How to Manage Difficult Relationships

October 5, 2021

Have you ever met someone who pushed your patience to the limits, annoyed you so effortlessly, and drained your energy?

Have you been so annoyed that even just thinking about that person already agitates you? It could be because of their attitude, personality, or preferences, or it could simply be that this person embodies all of your pet peeves.

That person may be your classmate, colleague, neighbor, relative, or a friend of friend. And you’ve probably found yourself asking God, “Why me? Why do I have to deal with this person?

I used to be too picky with whom I hang out. I would only hang around people I liked and stayed away from those I didn’t. Later on, I realized there was no escape from having to deal with “difficult people.” It's inevitable.

Before, I would just avoid interacting with seemingly difficult people, not because I disliked them, but because I didn’t know how to deal with them. That is until I encountered this verse:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10, NIV)

How do I deal with difficult people that God puts in my life? Do I try to avoid them? Could it be that God is using them to change me and grow my character? The one thing I realized is that I don't have to like them instantly, but I'm called to love them regardless of their flaws.

Here are some practical tips that might help you deal with people you find difficult.

1. Release them from your expectations.

A major source of our frustrations is unmet expectations. Unconsciously, we put certain expectations on how people should behave, respond to us, and treat us.

When dealing with people, it’s best to suspend our judgments and expectations and to exert real effort to get to know the person more. When we release people from our expectations and prejudices, we will begin to understand their character and appreciate their good qualities.

When we make quick judgments on people based on our personal standards and convictions, we open ourselves up to frustrations. We close our doors to people we can potentially learn from just because they are different from us. Instead, we should reach out to them, listen intently to their stories without prejudice and expectations, and find qualities that we can appreciate about them.

My personal rule is to not put labels on people based on their physical appearance or external behavior. Instead, I try to dig deep through conversations and try to understand them.

People may be unaware that they come across as difficult or unpleasant. But God can use us to help them grow to become better people.

2. Understand where they are coming from.

I remember having a conflict with a friend because I wanted to show her how annoying she was. We ended up hurting one another, and it took years for our relationship to be restored.

I nearly lost a friend because I acted on impulse—without understanding where she was coming from. I was too arrogant, thinking that I was right. I focused too much on proving that she was wrong and that she needed to change her ways.

It would have been an entirely different story if I had chosen to listen to her and tried to understand her better. I realized how important it is to give people the benefit of the doubt. We all have different personalities, backgrounds, life experiences, and therefore, have different values and responses to situations.

As Paul wrote:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:3, NIV)

3. Be the kind of friend that you want to have.

What qualities are you looking for in a friend? Think hard about it and strive to be that kind of friend.

At one point, we may have also become difficult to deal with. We may have also tested other people's patience. Nevertheless, some still showed us love and understanding and helped us grow and mature.

I’ve been a full-time missionary for more than a decade. I have spent years re-tracing my actions, trying to win back some of the friends that I had lost along the way. If I were to talk to my 21-year-old self, here’s what I would tell her:

“The world doesn’t revolve around you. Always give people the benefit of the doubt and fight for your relationships. Don’t give up on people. Always seek to understand them."

Dealing with seemingly difficult people takes a lot of energy—it can drain you, keep you up at night, or make you feel helpless. But God gives grace to the humble. And when we humble ourselves by giving other people a chance, we experience the grace of unconditional love and maybe even develop a lifelong friendship.

This article was originally published in

K.Luv is an artist, a wife, and a campus missionary, who is also known as Ninang K. She is a fine arts graduate from Far Eastern University (FEU). She is married to Timothy and they have a daughter, Ari.

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