When you're forced to deal with your most difficult relationships what's your first impulse? Do you want to withdraw from the world? Fight? Eat? Give up? Sleep? Blame? Cower?

We all have a fight or flight response to stressful situations and difficult relationships are some of the most stressful situations we can find ourselves in.

Instead of giving into your first impulse to fight or flee, how would you like to stay in control and keep your power, no matter who you're dealing with?

The following tips will keep you in the driver's seat of your life. They'll help you maintain your sense of power and dignity even while dealing with the most difficult people you know.

· Boundaries

Good boundaries are the key to maintaining your sense of self, power and dignity while dealing with difficult people. What does having good boundaries mean? It means you not only care for the other person, you care equally and deeply for yourself. It means you value yourself and your right to have a different opinion and different way of being in the world.

Having good boundaries also includes understanding you don't have to "take on" the problems of others... you don't have to be a doormat. In fact, allowing other people to have ALL their pain is the best thing you can do for them. Carrying the burden of someone else will never serve them or you. Difficult people often suffer emotionally and the only way they can recover from their pain is to fully own it. They won't be able to do that if you're carrying a good portion of their pain for them.

· Shake It Off

Animals get it. If they're stressed by anything they shake it off immediately. They bark, buck, bite, run, neigh, whinny, scratch...you get the idea. But as human animals we tend to hold in our stress, which of course leads to unwelcome side effects; illness, insomnia, crabbiness, overeating, lethargy, etc.

If you still feel remnants of stress after dealing with difficult people find a way to shake it off. Go for a walk. Have a good cry. Get some fresh air. Find someone you can belly laugh with. The sooner you can release the stress the sooner you can regain your power to live your life fully, in spite of what others might do.

· Be Honest

Have you ever been bullied? Bullies try to force their way and their opinion on you. If you let them, you sacrifice your integrity and dignity.

Perhaps one of the hardest things to do when dealing with difficult people is to stand up to them and voice your own thoughts and opinions. No one likes confrontation and difficult people tend to create situations ripe for it! But running the other way and/or ignoring their bullying can leave you feeling worse.

Remember, bullies want to share their pain with you so they don't feel it so much. They need an outlet for their pain and the only way they know how to let go of their pain is bullying someone else into taking it. But you don't have to take it...it's not yours to take!

Stand up to the bullies in your life. Be honest with them how you feel about their bullying. Be honest with them about how you really feel. You'll walk away feeling proud of yourself for doing so. Bullies usually crumble when faced with authentic power.

(If you're in an abusive relationship and fear for your safety, seek outside assistance. Don't face a bully that would physically harm you.)

· Surround Yourself with Good People

Did you know you're a reflection of the five people you spend the most time with? Is this good news or bad news for you?

Consciously seek out and surround yourself with top- notch people. Your partnerships and friendships should allow you to feel joy in your life. They should be easy, mutually rewarding, and emotionally satisfying.

Surround yourself with "equal energy exchange partners". The give and take in these relationships is equal and equally rewarding.

· Say Goodbye

Sometimes you might have to say so long for just awhile or even goodbye for good.

Ending a relationship is no small task, but staying in a relationship that's not working is no small task either. The energy you spend ending a bad relationship will repay you thousandfold down the road. The energy you spend staying in a bad relationship costs far too much emotionally and spiritually and delays your right to live a happy, joyful life.

Some relationships are easier to end with others. If you need to end a relationship with a friend doing so will feel tough, but ending a relationship with a spouse, partner, sibling or parent can feel impossible. If you're in a tough relationship that you know you must end but are having a hard time doing so seek out the help and advice of someone who specializes in relationships, or talk to someone who's been in your shoes. Don't go it alone.

Relationship matters are rarely black and white. There's a lot of gray area to navigate. The best thing you can do in any of your relationships is to take care of yourself and your needs. Be your own best friend. Put your needs at the top of the list. By doing so you'll have much more to give others and you'll stay out of situations that wind up draining you in the long run.

Author's Bio: 

Cari Vollmer, founder of LifeOnTrack.com and creator of InspireYourSuccess.com, simplifies personal growth by showing you step-by-step how to create and live a life that works well and feels great! To sign up for her FREE how to articles and no-charge 5-Day Feel Great Now E-Course visit www.LifeOnTrack.com.