Ways to Be Kind to Difficult People

There are many ways to be kind to difficult people. Besides, their frustrations and negativity allow you to exercise your patience and, thus, bring you peace of mind.
Ways to Be Kind to Difficult People
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Anyone can be kind to difficult people. In fact, contrary to what you may think, it isn’t only a shield but a communication channel. It gives you a new perspective from which to see things calmly and clearly. Not taking their negativity and bad mood personally helps you balance your emotions and prevent frustrations. As you can see, you must be able to effectively handle these kinds of complex situations.

Some people have the wrong idea of kindness. It’s often associated with “turning the other cheek“, meaning a person must leave aside part of themselves for the well-being of another. Furthermore, you may assume that a kind person lacks the character to defend their rights and dignity with. That they’re willing to give everything in exchange for nothing.

It’s a mistake to assume that these presumptions are accurate. This is because kindness is about more than just being generous and considerate. In fact, it’s one of the best interpersonal skills out there as well as a psychological value that confers well-being to anyone who practices it.

Darwin knew how to be kind to difficult people

Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology and director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, stated something rather interesting in his book Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. In it, he discussed many of the theories Charles Darwin defended and that were either modified or misunderstood as time went on. For example, Darwin never said that human evolution depended exclusively on competitiveness or on the fittest specimen. In fact, he was more interested in survival from a social cooperation perspective.

Thus, in books such as The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, he goes so far as to extol the importance of kindness when dealing with human daily difficulties.

“In order to master compassion, you have to spend time getting to know monsters. When you can do that you will see that there are no monsters, only people that acted like monsters because no one gave them the time or compassion to hear their story.”

-Shannon L. Alder-

Three friends high-fiving.

Ways to be kind to difficult people

Firstly, you must first understand some things about being kind to difficult people. Studies such as those conducted by Kanako Otsuko and Barbara L. Fredrickson of the University of Tokyo are a reminder that the following principles are based on this dimension.

  • Kindness is about being able to see other people’s needs objectively.
  • It implies being proactive because wishing to be kind isn’t enough, you must actively practice it.
  • Likewise, kindness is about truth. Thus, being sincere is a must.
  • Kind people have flexible thinking and act maturely.
  • Finally, kindness is about respecting yourself in order to be able to respect others.

Be kind to difficult people, as it allows you to avoid their negativity

Kindness is about attaining inner peace. It’s about attaining that balance where you don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by what others do or say. Thus, this personal state will allow you to set boundaries in your dealings with difficult people.

This serenity of character will also keep you from being affected by certain words and types of behaviors. Likewise, you’ll be less vulnerable to states of stress.

Trying to understand people makes it easier to be kind to them

Kindness is about empathy. Only when you’re able to put ourselves in another person’s shoes (without being harmed by it) will you be able to understand and react to them appropriately. Keep in mind there’s often a complex reality behind difficult people.

Thus, it’s common for them to have low self-esteem due to a complex past as well as unaddressed resentments and many, many fears. As you can see, being able to understand a difficult person is always a good first step.

A woman being kind to difficult people.

Become a better communicator

Communication is key when it comes to being kind to difficult people. You’ll soon see results if you keep your cool, are respectful, and are driven by a desire to do good or improve your interactions.

As we mentioned above, a kind person is usually sincere. It may be hard to believe but kindness is always a good strategy to make some progress with difficult people. Being assertive but respectful, warm but firm, and kind but rigorous will allow you to effectively deal with these types of people.

Know when to leave and when to stay

Kindness is stubborn and knows when something is worthwhile. Also, it understands which moments and people are worth time and effort. Some difficult people act a certain way as a result of trauma or due to personal situations they don’t know how to handle.

Be respectful and try to understand their perspectives. Most importantly, do so because it makes you feel good about yourself. Because goodness always brings you benefits and boosts your well-being.

Furthermore, you must know when kindness just won’t do and it’s time to quit. S ome situations can greatly disturb your inner peace whether you like it or not. These types of experiences won’t bring you any benefits. Quite the contrary, in fact.

A person walking barefoot.

As you can see, knowing when to distance yourself from a given situation is also wise. You must always seek your well-being before that of others, especially when they’re bringing you down.

In conclusion, don’t ever neglect the true value and anatomy of kindness, as it’s the glass you should use to look at the world in order to act accordingly. Exercising wisdom will bring you a lot of success in anything you do.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Dacher, Keltner (2009)  Nacido para ser bueno: La ciencia de una vida significativa. W. W. Norton & Company

  • Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J., Otsui, K., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2006). Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindnesses intervention. Journal of Happiness Studies7(3), 361–375. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-005-3650-z

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.