Dealing with People You Can’t Stand


“Dealing with backstabbers, there was one thing I learned. They’re only powerful when you got your back turned.” — Eminem

Did you ever get the feeling that everybody is against you?

Or does it seem like you’re trying to do the right thing, but everybody is being a jerk?

Don’t focus on the people.

Focus on their behaviors and what you’d like to do about them.

And focus on your own behaviors so you can help people help you.

Deal with Bad Behavior in a Positive Way

The book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner has been helping good people deal with bad behavior in a positive, professional way.

In this book, the authors teach you how to identify the 10 most unwanted behaviors and how to deal with them.

They also teach you how difficult people think, what they fear, and why they act the way they do.

Action Nuggets from Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

Action Book Nuggets are brief articles that turn insight into action.  I show how to apply ideas from a book to make them actionable and relevant.

Here are my action-oriented book nuggets from Dealing with People You Can’t Stand:

  • Five Ways to Strengthen a Relationship – When somebody does something right, tell them what they did right, tell them how others were positively impacted, tell them how you are grateful, project positive intent, and let them know you’re looking forward to more in the future.  When somebody doesn’t do something they promised, tell them what they did, tell them how others were negatively impacted, tell them how you feel about it, project a positive intent, and ask them what they’ll do differently in the future.
  • Five Ways to Ensure Commitment and Follow-through – You can ensure commitment and follow through by asking for their word of honor, asking them to summarize the commitment, getting them to write it down, settin weird deadlines, and describing negative consequences.

Reference Nuggets from Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

Reference Book Nuggets are brief articles that explain an idea or concept or provide an overview.

Here are my reference nuggets from Dealing with People You Can’t Stand:

  • Ten Types of Difficult People – The 10 Types of difficult people are: Tank, Sniper, Know-It-All, Think-They-Know-It-All, Grenade Person, Yes Person, Maybe Person, Nothing Person, No Person, Whiners
  • The Lens of Human Understanding – The Lens of Human Understanding is a way to better understand behavior.  By observing behavior, you can understand whether somebody is more task-focused or more people-focused, and whether they are acting more aggressively or more passively.  You can also use this insight to better understand intent.  By helping people get what they want, you get more of what you want.  It’s not just a lens for others.  It’s also a lens for ourselves.
  • What Determines Focus and Assertiveness  People behave based on their intent or what they want to accomplish, and they do what they do based on what seems to be most important in any given moment.

10 Types of Difficult People

Difficult people aren’t actually that difficult once you understand why they do what they do.  A key phrase to keep in mind is that people make the most of the resources they have.

Here are the 10 Types of Difficult People at a glance:

  1. Grenade Person – After a brief period of calm, the Grenade person explodes into unfocused ranting and raving about things that have nothing to do with the present circumstances.
  2. Know-It-Alls – Seldom in doubt, the Know-It-All person has a low tolerance for correction and contradiction. If something goes wrong, however, the Know-It-All will speak with the same authority about who’s to blame – you!
  3. Maybe Person – In a moment of decision, the Maybe Person procrastinates in the hope that a better choice will present itself.
  4. No Person – A No Person kills momentum and creates friction for you. More deadly to morale than a speeding bullet, more powerful than hope, able to defeat big ideas with a single syllable.
  5. Nothing Person – A Nothing Person doesn’t contribute to the conversation. No verbal feedback, no nonverbal feedback, Nothing. What else could you expect from … the Nothing Person.
  6. Snipers – Whether through rude comments, biting sarcasm, or a well-timed roll of the eyes, making you look foolish is the Sniper’s specialty.
  7. Tanks – The Tank is confrontational, pointed and angry, the ultimate in pushy and aggressive behavior
  8. Think-They-Know-It-Alls – Think-They-Know-It-All people can’t fool all the people all the time, but they can fool some of the people enough of the time, and enough of the people all of the time – all for the sake of getting some attention.
  9. Whiners – Whiners feel helpless and overwhelmed by an unfair world. Their standard is perfection, and no one and nothing measures up to it.
  10. Yes Person – In an effort to please people and avoid confrontation, Yes People say “yes” without thinking things through.

The 10 Types of Difficult People are actually labels for 10 types of difficult behaviors.  It’s the behavior that you need to focus on.

The other key to remember is that these behaviors are not just behaviors in other people.  They are behaviors that any of us can demonstrate when we are not at our best.

And the whole point of building your interpersonal skills is so that you can help bring out the best, when people are behaving at their worst … yourself included.

Photo by Phillie Casablanca

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  1. Thanks for the review, J.D, I like your take on my coauthored work.

    You might also enjoy my most recent work, where I’ve gone beyond the dealing stage of the relationship to the proactive influencing stage. It’s the Insider’s Guide To The Art Of Persuasion, and I blog on this topic regularly.

    Based on what you’ve written, I’d be very interested in interviewing you for my next book (to be finished this year and published next by Hyperion Press.) If you’re interested in sharing some of your personal communication stories with me, you can contact me through my website,

    Best wishes,
    Rick Kirschner

  2. Hey dr. K

    I will definitely like to check out your Insider’s Guide to the Art of Persuasion.

    I regularly whiteboard the lens of human understanding for colleagues I mentor and it really takes their effectiveness to a new level.

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