Bob Denny: Dealing with that difficult person

Published: Monday, June 16, 2014 at 4:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 16, 2014 at 4:58 p.m.

My friend’s blood pressure jumped to 160/110! He told me he thought he was going to explode! It was a serious clash with a dominating supervisor. That was one of the most painful and challenging times of his life! It hurt so bad that he took a month off of work.

With some helpful counseling, he worked out a good solution with the employer, and was able to return to his job and stay on until a happy and successful retirement. (His supervisor was transferred and given appropriate training on “management skills.”)

Yes, life has its challenges. We are social creatures, but we’re all different, mentally, emotionally, and physically. If we were all alike, we wouldn’t survive as a species! It takes all kinds, to meet life’s challenges. So you will undoubtedly experience conflicts with others.

Embrace the challenge, and learn and grow from it. It can make you stronger and healthier, and it builds character. And it helps you survive!

What you can do? Here are some ideas and suggestions from the sciences of sociology and psychology, and from just plain common sense and folk wisdom:

In the heat of a crisis, take a time out. Ask for a moment to gather your thoughts. Or say something like, “Gee, I don’t know what to say. Let me get back to you on that. Can we talk on the break? What time is good for you?”

Set a goal for a workable resolution of the conflict. What can you both agree on? Can you arrive at a solution that both parties are happy with?

Choose a positive attitude and mood. Demonstrate good character. Approach the situation with dignity, honor, respect, and appreciation for the other person. Drop any defensiveness. Be open and friendly. Smile. Show that you understand the other’s concerns, and want to reach mutual agreement.

Understand that the problem is in the communication or misunderstanding. It’s the situation that needs fixing, not the person.

Discuss each other’s complaints, and make sure you understand them. Are both party’s requests reasonable? If not, can you offer acceptable alternatives?

Is the problem resolvable? Or can you live with a difference of opinion? Can you respect and appreciate each other’s positions? Can you continue to work together in spite of your conflicts? Or is it time to lick your wounds and move on?

Either way, try to leave the confrontation with good feelings on both sides. Be able to say you did the best you could to reach the right solution. Don’t hang onto a grudge. It can be a win/win situation. You may even make a friend.

Bob Denny has been a licensed mental health therapist in Florida, worked with troubled youth and families for a career, and taught psychology at Florida Gateway College for the last 10 years. Check out his new book, “Happiness is looking for you!” on the Comments welcome at

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