20 Types of Difficult People (+ How to Identify and Deal With Them)

Have you ever bumped into someone who seems to love saying “no” more than anything else? Or met someone who only sees problems, never solutions? These are the difficult people we sometimes come across in our lives.

Now, it might seem tough, but these people can actually help us grow. They can teach us patience and how to handle different personalities.

In this article, we’ll look at different types of difficult people, starting with the less disruptive to those will that really test our patience. From the passive types to the aggressive ones — we will cover them all.

But remember, it’s not about pointing fingers or laughing at others. It’s about learning, growing, and becoming better at handling all kinds of people we meet in life.

Passive Types

The first category we’ll delve into is the Passive Types. These individuals typically don’t engage much, and their personalities may vary from being overly silent to noticeably boring.

Type 1: The Silent Ones

Picture this: you’re in a meeting or at a social gathering, and there’s someone present who remains unsettlingly quiet. They’re not necessarily shy, but they just seem to have built an invisible wall around themselves.

These individuals have mastered the art of minimalism in conversation. They often come across as introverted, contemplative, and at times, mysterious.

In a real-life setting, interacting with Silent Ones might look something like this:

  • At a team meeting, when asked for their opinion on the project, they might respond with, “I don’t mind. Whatever everyone else thinks is fine.”
  • In a casual conversation, they might offer minimal responses, with comments like “Hmm,” “Okay,” or just nodding, rather than engaging in a back-and-forth exchange.
  • When faced with a decision, such as choosing a restaurant for a team lunch, they may say, “I’m okay with anything. You guys choose.”

The key to communicating effectively with them is patience and understanding. Here are some techniques to consider:

  1. Encourage their participation: Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ This promotes dialogue and can help them open up.
  2. Be patient: Give them time to process information and respond. Rapid-fire questioning can shut them down further.
  3. Connect on their level: If they’re more comfortable in one-on-one settings, avoid putting them on the spot in large groups.
Did you know? Introverted people may prefer to communicate through written correspondence or text messages, as it allows them time to think through their responses.

Type 2: The Bore

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have “The Bore.” This type is not necessarily silent but instead tends to engage in monotonous and unstimulating conversation. You may notice that a conversation with them feels one-sided, is full of irrelevant details, or lacks an interesting thread.

Interactions with The Bore could look like this:

  • During a conversation, they might go on about their model train collection, even though others have shown no interest in the subject.
  • At a social event, they could recount in great detail the plot of every episode of their favorite TV series, oblivious to others’ dwindling attention.
  • They might resist suggestions for a new activity at a gathering, saying something like, “Why don’t we just do what we usually do? It’s fine the way it is.”

Turning these interactions into engaging conversations might feel like a difficult task, but it’s not impossible. Here are a few tips:

  1. Change the subject: If the conversation begins to stagnate, skilfully steer it towards a new topic.
  2. Ask deeper questions: Encourage them to think and respond on a more profound level. This can lead to a more interesting discussion.
  3. Show genuine interest: Often, people become boring when they feel unheard or unappreciated.
Quick tip: Interactions with 'The Bore' can sometimes feel draining. If this happens, politely excuse yourself for a short break. A little space can do wonders for your patience and perspective.

Negative Attitudes

These are individuals who bring a heavy, gloomy cloud to interactions, either by constantly whining or by having a generally pessimistic outlook on life.

Type 3: The Whiners

You’ll recognize “The Whiners” by their go-to conversational style—complaining. Their glass is not just half-empty; it often appears entirely drained. From the weather to workloads, no topic is safe from their critical scrutiny.

Interacting with The Whiners could look like this:

  • When assigned a task at work, they might respond with, “Why do I always get the hardest assignments? This is so unfair.”
  • When discussing future plans, they could frequently express concern that things won’t work out or that too much could go wrong.
  • During a team meeting, they might constantly grumble about the workload, lack of resources, or tight deadlines, despite potential solutions or positive factors being discussed.

Before you allow your patience to buckle under their storm of grievances, remember that whining is often a cry for empathy or validation. So, how can we tackle this?

Here are a few strategies:

  1. Acknowledge their feelings: A simple “I can see why you’re upset” can make them feel heard and may dial down the whining.
  2. Suggest solutions: If they’re open to it, help them brainstorm ways to tackle the issues they’re complaining about.

It’s essential to maintain your boundaries when dealing with these difficult people, as their negativity can be contagious. Make sure not to get overly involved in their complaints to preserve your emotional well-being.

Type 4: The Pessimists

“Always expect the worst” could be The Pessimists’ motto. They have a knack for spotting potential pitfalls, failures, and negative outcomes, often ignoring the brighter side of situations.

Interactions with The Pessimists might look like this:

  • When presented with a new idea, their immediate response might be, “That’ll never work,” without considering its potential benefits.
  • In response to positive news, they might express doubt or cynicism, like, “It sounds too good to be true. There must be a catch.”
  • When a co-worker talks about starting a new project, they might respond with, “That sounds like a lot of trouble waiting to happen.”

When interacting with pessimists, it’s important to strike a balance between understanding their perspective and avoiding getting sucked into their negative vortex.

Let’s look at some helpful techniques:

  1. Validate their concerns: Even if you don’t agree, it’s important to show understanding. It doesn’t mean you need to join them in their negativity, but acknowledging their viewpoint is a respectful approach.
  2. Encourage a balanced perspective: Point out the positive side of things, or ask them what could go right. It can gently challenge their default negative thinking.

Related: 10 Characteristics of a Difficult Person

Indecisive Types

These people often struggle to make decisions, leading to interactions that can be frustrating and time-consuming.

Type 5: The Yes People

“The Yes People” are individuals who find it hard to say ‘no‘. They’ll agree to anything, often to their own detriment, and are usually overloaded with commitments they can’t keep up with.

In everyday life, interacting with The Yes People might look like this:

  • When asked for their opinion, they might say, “Whatever you think is best,” even when the topic directly affects them.
  • They might readily agree to every task or favor asked of them, often leading to overcommitment or inability to deliver.

When interacting with these people, consider the following strategies:

  1. Make it safe for them to say ‘no: Assure them that their honesty is valued over a blind agreement.
  2. Encourage assertiveness: Point out that it’s okay to express their own needs and preferences.
  3. Give them time: If a decision needs to be made, give them some time to think about it.

Remember, Mahatma Gandhi once said,

“A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.”

Type 6: The Maybe People

Next, we have “The Maybe People”. Decisions seem like a labyrinth to them, and their standard response to most choices is an ambiguous ‘maybe‘.

Interactions with them might look like this:

  • When invited to a social gathering, they might respond with, “I might come, but I’ll see how I feel.”
  • They may continually defer decisions, such as saying, “Let’s discuss this later,” even when a decision is needed promptly.
  • They might habitually respond with non-committal phrases like “Perhaps,” “We’ll see,” or “I’m not sure yet.”

To navigate conversations with them, consider these tactics:

  1. Narrow down the choices: Offer them a limited number of options to make the decision-making process less daunting.
  2. Encourage clarity: Let them know that it’s okay to have a definite opinion, and it’s valued.
Practical Example: In a team meeting, if a Maybe Person seems unsure about a project, identify their concerns and address them with adequate information and resources.

Type 7: The Nothing People

Then we have “The Nothing People”, who abstain from making decisions at all. They often come off as disinterested or detached.

Interactions with them might look like this:

  • They might regularly avoid engagement or participation, for instance, choosing to sit in a corner during a social event and not interact with others.
  • When asked about their thoughts or feelings, they might shrug or say, “I don’t really care.”
  • They may seem emotionally detached or indifferent, rarely expressing joy, enthusiasm, anger, or sadness.

To engage with Nothing People effectively:

  1. Probe for opinions: Ask them what they think about different aspects of a situation.
  2. Encourage involvement: Let them know their input matters and is needed.
  3. Show understanding: If they’re feeling overwhelmed or unconfident, acknowledge their feelings and reassure them.

Type 8: The No People

Lastly, “The No People” are those who automatically say ‘no‘ to new ideas or changes. They’re often seen as obstinate or uncooperative.

Interacting with them might look like this:

  • They might often reject new ideas or proposals outright, saying things like, “That’s not how we do it here.”
  • When offered a suggestion or advice, their immediate response might be, “That won’t work.”
  • They may frequently express negativity or resistance, such as by frequently saying, “No,” “I don’t think so,” or “It’s not possible.”

To deal with No People:

  1. Present benefits: Show them the potential benefits and positive outcomes of what you’re proposing.
  2. Encourage open-mindedness: Invite them to consider different viewpoints.
  3. Give them space: After presenting your case, give them time to process the information.
Quick tip: When interacting with indecisive types, remember to exercise patience and understanding. Their struggle with decision-making often stems from anxiety, fear of conflict, or lack of confidence.

Interruptive Types

In this part of our exploration of difficult people, we’ll focus on the Interruptive Types. This category includes individuals who tend to cut off conversations or speak over others.

Type 9: The Interrupter

“The Interrupter” is easy to spot; they’re the ones jumping into conversations prematurely or finishing others’ sentences. While this might be a habit formed out of excitement or impatience, it often leads to feelings of frustration and disrespect in the other participants.

In real life, The Interrupter might:

  • Frequently cut others off in the middle of their sentences.
  • Jump in with their thoughts or ideas before others have finished expressing theirs.
  • Often finish other people’s sentences, not allowing them to express their thoughts fully.

Dealing with them can be a delicate task. Here are a few tactics you might find helpful:

  1. Calmly address the issue: Politely express how you feel when interrupted. This can be a wake-up call for them.
  2. Set conversation guidelines: If possible, establish some basic rules of engagement, such as allowing each person to finish their thoughts before responding.
  3. Practice patience: Keep in mind that breaking the habit of interrupting can take time.
Tip: When communicating with an interrupter, try using practical examples to illustrate your points more clearly. For instance, if you're discussing productivity, you could say, "I recall a time when we worked on a project, and each person was given a chance to speak. Our ideas flowed smoothly, and we achieved our goals." 

This example might help the interrupter appreciate the value of letting others speak.

Superior Types

Next up are the Superior Types, characterized by an inflated sense of knowledge and abilities.

Type 10: The Know-it-alls

“The Know-it-alls” believe they have the best information on any topic. While it’s good to be confident in one’s knowledge, it becomes problematic when it crosses the line into arrogance and leaves no room for others’ opinions or ideas.

Real-life examples of interacting with this type might include:

  • They might frequently correct others, even on trivial matters.
  • In a discussion, they might dominate the conversation, giving long explanations or detailed accounts of their knowledge of the topic.

Here’s how you can effectively engage with Know-it-alls:

  1. Acknowledge their knowledge: Start with acknowledging what they know. This can lower their defenses and make them more receptive to other perspectives.
  2. Encourage humility: Remind them that no one knows everything and that learning is a continuous process.
  3. Challenge respectfully: If you have differing information, present it in a non-confrontational manner backed by credible sources.

As Albert Einstein wisely noted,

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Sharing this mindset with a Know-it-all can contribute to more balanced and enriching conversations.

Type 11: The Critics

Lastly, in the Superior Types, we have “The Critics”. These are the people who consistently find flaws in ideas, actions, or people. They tend to believe their standards are the only ones that matter and rarely miss an opportunity to give unsolicited advice.

The Critics in real-life situations might:

  • Regularly point out faults or mistakes, even minor ones, without offering constructive feedback or solutions.
  • Often make negative or disparaging comments, such as, “You never do this right,” or “This is a terrible idea.”
  • Criticize more than they praise, focusing on the negatives and rarely acknowledging the positives.

The constant critique can be exhausting but don’t be discouraged. Here are a few strategies to effectively handle The Critics:

  1. Ask for the positive: When they critique, ask them for what they did like or what they think would work. This can help balance their overly critical view.
  2. Set boundaries: Politely express that while you appreciate their feedback, constant criticism can be unhelpful and disheartening.
  3. Understand their perspective: Often, Critics are driven by a need for perfection or fear of mistakes. Understanding this can help you empathize and interact more effectively.
Anecdote: Jane, a marketing professional, dealt with a co-worker who was always critical of her work. After she realized that this person's harsh words were a product of their own past failures, Jane focused on improving herself without letting the criticism affect her confidence.

Gossipers and Backstabbers

Next up: Gossipers and Backstabbers. These people present unique difficulties. They can break trust and foster a toxic environment, whether at work or in social circles.

Type 12: The Gossips

These are individuals who thrive on sharing tidbits of information about others, often exaggerated or without the person’s consent. This can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and even damage reputations.

Interacting with The Gossips might look like this:

  • They might frequently share rumors or unverified information about others.
  • In a conversation, they might talk more about absent people than present ones.
  • They may often start their conversations with phrases like, “Did you hear about…” or “I shouldn’t tell you this, but…”

So, how can we deal with them? Here are some strategies:

  1. Avoid participating: Resist the urge to engage in the gossip. Doing so can discourage the behavior.
  2. Redirect the conversation: Steer the discussion toward neutral topics or highlight positive aspects about the person being gossiped about.
  3. Speak up: If comfortable, express your discomfort with gossiping.
Did you know? Unchecked gossip can lead to lowered morale and a toxic work environment.

Type 13: The Backstabbers

Next, we have “The Backstabbers”. These people may act friendly to your face but criticize or undermine you behind your back.

The Backstabbers might:

  • Take credit for your ideas or efforts, presenting them as their own to superiors or others.
  • Often spread rumors or negative information to sabotage others’ reputations or success.

To protect yourself from Backstabbers:

  1. Maintain professionalism: Keep your interactions focused on tasks or topics at hand and avoid sharing personal information they could use against you.
  2. Document important discussions: This can provide a record in case your words or actions are misrepresented.
  3. Confront cautiously: If you feel comfortable, address the issue directly but diplomatically.

Boundary Issues

Another category of difficult people involves those who don’t respect personal boundaries.

Type 14: The Boundary Crosser

“The Boundary Crosser” doesn’t understand or respect the line between personal and professional or appropriate and inappropriate. They might ask intrusive questions, invade personal space, or make others feel uncomfortable with their actions.

Interacting with The Boundary Crosser might look like this:

  • They might frequently interfere in your personal matters without invitation.
  • They might disregard your personal space, like going through your desk without permission.
  • They could persistently ask personal or invasive questions, ignoring signs of discomfort or explicit requests to stop.

To handle Boundary Crossers, you could try these strategies:

  1. Clearly define your boundaries: Politely but firmly let them know what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
  2. Avoid oversharing: Limit personal information you share with them.
  3. Enlist support: If they continue to cross boundaries after you’ve addressed it, involve a superior or a third party.
How to recognize a Boundary Crosser: One easy way is by observing their behavior in different situations. You might notice that they are overly affectionate or inappropriately touchy with others, even when it isn't welcome. 

Another sign is their tendency to ask personal questions or share private information about themselves without considering whether it's appropriate or not.

Victims and Manipulators

We now encounter the Victims and Manipulators. These individuals tend to utilize emotional tactics, which can add an extra layer of complexity to interactions.

Type 15: The Victim

“The Victims” are those who perpetually see themselves as the unfortunate ones, bearing the brunt of life’s hardships. They often seek sympathy and abdicate responsibility for their situations.

In everyday life, The Victim might:

  • Regularly blame others or external circumstances for their problems.
  • Often seek sympathy or affirmation, like saying, “Nothing ever goes right for me.”
  • Rarely take accountability or initiative to change their situation, instead wallowing in their perceived misfortunes.

Engaging with Victims can be emotionally draining, but here are some strategies that might help:

  1. Encourage empowerment: Instead of feeding into their narrative, encourage them to take control of their situation.
  2. Suggest professional help: If their victim mentality is deeply ingrained, they might benefit from speaking with a mental health professional.
  3. Set emotional boundaries: While it’s important to show empathy, it’s equally crucial to protect your own emotional well-being.

Type 16: The Manipulator

Next up are “The Manipulators”. These individuals use cunning and deceitful tactics to influence others to suit their needs or agendas. Recognizing and dealing with them can be quite challenging.

Interacting with this type might look like this:

  • They might use guilt or emotional blackmail to influence your decisions or actions.
  • They might twist facts or situations to their advantage, often playing the victim or the hero as needed.
  • They could frequently make you question your judgment or perceptions, a manipulation tactic known as gaslighting.

Here are a few strategies to manage interactions with Manipulators:

  1. Be aware: Understanding their manipulation tactics can help you recognize and address them.
  2. Assert yourself: Stand firm in your decisions and resist being swayed by guilt or pressure.
  3. Seek support: If you find yourself entangled with a manipulator, reach out to trusted friends, family, or a professional for guidance.
How to deal with a Manipulator: An example of this is when someone tries to pressure you into doing something against your better judgment. Stay firm in your decision and express your reasoning without giving in to their tactics. In doing so, you maintain control and preserve your values and boundaries.

Passive-Aggressive Types

We’re now in the realm of Passive-Aggressive Types, characterized by indirect expressions of hostility or negativity.

Type 17: The Passive Aggressors

These people express their anger or resentment in subtle, indirect ways. This could take the form of backhanded compliments, procrastination, or intentional mistakes.

In various situations, The Passive Aggressors might:

  • Use sarcasm to disguise their criticism or resentment.
  • Often express their anger or dissatisfaction indirectly.
  • Frequently display a negative or uncooperative attitude, like saying, “Fine, whatever,” or “I don’t care anyway.”

Dealing with Passive Aggressors can be tricky, but these techniques might prove helpful:

  1. Address the behavior: Discuss the specific actions that you find problematic rather than accusing them of being passive-aggressive.
  2. Promote open communication: Encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts openly and directly.
  3. Model assertive behavior: Show them that it’s okay to express negative feelings in a respectful, straightforward manner.
Did you know? Passive aggressors often struggle to express their emotions and resentments openly due to a fear of rejection or disapproval. Understanding the reasoning behind their behavior can help you approach the situation with empathy.

Controlling Types

As we approach the end of our journey through difficult personalities, we meet the Controlling Types. The characteristic feature of this type is a strong need to dictate or dominate others’ actions or decisions.

Type 18: The Controllers

“The Controllers” like to have everything their way, believing that their methods or ideas are superior. They often lack consideration for others’ thoughts, feelings, or inputs, making interactions with them a challenge.

Interacting with The Controllers might look like this:

  • They might insist on having things their way, like dictating the restaurant choice every time you dine out.
  • They might frequently interrupt or dismiss others’ ideas or opinions, always asserting their own.
  • They could often micromanage or overly interfere in others’ tasks, believing that only their way is correct.

Here’s how you can effectively handle interactions with Controllers:

  1. Assert your independence: Politely but firmly express your right to make your own decisions.
  2. Set clear boundaries: Let them know the limits of their influence over your actions or choices.
  3. Be patient: Changing controlling behaviors takes time, so don’t expect immediate results.
Tip: Another strategy is knowing when to disengage. If the conversation is going in circles or becoming emotionally charged, give yourself permission to walk away. Sometimes, it's more helpful to let things cool down before re-addressing the issue with a fresh perspective.

Openly Aggressive Types

Finally, we come to the Openly Aggressive Types, who display their challenging behaviors quite transparently.

Type 19: The Bullies

These people use intimidation, aggression, or domination to exert their will or power over others. This can often create a toxic and fear-driven environment.

Interacting with The Bullies might look like this:

  • They regularly use threats, aggression, or intimidation to get their way.
  • They often belittle or demean others to assert their power.
  • They use derogatory language, personal attacks, or offensive jokes to undermine others.

Handling Bullies requires courage and assertiveness:

  1. Stand your ground: Show confidence, and don’t allow yourself to be intimidated.
  2. Seek help: If you’re being bullied, report it to a superior or responsible authority.
  3. Support others: If you witness bullying, stand up for the victim and encourage them to seek help.
Did you know? Bullying doesn't just happen in schools. The Workplace Bullying Institute found that about 30% of U.S. workers have experienced bullying at their jobs.

Type 20: The Tanks

Finally, we have “The Tanks”. They bulldoze through conversations or situations, disregarding others’ feelings, opinions, or rights in the process.

Interacting with The Tanks might look like this:

  • When confronted or questioned, they may become defensive or retaliatory. They might say, “You’re just not getting it,” or “I don’t have time to explain everything to you.”
  • They might frequently dominate conversations, silencing others by raising their voice or using assertive language. You might hear them say, “Just let me finish!” or “I know better than you on this!”
  • If their decisions or actions are challenged, they might assert their authority or superiority with comments like, “I’m in charge here!” or “Do as I say. It’s not up for discussion.”
  • They might express impatience or disregard for others’ input, often with statements such as, “This is a waste of time” or “Your concerns are irrelevant.”

Navigating interactions with this type can be difficult, but here are a few tips:

  1. Keep calm: Maintaining composure can prevent the situation from escalating.
  2. Assertively communicate: Express your thoughts and feelings clearly and firmly.
  3. Don’t take it personally: Tanks’ behavior is more a reflection of their own issues than anything about you.
Tip: Another way for handling tanks is to remember that staying collected in the face of their outward aggression can often disarm them, giving you the opportunity to navigate the conversation in a more productive way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can people change their difficult behaviors?

Absolutely, change is possible! Self-awareness is the first step toward change. If individuals recognize their difficult behaviors and their impact on others, they can work on improving their patterns.

They might need help from professionals like therapists or life coaches for this transformation. It’s important to remember that change is a process, not a single event. Patience and perseverance are key.

What if I find myself exhibiting some difficult behaviors?

It’s perfectly okay to discover that you exhibit some difficult behaviors. We all have room for improvement. If you’ve recognized it, that’s already a huge step forward. Here’s what you can do:

Acknowledge: Accept that you might have some behaviors that need change.

Seek Feedback: Ask others for their perspective on your behavior.

Implement Changes: Make an action plan to modify your behaviors.

Seek Professional Help: If needed, seek help from professionals to guide you through the change process.

Remember, it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. The goal is progress, not perfection.


In conclusion, dealing with difficult people is a part of life, and understanding the various types of difficult personalities can greatly facilitate these interactions. These include individuals who are negative, argumentative, passive-aggressive, or self-centered, to name a few. They present unique challenges but also opportunities for personal growth and improvement in communication skills.

Your strategy when dealing with difficult people should be tailored to their specific behavior patterns. Understanding these types can help you in developing patience, empathy, and effective communication techniques.

Remember, the key lies in managing your own reactions and emotions rather than trying to change the other person’s behavior.

Developing these skills doesn’t mean you have to tolerate toxic or abusive behavior. It’s essential to set boundaries and know when to seek help or remove yourself from harmful situations. In all interactions, maintain respect and kindness, even when facing difficult behaviors.

Moreover, everyone can have difficult moments, including ourselves. Recognizing this can promote understanding and empathy toward others. It’s a lifelong process, but mastering these skills can greatly enhance your relationships and overall quality of life.

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Leah Bayubay

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.