The secret to dealing with difficult people is to take the necessary action before they become difficult. Like everything else in life, if you deal with something before it becomes a problem, you’ll never have any major problems to deal with. The problem is, of course, that in the ordinary course of our everyday lives, we don’t do the small things that we know we should do, we don’t today what we can put off until tomorrow and, most importantly, we tolerate behaviour that we shouldn’t.

Inappropriate behaviour abounds – from the bully in the school yard, to the bully in the boardroom. As I travel around the world doing my seminars, I see husbands being publicly abusive and demeaning to wives in airports – shouting at the top of their voices in a manner in which you wouldn’t talk to a dog. I’ve seen a mother hold a teenage child by the hair with one hand, while she punches him in the face with the other. I’ve seen fathers issue orders to three- and four-year olds as if they were talking down to some servant or slave. I’ve heard people boast, at the top of their voices in airports, to each other about how great it is to be unfaithful to your loved one while you’re away on business – and laugh out loud at the poor partner sitting at home looking after the children. From road-rage to ski-rage (yes, plenty of people will ski straight through you were I live – that’s why we don’t ski during the major winter holiday weeks) inappropriate behaviour is all around you – and that’s only the very public side of what’s going on.

If a husband belittles his wife for all to hear, what’s going on behind closed doors? We know from surveys of the ongoing rise in domestic violence. Similarly, we know that a majority (yes, a majority) of employees claim to have suffered bullying at work. We know about the ongoing rise in so-called anti-social behaviour. We’ve all, at least, heard of the manner in which families self-destruct over rows about wills and money. And, at some time or other, most of us have experienced the jostling and back-stabbing that goes on at work. Undoubtedly, you and I have our own peculiar ways of behaving inappropriately too.

I’m often asked by some of my clients, who are right at the top of organizations, as to how they should handle conflict. My answer always is that, if it’s got to the conflict stage, they’ve already let it go far too far. You’ve got to nip inappropriate behaviour in the bud. The problem is that we normally don’t even notice inappropriate behaviour – because, as research proves, we’re normally inattentive to what’s actually happening at the present moment. In addition, inappropriate behaviour is normally no more than a minor irritation – we let it go. And that is the rock you will perish on. The same psychological research that I just mentioned – and there’s over seven decades of it – also concludes that normal people are crazy. And here’s the big problem – give a crazy person an inch and they’ll take a mile. Had the leader of Munich’s Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 in appropriate behaviour been dealt with appropriately, we wouldn’t have had the Holocaust. But let someone away with some minor misdemeanour and you’re asking for trouble. And that’s how we end up with abusive husbands (and wives), nervous breakdown as a result of psychological warfare in the workplace – and, indeed, pretty much all the conflict we see around us in this world of ours.

So, you’ve difficult people or situations in your life – we all have. Putting off the evil day when you’re going to have to do something about them is only going to make matters worse. You’ve got to stand up and be counted on minor issues and small misbehaviour, so that people get a sense of your ground rules – where the boundaries lie and just how much leeway you’re likely to let people have. I’m not suggesting for one moment that you go around looking for an argument with the next crazy that you bump into – because you’re sure to come across lots of crazies every single day. I am suggesting that you become a little more attentive, more mindful to what’s right and what’s not, less tolerant of behaviour that if the perpetrator had half a mind he or she would know better than to behave that way.

Of course, this approach requires that you pay more attention than the pathetic 1% that the normal crazies – and, by the way, that’s almost all of us – pay. You’ve got to come to your senses. I mean this literally – you’ve got five senses, they are your only interface with the outside world and, therefore, the only means by which you have of paying attention. The more you attend to what you see, feel, hear, smell and taste, the more you will become attuned to what’s going on and when a quiet word on your part might stop inappropriate behaviour in its tracks. In doing so, we’ll all be the better for it.

Author's Bio: 

Willie Horton, an Irish ex-accountant and ex-banker who has been working as a success coach to business leaders and sports people since 1996, has been living his dream in the French Alps since 2002. Each week his weekly Free Self-Help Video Seminar is received by thousands of people around the world. His acclaimed Self Help Online Workshop is being followed by people on four continents - they say that it's life-changing. More info: