|How to Cope
With Hostile People
by Dr. Steve
What can be more difficult in your relationships than coping
with people who are angry, confrontational, obnoxious, intimidating, aggressive,
manipulative, and/or hostile? Who doesnt encounter difficult, hostile people in some
area(s) of their lifewithin your family, at work, with your lover, and in leisure
time activities? For some people, encounters with hostile people leave them feeling naked,
vulnerable, and confused about how best to cope with the difficult people in their life.
You know what you
feel like after an encounter with a difficult personprovoked, angry, helpless,
powerless, frustrated, perhaps even vulnerable. Thats because hostile aggressive
people have a sixth sense. They seem to know intuitively what buttons to push to keep you
off balance. Although your main interpersonal objective may be to get along, a difficult
persons main objective is to dominate and control in order that they can have their
way with you.
people are difficult for one very good reason. Over time theyve discovered that by
being difficult they can get whatever they want from another person. For them, their
disagreeable ways such as aggression and hostility are nothing more than a means to serve
their ends. Yet, to you, their aggression is a weapon that wreaks emotional havoc by
leaving you feeling hurt, confused, taken advantaged of, perhaps even bullied.
whats the answer? Should you feel resigned to accept your fate when youre
subjected to the inappropriate behavior of a difficult person? Should you just grin and
bear it? Should you cope by rising above it all? These are all possible ways of
adapting but let me offer you another alternative.
off, lets see if understanding what lies beneath their bluster and hostility helps
you any. By peeling back a layer or two of the protective armor that the difficult person
dons in order to protect themselves you may see this person in a different light. Would
you even believe me if I were to suggest to you that a hostile, aggressive person, beneath
the surface, is much like you and me? All they really want is to be cared about and
accepted for who they are. But unlike you and me, they have developed some pretty
maladaptive ways of achieving that end.
been the victim of their venom and anger, I know it must be hard for you to see a bully as
a frightened and insecure person, but thats exactly what he or she is. In fact,
because of their fears and insecurities, theyve developed some mighty strong habits
that serve to protect them. You know the old saying, the best defense is a good
offense. Well, the difficult person has mastered every nuance of that saying. For
its only when theyre on the attack, acting out with aggression and hostility,
that they feel safe, powerful, and in control.
what motivates a difficult person to be difficult is one thing, but what to do about a
difficult person when they cross your path is something else. Please keep the following
points in mind.
1.) There is nothing that you can do or say that will change a difficult person. These
people are the way they are for a reason and no amount of reasoning or kindness will
2.) When confronted with a difficult person, be respectful but firm. Part of what they
hope to accomplish is to bait you into fighting with them. Remember, you can choose
whether or not you will be sucked into their game. Be respectful. Be firm. But try to
maintain some measure of detachment and emotional distance by not taking the bait.
3.) Believe me, this one is easier said than done but do not, no how, no way, personalize
what is unfolding between you and a hostile person. Now I know, its very difficult
not to internalize an emotional assault, to not experience the emotional assault as an
attack on your self-esteem, for that is exactly what is happening. Yet, in order to not
let a difficult person get the best of you, emotionally detaching from their assault is
exactly what you need to do.
remember, its never easy dealing with a hostile personnot because of your
inadequacies but because they make it difficult. To be sucked into their game will
guarantee that you will feel like a loser. To remind yourself of what your choices are and
act on your choices will minimize how badly you feel after an encounter with a difficult
following suggestions and see if they make emotionally detaching a little bit easier for
1.) Remind yourself whos problem this really isthe hostile person, not
2.) Remind yourself that you can choose whether or not to let the hostile person dictate
to you what is going to be done.
3.) Remind yourself that you can choose whether or not youre going to take the bait
and be sucked into their game.
4.) Remind yourself that you can walk away at any point in the confrontation with a