Dealing with Difficult People

Teaching and dealing with others in the workplace can be sometimes tricky. Especially, when your job is to help both the kids and staff you know you will never make everyone happy. It's physically and emotionally impossible. Most teachers just have to make their kids, parents, and principal happy. 

Our jobs mean we have to make kids, parents, principal, all other teachers, the PTA, supervisors, and professional associations happy. 

I'm OK with that. Because in my job I don't grade - I give out awesome books! I help fix technology and make things work. I connect with the community to share the awesome stuff that goes on every day in our school. Really, Library Media Specialists have the BEST job in the school. 


Some teachers won't remember the 99 times you helped out and only that 1 time where you couldn't. Bless their hearts. If you have to choose between making a teacher happy or a kid -- always side with the kid. Always. A good teacher will not only understand but applaud that. Those that aren't, well they won't. Bless their hearts.

One of my not-so-guilty pleasures is admiring (and occasionally saving up and acquiring) fun jewelry and a few nice purses. (But on a teacher's salary - well, you  know I love a good deal!) This is my fav Luxury Vlogger, Mrs. Sophie Shohet of London. But rather than share her unboxing video of the strangely ugly but amazing Christian Dior denim Oblique Saddle Bag, I'm going to ask you to watch this video on dealing with difficult people.

That was brilliant, Sophie - Thank you!

Here's a technique I use with passive aggressive people. Those people who say stray comments, backhanded compliments, little jabs that are hard to define but are definitely toxic and meant to break you down. These kinds of people, usually bullying types, rarely get called out on their game and people usually acquiesce and give over to them just to get them out of their face...what I do when they say something offhand?

I'll stop -- get real quiet -- tilt my head to the side -- wrinkle my brow (no botox yet!) --and say wonderingly (NOT sarcastically or with anger, mind)

"Wow, what did you mean by that? I'm confused"

and SHUT UP. 

Don't fill in the silence. Let them explain. Hold them accountable. Be respectful. If they try and brush it off - gently say "No really, help me understand please" Whatever the answer is LISTEN to it.  Have a moment of empathy. Think how difficult it must be to live in their skin. Realize that that kind of behavior is usually is rooted in hurt and fear. But they also try and use it to control people. Don't get sucked into their game. Try to understand but be firm and find the daring and courage to say "When you say things like that it I find it really confusing and hurtful. [smile slightly but say smoothly and firmly] Please knock it off." ---if they get defensive and try to turn it around just shrug both physically, mentally, and MOVE ON. That's it. Walk away. You were professional, firm, and assertive. But being argumentative with passive aggressive people will never work. They may try to come back with bluster but they need to let that marinate. Be kind.

You may just have to realize that's their burden and your anger fuels their power so smile, shake your head lightly, and don't let it bother you or get under your skin. Only YOU can control you. When in doubt, Bless their hearts. I use this super flexible Southern phrase all the time. (THANK Ya'll SCASL!)  it makes you calm down, keeps ya from cussin, and really, Bless their hearts.

I know of myself that I talk TOO much. WAY too much. I also use snarky humor to cope with difficult situations and I can be socially awkward.  Like on the spectrum awkward. I have a brother and three nephews on the Autism spectrum, no doubt I've got some undiagnosed bit of that in me, too. 

But my mouth runneth over when nervous or awake. I say the wrong things. I get awkward when people compliment me and sometimes not knowing what to say, I brush it off when I should just stop, smile and say a simple "thank you."

I can be impatient in my haste to get everything done. I have to apologize. Often. I'm working on this. I've sought help for this flaw. We are all works in progress. I even made this graphic years ago to help me remember! I put it in my office on the side of my bookcase that only I could see!

If the culture of your school is toxic, consider putting in a voluntary transfer. Changing schools is a refresh and new start. It's like getting a new job! (Says the girl who has only taught in 2 schools in 30 years!) But, I've seen friends really grow and energize their teaching practice by switching schools .

What tips do you have? Is this something we could improve?

Dealing with Passive-Aggressives Without Losing Your Mind
9 Useful Strategies to Dealing with Difficult People at Work
10 Tips for Dealing With Difficult People at Work

20 Expert Tactics for Dealing with Difficult People | Psychology Today

You Can Learn How to Deal With Difficult People at Work


  1. Beautifully said with grace and wisdom.


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