27 Characteristics of a Difficult Person

Have you ever been in a situation where someone just won’t budge or see things any way but their own? It can be exhausting. Whether it’s in personal relationships or at work, difficult people are a part of life. That’s why recognizing their traits and knowing what makes them tick can actually help us deal with them better.

These difficult individuals often show behaviors like criticizing without reason, refusing to listen, or always needing to be right. It’s frustrating and can leave us feeling helpless.

But what if I told you that there’s a way to make these interactions less stressful? Keep reading to find out more.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes and not a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert if you need help dealing with challenging situations or relationships.

They Criticize Others without Constructive Feedback

Have you ever shared your ideas excitedly, only to receive criticism that felt more like a letdown than helpful advice? This is a common trait among difficult people. They tend to point out what’s wrong without offering solutions. This behavior can dampen spirits and discourage an open sharing of ideas.

What to do: When dealing with such criticism, ask for specific suggestions on how to improve. This can sometimes turn unhelpful criticism into constructive feedback.

They Refuse to Listen to Others’ Viewpoints

Imagine you’re in a discussion, and no matter how much sense you make, the other person just won’t listen. It’s frustrating, right? This is another hallmark of difficult people. They often believe their way is the only way, shutting down any chance for a meaningful exchange of ideas.

Example: Think of a team meeting where everyone is brainstorming ideas. A productive team member listens, considers, and builds on others’ ideas. In contrast, a difficult person dismisses them without thought, stalling collaboration and creativity.

They Often Interrupt or Talk Over Others

Conversations should be like a game of catch – you throw the ball, they catch it, and throw it back. But with difficult people, it’s more like they’re always trying to snatch the ball mid-air. They interrupt or talk over others, making it hard for anyone else to get a word in.

What to do: If you’re often interrupted, a straightforward approach is to calmly say, “I’d like to finish my thought, please.” Setting these boundaries is essential for healthy communication.

They’re Not Open to Feedback or Criticism

Feedback is a two-way street. Just as we need to be open to receiving it, we should also be prepared to give it. However, difficult people often see feedback as a personal attack, reacting defensively rather than viewing it as an opportunity for growth.

It’s like telling someone they’ve got something stuck in their teeth, and they get mad at you for pointing it out.

They Have Difficulty Expressing Their Needs Directly

Ever dealt with someone who expects you to read their mind? Difficult people often struggle to communicate their needs clearly, leading to misunderstandings and frustration.

Instead of saying, “I need some help with this project,” they might sulk or get angry when you don’t offer help, expecting you to just know what they want.

Encouraging open and direct expression of needs can prevent a lot of unnecessary conflict.

They Frequently Use Sarcasm in A Hurtful Way

Sarcasm can be a form of wit, but when used improperly, it turns into a sharp tool that hurts more than it amuses. Difficult people often wield sarcasm not to lighten the mood but to belittle or criticize others under the guise of humor.

It’s like someone laughing at you, not with you, after tripping on a rug.

How to respond: If someone’s sarcasm crosses the line, it’s okay to let them know you found their remark hurtful. A simple “I know you might not have intended it, but that comment felt a bit harsh to me” can open the door to more mindful interactions in the future.

Their Mood Swings Unpredictably

One minute, everything seems fine, and the next, it’s as if a switch has been flipped, and you find yourself dealing with a completely different person. This unpredictability can strain relationships, making it difficult to address issues or have meaningful conversations.

Example: Imagine planning a surprise party for a friend who loves surprises, only to have them react angrily when the surprise is revealed. This unpredictability can leave you feeling confused and hesitant to make future plans.

They Are Quick to Anger Over Minor Issues

Small things that most would brush off can become major issues. It’s like a drop of water causing a ripple effect, but instead of ripples, it’s waves crashing down. This reaction can create a tense environment where people are afraid to speak up or share their thoughts.

What to do: When faced with such a reaction, it’s important to remain calm. Acknowledge their feelings without feeding into the anger. Saying something like, “I understand this is upsetting for you; how can we solve this together?” can help diffuse the situation.

They Exhibit Passive-Aggressive Behavior

This can be one of the most challenging behaviors to deal with because it’s like trying to read between the lines of what’s being said and what’s actually meant. It’s the silent treatment, the backhanded compliments, and the “I’m fine” when everything clearly is not fine.

Example: Your colleague agrees to help with a project but then does the bare minimum, making sarcastic remarks about the workload. This passive aggressiveness affects not only the project’s outcome but also the working relationship.

They Show Little Patience or Tolerance

A short fuse can lead to explosive reactions over seemingly minor inconveniences. This lack of patience can make it hard to work on projects, have discussions, or even enjoy leisure activities together, as there’s always the fear of triggering a disproportionate reaction.

Demonstrating patience yourself can sometimes encourage the other person to mirror your behavior.

They Struggle with Maintaining Long-Term Relationships

Imagine trying to build a bridge, but the foundation keeps shifting. That’s what it’s like trying to maintain a relationship with someone who struggles in this area. The inconsistency and unpredictability make it difficult to establish a solid, trusting connection.

Here are a few key points to remember if you find yourself in this situation:

  • Set clear boundaries: Defining what is acceptable and what isn’t in your interactions is crucial. This clarity can prevent misunderstandings and provide a sense of stability.
  • Open communication: Expressing your feelings and concerns honestly can sometimes open the door to better understanding and mutual respect.
  • Offer support: While being there for them is important, remember that real change is a personal journey. Your support can guide them, but they need to walk the path themselves.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.

– Brene Brown

They Are Often Dismissive of Others’ Feelings

When someone dismisses your feelings, it’s as if they’re saying, “Your emotions don’t matter.” This can be deeply hurtful and invalidating, making it hard to feel safe and valued in the relationship. It’s like trying to share a piece of your heart, only to have it ignored or, worse, trampled on.

For example: You’re excited about a new hobby and share your enthusiasm with a friend, only to have them roll their eyes and change the subject. This dismissiveness can dampen your spirit and make you hesitant to share in the future.

They Have a Hard Time Showing Empathy

Empathy is the glue that holds relationships together. It’s the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their feelings. However, when someone lacks this ability, it creates a gap that can be hard to bridge.

Without empathy, the emotional connection that forms the basis of any strong relationship is weakened, making it challenging to feel truly connected.

They Demand Attention but Rarely Reciprocate

Picture this: You’re always there for a friend, listening to their stories, supporting their dreams, and cheering them on through every high and low. But when you need a shoulder to lean on, they’re suddenly too busy, or worse, indifferent.

It’s like pouring water into a vase that has no bottom — no matter how much you give, it’s never enough, and your own needs remain unmet. This one-sided dynamic can leave you feeling undervalued and exhausted. It’s crucial to recognize that healthy relationships are a two-way street, where both parties give and receive support and attention.

What to do: If you find yourself in this situation, consider having an honest conversation about how you feel. Sometimes, people aren’t aware of their behavior until it’s pointed out.

They Frequently Play the Victim in Various Situations

Dealing with someone who consistently sees themselves as the victim, regardless of the circumstances, can be incredibly challenging. This mindset prevents them from taking responsibility for their actions and manipulates those around them into a constant state of sympathy and apology.

This behavior can also strain relationships, as it shifts the focus away from constructive problem-solving to endless cycles of blame and reassurance.

It's normal to want to make someone feel better when they're upset. But, it's also important to gently push them towards taking responsibility and growth. Sometimes, suggesting professional help or resources for self-reflection can help them see beyond the victim mentality.

They Struggle with Admitting Their Mistakes

Admitting we’re wrong isn’t easy. It requires humility and the courage to face our flaws. Yet, it’s a crucial step toward personal growth.

Example: Imagine you’re in a group project, and someone from the team insists their strategy is the best, even when it’s clearly not working out. This stubbornness, despite clear signs it’s not the right approach, can only slow down progress and create tension among the team.

On the other hand, recognizing and owning up to this mistake can pave the way for a better strategy and strengthen the team’s cooperation.

They Are Resistant to Change

Change can be intimidating. It’s like upgrading your old, comfortable shoes to a new pair. At first, they might feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but soon enough, they mold to your feet, offering better support and a new spring in your step.

Those who resist change cling to their old pair, missing the chance to experience the benefits of something new and improved simply because they’re used to the old way.

What to do: Encourage small steps. Change doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just like slowly breaking in a new pair of shoes, small, manageable adjustments can lead to significant benefits over time.

They Resist Apologies, Seeing It as A Sign of Weakness

Saying “I’m sorry” can really make a difference. It shows we’re all human and can make mistakes. But for some people, saying sorry feels like they’re admitting defeat. They think it shows weakness, not seeing that it actually shows how strong and decent they are. A simple apology can fix a lot of problems, heal wounds, make people feel better, and help build trust and honesty in relationships.

If you know someone who struggles to apologize, be the one to set an example. Show them that saying sorry doesn’t make you weak; it shows you’re mature and responsible.

They Make Excuses Instead of Taking Action

It’s easier to find reasons why we can’t do something than to face the challenges of doing it. But every excuse is a barrier to growth. It’s like saying you can’t learn to swim because you don’t want to get wet. Overcoming excuses requires courage and a willingness to step out of our comfort zones.

Recognizing excuses for what they are — fears in disguise — can be a powerful motivator. Facing our fears head-on is the surest way to grow.

They Have a Pessimistic View of The World

Having a pessimistic view of the world means always expecting the worst, no matter the situation. This outlook can be draining, not just for the person feeling this way but for those around them as well. They tend to:

  • Always worry about what could go wrong instead of what could go right.
  • Focus more on problems than on solutions.
  • Rarely feel happy or satisfied because they’re waiting for something bad to happen.

What to do: When talking to someone who always sees things negatively, try pointing out the good things they might not have noticed. Just a small push from you could help them start seeing things in a more positive light.

They Struggle with Showing Gratitude

Gratitude is like a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger it gets. For someone with a negative outlook, this muscle might be underdeveloped. They find it hard to acknowledge the good in their lives, focusing instead on what’s lacking or what could be better.

Example: At dinner, instead of enjoying the meal and company, someone keeps complaining about the food and service. This not only spoils their own experience but also affects the mood of the entire table.

They Often See Themselves as Superior to Others

This trait might seem at odds with a negative outlook, but it’s actually two sides of the same coin. By putting others down, someone may try to elevate themselves, compensating for their own insecurities. This superiority complex can isolate them, as it’s hard to build relationships when there’s constant comparison and judgment.

Understand that this behavior is often a way to protect themselves. Having open and kind talks can really help break down walls, leading to more real and honest conversations.

They Avoid Taking Responsibility for Their Actions

Imagine a scenario where someone borrows a friend’s car and accidentally scratches it. Instead of owning up to the mistake, they blame the parking lot’s tight spaces or even suggest the scratch was already there. This refusal to accept responsibility strains the friendship and prevents personal growth.

What to do: If someone isn’t taking responsibility, try talking to them calmly. Focus on finding solutions together instead of blaming them. This might help them understand why it’s good to admit their mistakes.

They Have a Tendency to Blame Others for Their Problems

Blaming others can be a defense mechanism to protect one’s ego. It’s easier to point fingers than to look inward and acknowledge our role in a situation. However, this behavior can alienate friends, family, and colleagues, leaving the person isolated and unable to form meaningful connections.

Here’s what this behavior often looks like:

  • Quickly pointing the finger at others when things don’t go as planned.
  • Rarely admitting they might be part of the problem.
  • Making excuses instead of looking for ways to fix the issue.
  • Struggling to maintain healthy relationships because they don’t take responsibility.

Tip: Show them how owning up to mistakes can actually make things better. Share your own experiences where taking responsibility improved a situation. This might inspire them to do the same.

They Are Overly Defensive when Questioned

Getting defensive is normal when we feel criticized, but it can get in the way if we react that way to any question. It’s as if we’re always holding up a shield, not just against criticism but also against chances to learn and get better.

For example, in a team meeting where feedback is shared, if someone quickly starts defending their work without listening, it can stop their own growth and hurt the team’s ability to work together well.

They Have a Strong Need to Control Situations and People

Think about a time when someone tried to make all the decisions for you without asking what you wanted. It’s frustrating, right? This need to control can make people feel left out or unimportant. It’s like being a passenger in your own car; you’re there, but you’re not the one driving.

What to do: If you’re dealing with someone who always wants to be in charge, try talking to them about how it makes you feel. Sometimes, they might not even realize they’re doing it. It’s all about finding a balance where everyone gets a say.

They Manipulate Others to Get What They Want

Manipulation can be sneaky. It’s like someone telling you a story that makes you feel bad for them, so you’ll do what they want. But later, you might start to feel like something wasn’t quite right about the situation. This kind of behavior can make trust really hard to build.

Tip: Trust your gut. If something feels off, it’s okay to step back and think about it. Talking to someone you trust about the situation can also give you a fresh perspective.

Dealing with control and manipulation isn't easy, but understanding what's happening is the first step. Remember that setting boundaries is perfectly fine, and sometimes, necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a difficult person change?

Yes, with self-awareness and a willingness to change, difficult people can modify their behavior. However, change is a personal decision and can take time. Offering support and understanding can encourage them, but it’s crucial to maintain healthy boundaries for your well-being.

How do I set boundaries with a difficult person?

Setting boundaries involves clearly communicating your limits and the consequences of crossing them. Be consistent and assertive in enforcing these boundaries, and don’t be afraid to seek support from friends, family, or professionals if needed.

When should I seek professional help when dealing with a difficult person?

If your relationship with a difficult person significantly impacts your mental or emotional well-being, or if you feel unsafe, it may be time to seek professional help. This can include counseling for yourself to navigate the situation better or mediation services to address conflicts in a controlled environment.

Can a difficult person be a good friend or partner?

Difficult people can still have positive qualities that make them good friends or partners. However, a healthy relationship requires effort from both sides, including open communication, mutual respect, and the ability to address and work through conflicts constructively.

Final Thoughts

Wrapping up, we’ve taken a closer look at what makes difficult people tick. With this knowledge, we’re ready to face challenging moments with a new perspective. It’s not about winning or losing but understanding and adapting.

Keep these things in mind, and you might find those tough situations a little easier to manage.

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Leah is a creative soul with a passion for telling stories that matter. As an editor and writer at UpJourney, she channels her natural curiosity and imagination into thought-provoking articles and inspiring content. She is also a registered nurse dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact.

In her free time, she indulges her artistic side as a hobbyist photographer, capturing the world's beauty one shot at a time. You can also find her in a poor-lit room playing her favorite video games or in a corner somewhere, reading and immersing herself in the rich worlds of fantasy and dark academia.

At home, Leah is surrounded by love and laughter, living peacefully with her partner and their three adorable shih tzus.