The Most Interesting Person in the World

Dealing with Difficult People

Posted on: September 8, 2010

If you don’t think you can use improv skills to diffuse otherwise difficult situations, then, man, you haven’t been living. Take for example the game “Hitch-Hiker” (or “Taxi Cab”, for children with fearful parents.) In this exercise, the driver takes on the characteristics of the hitch-hiker. Every question is answered in the positive – “Yes, I’m going to the mall,” or, “Yes, my back hurts too.” Their obsession becomes your obsession. Their problems become your problems.

Not that the lesson here is to take on the characteristic of anybody who is bothering you – far from it. But next time you feel brought down by a friend or foe’s catty, judgmental, harsh, bossy, condescending, or otherwise negative attitude, don’t let it push your buttons. Stick up for yourself, and deflect their attitude back to them.

Try the “Us Against The World” approach:

Her: You didn’t staple your report right! Do it again!!
New Response: You’re right. Some people get staplers all wrong. I want to staple well, just like you.

Or the “I’m Not Intimidated, I Can Have That Attitude” approach:

Him: Those people are so lowly. I saw them at a thrift store the other day!
New Response: I know what you mean. What thrift store were you at?

The goal isn’t to change a person–although, it might make them aware of how they appear, and prolonged exposure to your new attitude could have an effect. But the more noticeable impact is in how you relate to the person. Respond proactively, not reactively.


2 Responses to "Dealing with Difficult People"


I’ve wanted to write about exactly this for sooo long. You are obviously less lazy or scatter brained than me. : ) I heartily agree with your point and love the simple suggestions. Thanks.

Would also love an example of the super challenge… a direct attack on our character… how would you use this approach?

Hi David,

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate your comments.

Using improv to deflect an attack on your character… Hmm. That’s a really good question. Thanks for the suggestion — I will use that as the basis for my next Improv Tip!

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