I get newsletters from Medscape, and one arrived today that included a link to an article for nurses having to deal with difficult people. The article gave the following tips. I hope you find them helpful--I generally agree with them!
Don't Try to Change the Difficult Person.Generally, difficult people have well-established behavior patterns. Any behavioral change will come only if they take accountability for it. You can point out the undersirable behavior, but it's not your responsibility to change it.
Don't Take it Personally.Their behaviors reflect where they are personally, not anything you might have said or done. They may be ill or tired, or they may have extreme emotional problems. When you see an explosive reaction to a minor situation, you can be sure the person is experiencing strong underlying emotions.
Set Boundaries.Let the difficult person know you'll respect him or her, but expect to be treated with respect in return. Don't tolerate yelling or heated conversations in public places. If necessary, tell the person you need to remove yourself from the situation, or wait until the person is able to have a discussion without an angry reaction.
Acknowledge the Person's Feelings.You may not agree with the person's viewpoint, but you can acknowledge that he or she appears angry or unhappy. With a chronic complainer, you'll need to move from the complaint to problem solving.
Try Empathy.Recognize that it must be difficult to be stuck in a place of negativity or anger. Empathy can sometimes help deescalate an explosive situation. Difficult people sometimes just want to be heard but don't have the skills to communicate that in a more appropriate way.
Hold Your Ground.Teach others how to treat you. Don't open the door to challenges. With snipers, you may need to expose their behavior publicly to other team members.
Use Fewer Words.With difficult people, less conversation may be more effective. Use short, concise messages to drive your point home, and set a time limit on how long you'll engage in the discussion. Avoid using the word "attitude" because the person will view this as subjective. Instead, focus on the behavior.