Coping with Difficult People

These days, I’m rarely around difficult people.  Why?  Because I work from home. [tweetthis] I’m around two delightful people all day long. Loved-One and myself. TaDa, problem solved.[/tweetthis]


There was a time when my day was filled with difficult people. And, in the interest of honesty, I may, just may, have been a difficult person. Maybe. Let’s just say that my career in the pharmaceutical industry involved a lot of conflict and a lot of strong people with strong opinions.

Lately, a certainTweeter in the news keeps reminding me of a valuable set of tapes I listened to and share:  “Coping with Difficult People,” by Robert M. Bramson PhD.  Although Bramson describes several personality traits that may become difficult, the ones I have the most trouble with are the Sherman Tanks, Exploders, and Snipers, all aggressive types of behaviors.

  • Sherman Tanks are people who run roughshod, bluster, and bully.
  • Exploders, well, they explode in an angry tirade;
  • Snipers hit with sarcasm and humor from behind cover.

Twitter is a great place for Sherman Tanks.  The most common response is to try to fight fire with fire.  Bramson point out the error of this response.  He says that even if you win, it turns a Sherman Tank into a Sniper, also happy Twitter users.

Bramson advises us to stand up to Sherman Tanks, don’t explain, don’t apologize, use active listening, and state what you want.

This week, I saw successful Twitter response to an aggressive Twitter attack:

Sherman Tank:  “Chicago murder rate is record setting..If Mayor can’t do it he must ask for federal help!”

Response: “If federal government really wants to help, it can fund summer jobs programs for at-risk youth and pass meaningful gun laws.”


Fighting with a Sherman Tank doesn’t work because even if you win, you just drive the Sherman Tank undercover and he becomes a Sniper.

The best way to deal with a Sniper is to flush him out.  A sarcastic comment can be followed with “I thought I heard a dig in that comment,” or you can ask the crowd if they agree. From personal experience, this technique is really scary.  I mean, I really felt like I stuck my neck under the guillotine when I said, “It sounds like you’re saying I’m stupid.” We were in the middle of an executive meeting when the sniper fired his first shot.  My heart pounded in my throat.  He backed down with an almost blubbery, “no, no, that’s not what I meant,” and it was weeks before he fired another shot.  Here’s how it might play out on Twitter:

Sniper: ” Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly.”

Response: “Have a Happy and Blessed New Year.”

In this particular care, Sniper’s original New Year’s wish seems to have disappeared.

Bramson’s advice for dealing with Exploders is to do nothing.  Wait for the explosion to be over and say “I want to hear everything you have to say, but not this way.” One pundit suggested that each time the Exploder tweets we respond with an unflattering photo of Exploder with no additional comment.  Perhaps that kind of response might be viewed as “active listening” in the Twitterverse, “I hear what you say, and you seem angry.  Or perhaps it’s another way of being a Sniper.

Exploder:  “things they did and said…A total double standard! Media, as usual, gave them a pass.”


I’m not sure, but this response sorta tickles me, which probably says something about the ways I can be difficult.

Regardless of whether you agree with the Sherman Tank’s, Exploder’s, or Sniper’s, people who perfect this behavior are masters at getting what they want.

I’ve shared my tapes and Bramsom’s advice with many, many people, including a few of my grandchildren.  The tools really work.  The best thing about Bramsom’s advice is I can manage a situation and feel good about myself and empowered.

Have you tried any of Bramsom’s techniques?  What kind of difficult people do you cope with? What works for you?