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Getting Along With Difficult People in Online Business

Let’s face it. There are difficult people in the world. And, they don’t only exist in families or other social groups. They exist online, too! They exist within the framework of content marketing, too! Sometimes (probably most of the time) when you least expect it. Like, what did you do, right? And, we know how important content marketing is, so we hope to get along with everyone, don’t we?

Etiquette, Ethics, and Different Perspectives

Ok, maybe the thought of etiquette and ethics makes you cringe. Like, why should we care and especially online?

Actually, online is a good reason to care about etiquette and ethics. It is also a great reason to be cognizant of the different perspectives that may exist, for many different reasons. And, no, I’m not just saying that because my Ph.D. dissertation is about ethics and I study things like employee and employer dynamics and operations. But, that has helped because I spend my nose in the books, on that very topic, for many hours of each week and it has been enlightening. Ok, not books, but a Kindle 🙂 and online scientific journals.

So, if we have a difficult person in our lives, one thing that may help is to practice that “please” and “thank you” routine while attempting to assess the situation, yes, even online. Now, that doesn’t work with everyone and honestly, it doesn’t tend to work with difficult people, but it doesn’t hurt to try it and thereby rule it out if it doesn’t work.

Now, the different perspective thing? That is a helpful one. Let me use an offline example to explain how understanding differences is helpful.

I used to work for a Jewish gentleman in the financial industry. One day, his secretary pulled me aside to let me know that the Rabbi was coming to visit that day and that he was not allowed to shake my hand because I was a woman. Had she not told me that, I would have been likely to have extended my hand and may have caused an embarrassing situation for my boss. By knowing that, I was able to understand the different perspective. And, no, the Rabbi was not a difficult person and nor was my boss but it is an example of how understanding differences helps in many situations and especially in business and now online situations like content marketing.

Knowing When to Walk Away from the Situation

Are you the type of person who always needs to win the argument? I’m not going to have an argument with you online to try to prove or disprove that. Neither am I here to judge you.

Just keep this in mind…

In the case of a nasty situation, especially involving a difficult person, do you sometimes want the situation to just go away entirely? Have you heard the phrase “bite your tongue?” That phrase came into being, most likely, for situations like this.

It isn’t about being right and it certainly is not about everyone knowing that you are right, when dealing with a difficult person. Oh, true, it is nice if everyone knows that you are right and that everyone is there to pat you on the back but ask yourself which of these is the better situation for you:

  • The entire world knows you are right but the difficult person continues to bully and bash you online, via your online social profiles (where everyone can read the remarks and they start to wonder about you as well).
  • You say nothing (i.e. bite your tongue) and a few people think that the bully has won the argument but the bully is over telling him/herself how wonderful he or she is and decides to leave you alone. After all, he or she has gotten what he or she wanted and no longer has any need to harass you. The result, hopefully, is a bit of peace at the cost of a few people thinking that maybe the difficult person was the one who was right (but likely very few people care WHO was right).


Personally, I would opt for the second option. And, I have had cases where someone has literally said something 100% untrue about me and yes, I was tempted to respond and let them know that. However, biting the tongue proved to be the more peaceful solution and I was able to sleep well and enjoy time with family and friends, something that would have been unlikely had I chosen to engage with the individual who liked to make up stories. (Besides, that particular person ended up being caught by the S.E.C. as the West Coast Madoff, so it was a matter of what? What comes around goes around, even without any contribution on my end.)

Bribery Still Works (But Let’s Not Call It Bribery)

Yes, incentives still work. Granted, this is not a likely solution for every client that you may have as you may go broke if you do so. But, if you have a disgruntled employee, even one who probably has some basis for being disgruntled, and you have overlooked a couple of raises or bonuses, it might not be a bad idea to make up for that now. For example, giving them a gift card out of the blue (unexpected) is a great way to cause a sort of dropping of the jaw (virtually) and that feeling of “Hey, that is a pretty cool boss!” And, it has been used successfully in that capacity in other cases of employers offering gift cards. If you are lucky, they may not even remember why it is that they were disgruntled in the first place. And, if you are really lucky, they may change from a not nice person to a nice person! Either way, you are the hero.

And, it may even work on family members, too J

Leaving the Grudges Undeveloped

It is easy to have a grudge. Sometimes I think we are wired to have grudges. We become irritated by some behavior and decide to rehash it over and over, much to the chagrin of those around us and especially those loved ones who are not being difficult.

Now, you wouldn’t want to become one of those difficult people just because you can’t stop thinking about the difficult person that messed up your life, would you?

Yeah, there are those people who love to hear a good story rehashed. They maybe love to add to it and spread it around a bit (generally called gossip). But, similar to the point above, ask yourself what makes YOU happy.

If you are truly happy holding a grudge and you can honestly say that that grudge makes you want to jump for joy, then who am I to say you shouldn’t have one? Go enjoy! But, in all of my psychology studies and research, often times it is the anger that accompanies the grudge that people enjoy. Yes, studies have shown that people actually enjoy being angry and especially being angry with a particular person. After all, doesn’t that difficult person deserve it?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But, the person paying for that grudge is more likely to be the person who has the grudge and those who care about that person. The difficult person is not likely to be suffering from someone else having a grudge against them and if they are truly the difficult type, they likely don’t care. So, think about that in deciding whether you want to have a grudge, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I enjoy the feeling of having a grudge?
  • Does having a grudge help me to be happier as a person?
  • Does having a grudge serve any other purpose or help me in any other way?
  • Does having this grudge adversely affect anyone in my life for whom I really care (i.e. spouse, family member, friend)?

Then, you decide.

Looking Toward a Positive Future

There may not be a resolution to every situation with a difficult person. But, if you have done your best to behave kindly to the difficult person, in spite of the situation, shake it off and look toward a bright future. After all, somewhere in there you learned something and you can probably apply that to a future situation (like learning how to identify difficult people and maybe avoiding them in the future?). And, besides, there is still room for you in Content Marketing in spite of crossing paths with a difficult person, eh?

About the author: Deborah is the “secret” SEO ninja and internet marketer from the very beginning (and sought after by the legendary Corey Rudl, and other industry pioneering greats). For more information about Deborah (aka Deborah E), visit the “About” page.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kannupriya says:

    Nice article
    I will try that tips in my life

    • Kannupriya Aug 20, 2018 @ 4:29

      Nice article
      I will try that tips in my life