The Gift of Difficult People

by Doris Helge, Ph.D.

One of my most requested presentations is “How to turn difficult people into supporters and allies.” Why is there so much demand for the “difficult people” topic? It’s not just because there are a lot of snipers, bullies, blamers, complainers, “victims,” and whiners in the world.

We are all a “difficult person” for someone. Peaceful visionary Mahatma Ghandi was an absolute thorn in the side of those who fought to maintain discrimination and injustice. Mother Teresa was a very difficult person for those who wanted to ignore the poverty and disease in Calcutta.

Here are some proven tips that will help you thrive when you’re surrounded by people who consistently complain, blame, and play the role of a victim or martyr.


The first step of dealing with people who play the role of victim is the hardest for most of us. We have to place our fragile little egos in a holding tank for just a few minutes while we peer into a looking glass that will accurately portray our situation.

When I whine and pine, I attract a disgruntled group of negative “human mirrors” into my life until I comprehend what’s happening. The complainers who surround me are also playing the role of a victim or martyr.

Until I perceive what’s going on, I’m angry and frustrated. It irritates me that the malcontents around me are moaning and wailing about what exists. Thoughts consume my mind like, “Yeah, this situation isn’t their preference, but why don’t they make the best of it or do something to improve their lives?”

Bingo! When I notice that someone else’s behavior is off-track — and I also have a negative emotional charge (like anger), it’s time for me to become an objective detective about my own behavior.


The above example shows how easy it is to determine when a problem is “someone else’s stuff” and when that person is triggering a response that indicates I have a similar unresolved pattern I need to address. When “their issue” is not also my issue, there is no negative emotional charge. I either view the situation from a neutral place, like an unbiased umpire — or I feel compassion for the other person.

We all sometimes play The Blame Game instead of perceiving clues that help us grow and become even better role models for other people. So, instead of judging yourself for being off-track — being human — make a decision to use the difficult people around you as a profound tool for personal growth.


It’s such a relief to stop trying to be perfect and ride the waves of the journey of life. Love yourself enough to be brutally honest because “Aha’s!” are the zest of life. When we’re willing to address our faults without judging ourselves as inadequate, our personal growth escalates dramatically.

Establish a solid support system of people who will give you honest feedback and accept you just as you are. Nurture your friends and family and they’ll be there for you when you need them.

Hire a coach so you’ll be supported by someone who offers you objective feedback and nurtures your growth.

Visit now and GET YOUR FREE EBOOK: “Get the Respect & Appreciation You Deserve.” Doris Helge, Ph.D., is “The Joy Coach.” Dr. Helge is 100% dedicated to your happiness and success.

В© 2008. This article was excerpted with permission from “Transforming Pain Into Power” by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Permission to reprint this article is granted if the article is in tact, with proper credit given. All reprints must state “Reprinted with permission by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Originally published in “Joy on the Job,” В© 2008. Download sample chapters at:

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