How to Stop Difficult People from Zapping Your Energy and Happiness

What zaps your energy and happiness more powerfully and rapidly than anything else is your reaction to difficult people.

Notice I didn’t say difficult people are responsible for zapping your energy and happiness. Only you are in control of you. You do have a choice in how you respond.

With that in mind, here is a simple, powerful and transformative – that is, intense – experience for you, in two steps.

For the first step, on computer, paper, or at least in your mind, make a list of the people you would define as difficult who you routinely correspond with or who impact your life.

This can include those in your professional and personal world, and those in the public eye, who rub you the wrong way, who make your skin crawl, or who — if you didn’t believe in kindness and compassion or at least in avoiding jail — you’d flat out enjoy punching in the nose.

Surely a few people spring right to mind.

Create this list of people you don’t like, and then consider each person on it in this regard:

What is it about this person that is worth emulating?

Instead of focusing on their disagreeable qualities and actions, that is, for each person on your list shift your perspective to what their best qualities are … more particularly, to the one, two or more aspects of their character that YOU could learn from and perhaps use more of.

Perseverance? Discipline? A happy-go-lucky attitude?

Everyone has something worth emulating. Everyone. Though certain people may deserve to be fired, jailed, or impeached, even they have qualities that are worth appreciating and emulating.

It is our reactionary egos that are prone to completely trash those who seem to have a negative influence in some way on us. Our egos are primitive; if somebody strokes them, that somebody is good, and if somebody kicks them, that somebody is bad.

This lingering reaction creates the notion of “dislike,” or hate, which blocks our eyes, mind and heart from focusing on anything but the negative. But by focusing on the negative in anyone – “I really don’t like that person” — we are doing by far the most damage to ourselves.

Honing in on what we don’t like in people (or in situations for that matter) won’t change them, but it does make our lives considerably less peaceful and sucks away our energy and happiness. It becomes a habit that perpetuates the self-damage. Plus it makes us considerably less attractive to others.

This is not a call to tolerate being taken advantage of or abused by “people we don’t like,” of course; if changes need to occur to avoid those circumstances then by all means do what is ethical to make those changes.

But it IS a call not to let those people – really, your own ego – pull you down into discord and disharmony where you don’t deserve to be.

The key, then, is to try to focus on what is worth appreciating and emulating in the less-than-your-favorite-people people – even if (especially if) they are your “opponent,” such as in or on court – versus letting your ego, your emotional reactions, rule.

So the first step is to get your practice by making that list of people you don’t like and considering each person from that angle.

And then the second step is to extend that practice to daily life.

The next time you encounter someone who seems to be doing the opposite of their part to make your life fabulous — in person, on T.V., in your head — instead of focusing on what makes them such a lousy human being, focus on what it is about this person that is worth emulating.

Keep striving to do this until, typically two to three weeks in, it becomes a habit you don’t even need to think about.

You will be quite surprised at how this shift in your perspective reduces your overall anxiety, increases your energy and enables you to achieve more … and achieve it happily.

ALSO BE SURE TO READStudies Show 3 to 1 is Ideal Ratio for Happiness


  1. Brian, this is amazing advice that I've never thought of before. I think I have the very unfortunate tendency of comparing myself to other people a lot. My ego is shrinking as I read this! 🙂

  2. i have been dreading today all morning as i have 3 clients i dont care for coming in.. NOw I am looking forward to it to put these tools to use!


  3. Dearest Brian, I used to practice what you are suggesting, with my mom for 43 years, but it did not help. It happens sometimes with the parents, when a person always opposes what you say or do and demand obedience just beacause you enjoy the fortune of being born by her/him. Believe me, it is self-destructive to continue contacting such people day-to-day. So my advise would be: retreat, if you are convinced you did everything to preserve the communication. There are relations, in which nothing helps, unfortunately.

  4. Hi,

    Your comment about your mother is spot on. I couldn't agree with you more, I have the same situation with mine, and avoidance is the only answer. I've adopted this since my daughter was born and I saw the writing on the wall. Not to my daughter you wont,


  5. Great observation! I have been working in industry, in service related technical fields for over 25 years and have taught customer service skills at the college level as well and this concept is something I have always evangelized.

    My talk typically goes like this: Your attitude is your own. NO ONE & mean NO ONE has the right or the power to give you an attitude that you do not want to take.

    Negative energy is a powerful force in relationships. We learn from an early age that if we act out we can often get what we want. We learn and observe that having a tantrum in the checkout line at Walmart or yelling at a customer service representative to make them take back a product that you have wrongfully damaged will often times pay off.

    This seems to work exponentially well if you can cause the other person in the relationship to loose control and take on your negative attitude.

  6. I relate well to these stories and I am thankful for all in your input. My parents are VERY dominating people and aren't in control, unless they control a family member! Unfortunately I am living with them and I get it from them all the time! I have discovered that I fall into the same pattern at times and I have been trying to change that about me! Nobody really likes the "control syndrome" and that's what I try to remember. I think it's a great idea to write down those people who make you upset and find the good qualities in them! If we were all the same, wouldn't life be a drag?

    So thank you for this web site and I have joined, just to start learning more about "people" and to grow more into a productive person!

  7. I've praised and emulated her for more than 50 years, yet my mother never misses an opportunity to slap me down emotionally. Various relatives who did not know how she treats me–she is very clever at stiking when no one is around–have mentioned that she is a very "mean" person." I keep slient or defend her. I have been very loyal, only to find out that she strives to diminish me at every opportunity. She seeks to "punish" me for everything that happens to other family members. I have read and read on this, and a condition called borderline personality disorder fits her to a T !! peoplewith this disorder pick one "patsy," and they are so clever about it that even therapists tend not to believe the chosen "victim." I just keep telling myself that I did nothing to desreve this treatment–she is the one with the problem. Still, it hurts…

  8. I wish this would work on the one person that drives me up a tree, but I can't come up with anything decent about her. I have never met anyone else whose mind is so twisted and devious. She is my daughter-in-law and refuses to let me see my grandchildren.. I told her she needed to get off of lazy butt and get a job and help her family as I could no longer keep supporting her. This is the only way she an get back at me and she doesn't care that it hurts my grandchildren that they can't see me. I tried for over ten years to get along with her and unless she gets everything her way it is Hell.