1. To de-escalate, learn to master the pause: Conflicts with difficult people can easily become a vicious cycle when our own reactions escalate the situation. And the more intensified the conflict, the more that we will dread and be stressed by the idea of future interactions, know when to step back.
2. Always keep your desired outcome in mind: When you are forced to interact with someone who is being difficult, it’s very easy to get off track (“Can you believe what a jerk this person is?”) and end up leaving the interaction no closer to what we were hoping to accomplish.
3. When possible, rehearse in advance: Difficult people can be particularly adept at throwing us off our game by getting an emotional rise out of us. Just like a musician, actor, or athlete is more likely to nail a difficult performance if they have practiced, so too can practice and rehearsal help our most stressful interpersonal moments.
4. Don’t overpersonalize: Often, the hardest interpersonal interactions are the ones where we take things too personally and feel wounded or insulted by another person’s behavior when really it has nothing to do with us at all.