
  • Not interested in the subject matter
  • Think they know everything
  • Nervous
  • Shy
  • Tired of dealing with the issue


  • Figure out why they are being quiet.
  • Ask them easy questions.
  • Give positive feedback when the person responds to your question.

The Jester


  • Good natured
  • Distracted by other issues


  • Be professional and stay cool.
  • If the behavior is a real problem, address it privately and calmly.
  • Find something to agree with.
  • Keep the conversation moving.



  • Talks about other problems
  • Can’t stay on track


  • Tie what they are saying back to the issue at hand.
  • If you can’t figure out the connection, ask them how it relates.
  • Separate out the issues and address one thing at a time.

Off Base


  • Brings up ideas that are wrong


  • Correct their misconception in private and tactfully.
  • Have documentation on hand to show your point.

Bigger Issues


  • Some personalities just clash
  • Sometimes people are out to cause trouble


  • Keep the person focused on the task at hand.
  • Ask lots of questions and keep them involved.

The Chatterbox


  • Talks about personal matters when in a conversation
  • Can be distracting and impede progress


  • Tactfully bring the conversation back to the matter at hand.
  • Ask easy questions and involve them in the discussion.
  • If it is appropriate (i.e. with a colleague), set boundaries using phrases like, “I’m not comfortable discussing that at work. Would you like to have coffee later to talk about it?”

The Know-It-All

They may have this attitude because:

  • They are very interested in the topic at hand
  • They are an expert in this subject
  • They like to hear their own voice


  • Ask them complex or detailed questions.
  • Be prepared! Have documentation ready.
  • Have confidence in yourself and your ability to do your job.

The Whiner

They may be complaining because:

  • They have a legitimate complaint
  • They are innately negative
  • This is a pet peeve


  • Use active listening, empathy, and paraphrasing to ensure that they feel heard.
  • Find out what they want from the conversation: a solution, advice, or just to vent (as examples).
  • Encourage them to think of solutions.

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Dealing with Difficult People?