How to Deal with Cantankerous People?

Joginder Singh Ji
Former Director – CBI

We all meet cantankerous, contentious and peevish people, who are very disagreeable, to deal with. They can be found in our colleagues, our bosses or our subordinates or even in our spouses. There can be, different approaches, for dealing with such people.

But, as human beings are different, no approach, is universally applicable. It is important to keep your friends close, but it is equally important to be close to your enemies. A frequently applied approach, which can give good results, is extending the olive branch. At the same time, it is important, to examine, as to what has led to the present situation.

If the cantankerous person, has less than correct information, on the basis, of which, he is criticising on less than correct facts, then present the correct facts, to put your point of view across. Generally, cantankerous people, have an opinion on every issue, which they want to be taken as the gospel truth. When they are shown to be wrong, they tend to become defensive and come out with newer and newer, and some times absurd excuses.

Instead of contributing to rectifying any situation, they are the, permanent opposition party. This is, their way, to gain importance and remain in the limelight. In the complex, I have lived, we had exactly a person like that, who wanted to be consulted for everything.. He was, always throwing, his weight about and bullying all the time, others, till I called off his bluff, when he crossed the acceptable limits. He called for his nemesis, as the police came to arrest him for obstructing others. Only a warning, from the police, led to his mending his obstructive, demanding, critical and interfering behaviour, in the affairs of others.

From his conduct, I also observed, that cantankerous people agree to any commitment, but they never honour the same, thus proving themselves untrustworthy and undependable. Cantankerous people are generally negative. They keep on pointing out, as to why, something would not work .Such people are inflexible. They prefer to complain, rather than finding, solution for the problems. For them there is nothing right in the world.

One way, to under stand such people, is to predict and estimate, as to how they think, what they fear, why they do, what they do and what is going to be their next move. Understanding cantankerous people, makes it, less frustrating, in dealing with them. You have to develop your own specific, how to do techniques, in dealing with different types of cantankerous people. You have to, self learn, as to what to do and what to say, in varying situations.

There is a thin line, between, being cantankerous and bullying . To some extent, bullying exists everywhere in the world . It is, one of the greatest emotional abuses.

If we can learn how they think, what they fear, why they do, what they do, it will help us, to understand them. Understanding such people makes dealing with them less frustrating. You are under no obligation to put up with the cantankerous and bullying people.

However, if such a person is your boss, even then, it is best to draw a line, about what you would put up and what you would not. While we cannot enforce, a polite behaviour on the part of cantankerous people, it is upto, each one of us, to discuss, as to with what, we will put up and what we could not. Simultaneously, our efforts should be, to reduce the conflict areas, for harmonious living. The most common mistakes, made by the people, however, well intentioned, they me be, is that they worsen the conflicts. Our efforts, should be, to turn complainers, into complaint solving mode. Though, it is also true, that some people, are incorrigible, in this respect and throw wet blanket on everything.

Still your effort should be not to allow the cantankerous persons, to control your life, reactions and emotions. It will be wrong, to say, that we ourselves, do not become difficult. All of us are guilty of it, at some time, or the other. We must do, self introspection at the end of the day and at the same time, make sure, that we do not allow others, to manipulate us. Understanding ourselves and others, whom we may consider difficult, is a packed and an ongoing job, to be undertaken, on daily basis.

Tact and capabilities, in handing difficult people are outstanding traits and add value to all those, who possess the same. These traits, once consciously and deliberately developed, will lead squabblelessness, smooth and a harmonious existence, coupled with more productivity.

Proper and effective communication, can lead to a better understanding and eliminate a lot of cankerousness. To resolve conflicts, even with cantankerous persons, we should go an extra mile. However, mean people, are not found only in our peers, but also in our subordinates or people in authority over us.

Bad and cantankerous bosses in many case have forced sensitive people to leave their jobs. In such cases. It is best to maintain a professional attitude. At the same time do not loose your good manners. Make it point to treat cantankerous people pleasantly. Present your

best side, including dressing up very well, to reflect your ability, success and proficiency. Introspect, whether the criticism, levelled against you, has any validity. If it be so, then make an honest effort, to correct yourself. One strategy is, not to be provoked, and get angry, by any criticism or verbal abuse. Better still is, to use a neutral comment saying that “ I am sorry that you feel this way and ask the cantankerous person, as to how he would have used or behaved or acted, in any given situation. It is a fact, that finding fault is easy, but to do better is difficult.