Humans 101

How to Deal With Difficult People Without Losing Your Mind

Don’t wrestle with pigs and don’t die on every hill

Don Johnson
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readOct 16, 2020
Illustration of a hand held out in a fist and an open hand extended toward it.
Image: Malte Mueller/Getty Images

Given the political, social, and economic climate right now, tension and conflict are apt to surface more than ever.

People under stress are more likely to display a “bad day” version of themselves. Emotions close to the surface are easily triggered. When someone is stressed, angry, or irritated, they are less rational and empathetic — making the ability to resolve differences even more important.

What really matters in a difficult situation is how conscious and skilled you are. My former colleague and author of the bestselling book Conscious Business, Fred Kofman, says: “There are no difficult conflicts. There are only conflicts we don’t know how to resolve.”

As an executive coach, I’ve helped leaders at major tech and financial companies learn conflict resolution principles. Here is what I have found that works — whether it’s a conflict with family, friends, business colleagues, or the person who cuts in line at the grocery store.

Everyone has a unique story

We each have a view of the world, and it’s just that — our view. Others have their own views, which are likely different than ours. If I am self-absorbed, I believe my view of the world is correct and everyone else is either wrong or badly misinformed. This is where many problems begin.

For example: If I’m a Democrat, I may believe I’m one of the good guys. Therefore, Republicans are the bad guys, and I will likely discount anything a Republican says. I don’t fully accept them or their point of view. Labeling something as bad because I disagree with it is prejudice. This narrow-minded attitude has been the cause of wars, racial bias, political stalemates, religious prosecution, and the destruction of entire cultures.



Don Johnson
Human Parts

Author | Meditation Teacher | Advocate for Kindness, Respect & Freedom | Human Potential Coach | Connect with me here: