Tom Stilp, JD, MBA/MM, LLM, MSC

Are you someone who avoids difficult people?  Are you someone who defends your ideas from naysayers?  Or do you try to outsmart them for another day?

Dealing with difficult people is both an art and a science.  Some people seem determined to make your life miserable by attacking every action you take or idea you propose.

Borrowing from what happens in nature, when confronted, there are usually three options: (1) FLIGHT (avoid and run away), (2) FIGHT (confront and fight back) or (3) FREEZE (outsmart using camouflage or by playing dead).

The following questions are based on real-life assessments of different personality-types in work situations which will be fairly recognizable as categorized here, “true” or “false.”


Self-Test: Working With Difficult People
  1. When I have to work with someone who is difficult, I don’t mind taking on extra work and doing the work myself.  If you answered “true,” then avoidance is a tactic you probably used sometimes to avoid difficult people.


  1. I usually ask questions and express any reservations about a task.  I am comfortable telling a co-worker the problem. “True” here suggests you are more likely to confront and challenge.


  1. When I ask someone to do something, I always plan what I’m going to say and then explain the overall goal first, inviting options.  In this instance, you are more likely to be using strategic moves, although you may also be willing to confront.


Each tactic has its place.  The trick is knowing what tactic to use and when to use it, a thought Sun-tzu expressed over 2,500 years ago in The Art of War: If your opponent is superior, evade.  If not, attack.  And if evenly matched, wait and attack when your opponent is unprepared.

Light and nimble, with a personal attention to your matter, in litigation and in any business deal, an experienced attorney will think outside the normal boundaries, recognize what tactics to use, and discuss the “how” and “when” for the best strategic position for the client.

photo cred: nationalgeographic.com