How to Deal With Sensitive People

People who are highly sensitive emotionally can be hard to handle. You never know what seemingly innocent statement or action will hurt their feelings and shut them in or set them off, and when that happens, it’s usually tough to fix the situation.

I’ve dealt with my fair share of sensitive people in life. Also, in my communication coaching, I frequently work with people who are dealing with a highly sensitive person or more in their own lives, and they wanna do it better. Based on these experiences, I wanna provide you some practical advice on how to deal with sensitive people effectively.

Avoid These 4 Sensitive Kinds of Statements

I’ve found that there are 4 kinds of statements in particular that are likely to trigger a sensitive person:

  • Jokes about them. Because they don’t see them as friendly jokes, they seem them as you mocking them.
  • Criticism, even when it’s pointed at groups they identify with, not at them directly. Because they take it as a rejection of their own person.
  • Disagreeing with them. Again, because they perceive it as a personal rejection rather than a disagreement on a specific idea.
  • Firm commands or blunt orders. Because they commonly feel belittled when receiving such orders.

If you wanna have better relationships with sensitive people, bear in mind these 4 types of statements and cut down on them when dealing with sensitive people.

I do not encourage you to avoid them all the time, at any cost. They still have a role in communication. Sometimes a negative feedback or divergent opinion is important to be expressed, despite the fact it will upset the other person.

I do encourage you though to work on consciously recognizing when you’re about to make a type of statement that may trigger emotionally a sensitive person, and carefully weigh the cost vs. the benefit to see if it’s worth it. Sometimes it will; many times you’ll be much better off if you just shut up.

Learn Sensitive People’s Expectations

Beyond things that upset the majority of sensitive people, each sensitive person has their own little triggers. This is because each has their own map of reality, which includes their own views and expectations on how others should treat them. And you may not share the same views.

For example, you may go out to dinner with a person who expects you pick up the check, and even though you’re fine with doing that, you don’t even think about it, because in their place you would not have the same expectation. Such differences in perspectives create further complications.

SensitiveThe best way to deal with this thorny issue is to try to learn more about people’s expectations, especially the highly sensitive ones.

Ask them questions about the things they value and how they like to be treated. Listen attentively and try not to judge them, encourage them to communicate openly with you.

The better you understand a person’s expectations and perspectives, the better equipped you are to fulfill them. This doesn’t mean that you always have to cater to their expectations. Sometimes they will clash with your own needs, and your needs will come first. But it’s still good to know their expectations and be able to cater to them when you want to do so.

Fixing the Situation with Style

Unavoidably though, as effectively as you manage your words and actions around sensitive people, once in a while you will still do or say something that will upset them.

Most folks are bad at handling such situations. They will often try to apologize and fix things in a way that only makes things worse. I’ve heard many apologies like: “I’m sorry! But it was only a joke. What’s your problem, anyway?”

Such a comment will not work well with a sensitive person, because it further invalidates them, making them feel even worse.

When it comes to apologizing to a sensitive person, I have one golden rule: show them you are not rejecting them as a person. Because that’s really the big problem with sensitive people: they take jokes, criticism, divergent opinions and blunt orders as a personal rejection.

For example, after making a joke that got them offended, a good comment to fix the situations is something like: “I’m sorry, I was just joking. You know I think you’re a cool person and I like spending time with you.”

This comment reassures the person that the joke did not mean anything bad, and will likely make them feel much better. Get used to making such comments with sensitive people at least once in a while, if you wanna stay on their good side.

Sometimes, Dealing with Sensitive People Cautiously Is Not Worth It

The strategies above for improving your communication with sensitive people are based on the premise that it’s worth it. The sensitive person has some noteworthy redeemable qualities that make it worth trying to have a good relationship with them.

Sometimes though, this is not the case. All the effort to be on your toes constantly, adapt yourself and try to fix things in dealing with a sensitive person, is simply not worth it considering what you get in return. The benefits do not justify the cost.

In such cases, you’re better off not trying to cater to a sensitive person, and treating them as you would treat most people (which I imagine is a considerate, but not hyper-considerate way). If it upsets them or drives them away, so be it.

Some folks are not comfortable with hearing such advice. They don’t like the idea of letting people get upset at them, stay upset at them, and sometimes leave them. Usually I find this is because they care too much about having other people’s approval. They want everybody to like them and they wanna get along with everybody.

This is simply not a healthy attitude. You wanna learn to be okay with some people not liking you and not enjoying your company. You wanna learn to stop seeking everybody’s approval.

With this is mind, I recommend you check out this practical presentation, in which I’ll teach you my step-by-step, tried and tested method for gaining social confidence and stopping seeking people’s approval. If you struggle with breaking bad relationships or tolerating disapproval from others, this presentation will help you a lot.

Dealing with sensitive people is tricky. But with a good grasp of their psychology, strong communication strategies and the right attitude, it is something you can do effectively. Such tools are what I’ve offered you in this article.

For more communication and relationship advice from me, get right now onboard my free newsletter and I’ll talk to you some more there.

How to Deal with Social Pressure and Follow Your Own Path

Sometimes your goals and behaviors, even though they make rational sense, will come into conflict with the way others would like you to act and live. When this happens, such people may try to make you conform using emotional tools such as sarcasm, criticism, withdrawal of approval, threats or rejection.

The use of such tools by a number of people to exert influence over you is what’s known as social pressure. It’s a force meant to make you conform to the will of others around you and, more broadly, to the standards of society.

I’ve had many conversations with people who’ve made numerous sacrifices in life due to social pressure. Almost without exception, when they look back, they regret having given in to the desires of others instead of doing what they truly wanted to do.

This is why it’s key to know how to deal with social pressure. It frees you to follow your own path in life and do so without any shame. With this in mind, I’d like to give you a few practical ideas:

1. Remember That the Majority Is Often Wrong

Social pressure is often a powerful force because when several people show disapproval towards something we do, we automatically assume they are right and we are wrong, since we are alone and they are many. Our minds tend to operate on the principle that the majority is always correct.

However, in practice, that is frequently not true. In fact, let’s face it: most people don’t really know what they’re talking about most of the time. They believe various ideas simply because they’ve been exposed to them thousands of times from a young age (which is basic indoctrination) and they never bothered to question them; then they go through life following those ideas, living unimpressive lives, and expecting others to do the same.

So when you consider this, it makes no sense to give authority to an idea just because a lot of people believe it. If anything, it’s probably a sign it’s a flawed idea. This is something to always bear in mind when confronted with social pressure.

2. Don’t Blow Things Out Of Proportion

Sometimes social pressure can take pretty rough forms. Like if your whole family threatens to kick you out of the house and disown you unless you get married. It’s not a tragedy, but it’s not a pleasant situation either.

social pressureHowever, the vast majority of times, social pressure takes light and brief forms. Like if your friends tease you a couple of times when going out for not drinking alcohol, or a few people give you weird looks on the street because you’re dressed in an unusual way.

It’s common though for individuals dealing with such minor events to mentally make a really big deal out of them. They start thinking that everybody hates them, and that they are complete screw-ups. Their minds dramatize and exaggerate.

When dealing with social pressure, it’s important to notice how you think about it, and keep your thinking in check (here is more detailed advice on how to do this). Acknowledge what’s happening, but don’t blow it out of proportions. It will save you a lot of stress.

3. Develop a Strong Sense of Self

In my experience as a confidence and communication coach, there is strong correlation between how sensitive a person is to social pressure and how weak their sense of self is.

People with a weak sense of self let how others see them define them, and abundant approval from others is the one crucial factor that makes them feel good about themselves. Conversely, if others disagree with them or disapprove their conduct, they instantly feel invalidated and worthless.

Cultivating a strong sense of self implies getting to know yourself and your strengths, developing a positive self-image, and improving your social confidence.

This is a big and crucial topic, so I’m not gonna address it in this brief article. Instead, I’ve created a free instructional video where I share my tried and tested advice for improving your confidence and developing a strong sense of self. I suggest you go here and watch it right now. You won’t be disappointed.

4. Find People Who Accept You as You Are

The fact many people don’t approve of what you do or how you do it doesn’t mean that all of humanity is rejecting you. But it can often feel that way; unless there are also people in your life who accept you the way you are.

These people can be either A) like-minded people, who are similar to you in goals and behavior, or B) open-minded people, who have a lot of tolerance towards diversity.

Such people are great because they confirm that being true to yourself is not a death sentence for your social life. It’s reassuring to know that you can follow your path, and even though many will object, some people are fine with it and will keep being your friends.

If you lack such people in your social circle, I encourage you wholeheartedly to find them and keep them close. Get involved in social events, meet new people, get to know them better and spot the ones who accept you as you are. Make friends with such people and foster those friendships. For an unconventional person in particular, they are priceless.

Once you’ve learned to deal with it, social pressure is really no big deal. All that will truly matter to you is that you understand why you wanna do what you wanna do, and it feels right to you.

You’ll feel motivated to follow your own path and you won’t be distracted by herd-like opposition. You’ll live true to yourself and you’ll be proud of yourself for it.

How to Deal with Controlling People

One variety of human beings we tend to have too many of in our lives (too many as in, more than zero) is controlling people.

Considering the stress they can create, knowing how to deal with controlling people effectively is serious business and it requires a key set of people skills.

Controlling People Explained

Fundamentally, controlling people have a powerful need to control others (doooh!). This need is reinforced by their belief (conscious or subconscious) that they can bend the will of other people to their own and use others to get their way.

Having lots of practice, most controlling people are real masters of pressuring and manipulating others. They often have very good people skills (the bad kind) and may initially come off as very charming.

The basisof beingable to deal with controlling people effectively, from my perspective, is making them understand that they cannot pull your strings. Thus, you are shaking one of their core beliefs and you have the best chances of them backing off.

4 Principles for Dealing with Controlling People

Starting from this basis, there are 4 key people skills principles I encourage you to apply, in order to deal successfully with controlling people:

1. Distinguish pressure from persuasion. When someone presents facts and logical arguments for doing something, while allowing you the freedom to choose, that is persuasion.

When someone uses lying, exaggeration, manipulation, drama and tries to take away your freedom to choose, that is psychological pressure. “If you care about me you’ll help me, nobody cares about me, oh poor little me” is not a persuasive approach, it’s a manipulative one, often used by toxic people.

Practice analyzing how people try to influence you and what methods they use. You will sharpen your skills of distinguishing pleasure from persuasion.

2. Say “No”, “Yes” and “Fuck you”. Firm personal boundaries are often set using firm, strong words. It may not sound polite, but trust me, when you are dealing with controlling people, this is how to get the job done. Honesty and directness in communication have a mesmerizing power to convey confidence and create results.

Practice saying “no” when you don’t really want to do something instead of trying to bail out subtly. Practice saying “yes” when you want to do something other’s don’t want you to do, and learn to tell people off sometimes.

3. Do not submit to pressuring behavior. When they can’t pressure you with words, controlling people will resort to pressuring behavior. The logic of the game is simple: whenever you don’t play by their rules, they withdraw a certain positive behavior or insert a negative one.

Controlling people may stop talking to you, helping you, doing their chores, having sex with you etc., in an attempt to get you to play by their rules. If you submit, you lose. There are only two ways to deal successfully with this kind of behavior: either not reacting, or withdrawing a positive behavior yourself.

4. Do not seek the approval of one person. We all need to be approved and loved by people. It’s a human thing. However, we never, truly, really need the approval of one specific person.

One important attitude lesson I’ve learned is that no one person is irreplaceable in your life. Realize this, let it sink in, and you have the freedom to piss off a controlling person without feeling bad. Thus, they lose their major source of power over you.

Learning how to deal with controlling people usually requires at least some serious self-coaching. In all this process, if you find it hard, keep in mind that you are improving a set of people skills with a positive influence that stretches into many areas of your life.

PS: I now blog and share advice over here. Connect with me.

Image courtesy of thorinside

How to Deal With Toxic People

We’ve all met them: they are the people who drain you of energy instead of enriching you, the people who pull you down instead of pushing you up, the people who require more then they can provide; the negative, wining, needy, manipulative people who can turn a happy day into a living hell.

I call them toxic people. One thing I notice is that no matter how good our people skills are in general, most of us have problems with dealing effectively with this kind of people. Even those with really sharp people skills often get caught up in the polluting relationships (personal or professional) toxic people create.

The good news is that there are effective ways to deal with toxic people. Working as a communication coach, I came to realize there are certain patterns of behavior and communication which work really well with this kind of persons. Here are the most significant of them:

1. Avoid toxic people

I believe the best way to deal with toxic people is to not deal with them at all; to avoid them. In some cases it may not be an option, but more often than not, it is. This is why I encourage you to really think about the options you truly have with every toxic person in your life.

It is common to think you have to deal with someone, when you actually do not. It is also common to believe you can get a toxic person to change while interacting with them. My experience is that unless you are a professional, you will not get them to change and trying it simply is not worth it.

2. Anticipate toxic people

It is harder than usual to get out of relationships with a toxic person. Toxic people tend to have this ability to make you feel bad for avoiding them and to attach to you like a leech. This is why it’s important to be able to spot them quickly, and start avoiding them before the relationship truly develops.

The best way I know to do this is to come up with a list of clues which you believe might indicate a toxic person. Then, every time you meet a person and a significant number of these clues are there, distance yourself from that person.

3. Set firm boundaries

Toxic people will often use you, one way or another. The may complain to you all the time while you listen hopelessly (?), or they may constantly get you to get them out of trouble. This is where boundaries come in. Boundaries are reflections of what you are and are not willing to do.

Setting firm boundaries means not allowing toxic people to use you in any of these ways. It means refusing to listen to them complain, refusing to get them out of trouble. When you have firm boundaries, there is basically nothing bad any person can do to you.

4. Get over your guilt

Most toxic people are very skilled at making others feel guilty when they don’t do what they want. This makes it particularly hard to set and maintain firm boundaries with them. But, there is a way out of this dilemma: getting rid of your guilt. It is your own guilt which toxic people use to break down your boundaries.

When you can set and maintain boundaries with them without feeling guilty, the weapon they have against you is gone. Realize that your guilt is irrational, pointless, and it is used against you by toxic people. This is the best way to get over it.

5. Do not defend yourself

When you avoid toxic people and you set boundaries with them, they frequently resort to accusing you, complaining and playing the victim in an attempt to get you to change your behavior.

One of the worst things you can do when this happens is to defend yourself. It is usually a futile action and it only keeps an immature dialog going which eventually helps the toxic person get what they want. You won’t get anywhere with them by defending yourself and your actions.

Unfortunately, toxic people are everywhere. And they tend to attach themselves to those persons who are kind and have the most to offer. When you have the people skills to deal effectively with toxic people, you have the option to respond to their attaching in the best ways for you.

As for helping toxic people change their ways, I encourage you to leave/pass this task to the professionals in this area.

PS: I now blog and share advice over here. Connect with me.

Image courtesy of Jesse Drapper