Have you ever witnessed someone going out of his or her way to do something really nice for a complete stranger? Paying it forward is an attribute of positive minded people, who believe that spreading ‘good’ will create even more positive energy in the world and strengthen relationships. I’m a firm believer, and I believe that good or bad karma always comes back to you depending on which one you are offering others.

So what does this have to do with dealing with people that you simple can’t stand?  I personally have been in this situation. I typically try EVERYTHING to improve relationships.  However, after the many rejections of lunch offers, cancellation of meetings to discuss our issues, and the constant criticism, I knew I needed a different approach if I wanted to keep my sanity. There are many resources which list tactics for dealing with difficult people, such as in this article of Psychology Today. These are helpful, but I found my coach training directed me to look for the answers within. I knew I couldn’t change the behavior of others. I landed on three principles, which I still follow today.

Three Principles

  1. Manage what you can control.You cannot control others.  You can only control yourself. So focus on everything you have control over and do the absolute best job that you can in that area. Treat everyone with respect, be helpful, be collaborative and kill them with kindness.  If they are just being difficult, it will show, while you are exhibiting your absolute best side in trying to move the relationship forward.
  2. Don’t let bad behavior by others change your behavior.No matter how bad it gets, don’t let bad behavior of others change who you are. Respond professionally and rise above it. Your response says more about you than it does about them. Think about how you would respond if you were dealing with a friendly colleague. Respond from that energy.
  3. Pay it forward, regardless of how others treat you.


A consistent positive attitude will always win the day. You may never ‘win over’ a difficult colleague, but you will attract other positive people to you, your projects and your leadership.