4 Types of Difficult People and How to Deal With Them, Science of People

4 Types of Difficult People and How to Deal With Them

Table of Contents

We all have difficult people in our life who drives us nuts! They are annoying, frustrating, and exhausting—but I have some ways to help you deal with them.

Here are some ideas for how you can handle the difficult person in your life:

1. Identify the 4 Types

There are 4 different types of difficult people. Think about the person in your life and figure out which category they are in:

  • Downers are also known as Negative Nancys or Debbie Downers. They always have something bad to say. They complain, critique and judge. They are almost impossible to please.
  • Better Thans also are known as Know It Alls, One Uppers or Show-Offs. They like to try impressing you, name-dropping and comparing.
  • Passives also are known as Push-Overs, Yes Men and Weaklings. They don’t contribute much to conversations or people around them and let others do the hard work.
  • Tanks also are known as being explosive, a handful, or bossy. They want their way and will do anything to get it.

2. Don’t Try Changing Them

When we meet a difficult person, or if we have one in our family or circle of friends, our instinct is to try changing them. We try to encourage Downers to be more positive, Passives to stand up for themselves, Tanks to calm down, and Better Thans to be more humble. This never works! In fact, when you try to change someone they tend to resent you, dig in their heels, and get worse.

3. Try Understanding Them

The way to disengage a difficult person is to try understanding where they are coming from. I try to find their value language. A value language is what someone values most. It is what drives their decisions. For some people it is money; for others, it is power or knowledge. This not only helps me understand them, but also helps them relax and become more open-minded. For example, sometimes Tanks just want to explain their opinion. If you let them talk to you, that might help them not blow up or try dominating a situation.

4. Don’t Let Them Be Toxic

Some difficult people can be toxic. Toxic people can be passive-aggressive, mean, or hurtful. So, if you have to deal with them, you can understand where they are coming from, and then keep your distance. Toxic relationships are harmful. So, you need to create a buffer zone by surrounding yourself with good friends, seeing them less, and, if you have to be with them, doing it for the minimum amount of time.


Covert narcissist: 5 things they do and how to handle them

by Lachlan Brown June 3, 2019, 10:31 am

The image of a narcissist is well-illustrated in pop culture. You might think of a handsome, grandiose, beautiful man or woman, with a handheld mirror (or camera phone) in their hand, so they can appreciate their beauty whenever they wish.

But this idea of narcissism only covers half of the narcissists out there; for the other half, there are covert narcissists.

So what are covert narcissists?

These are narcissists who share the same self-loving characteristics of the more boisterous overt narcissists but without any of the outwardly defining traits of narcissism.

Covert narcissists are more dangerous because they understand how to hide their narcissism in a way that other narcissists don’t.

And being in a relationship with one? It can ruin your life.

(This article will be divided into two sections. The first section will discuss understanding narcissism, the difference between covert and overt narcissists, and the signs and experiences of a covert narcissist.The second section will discuss being in a relationship with a covert narcissist: are you with one, why you find it difficult to leave them, and how you can save yourself and move on.)

Part I: Understanding Narcissism

We often use the word “narcissist” to describe someone who might be obnoxious, arrogant, or self-obsessed.

However, narcissism also describes a serious mental health issue, and individuals showcasing too much of certain characteristics can be categorized as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Narcissistic Traits

To be clinically diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or the official handbook for professional therapists) states that an individual must have 5 of 9 listed narcissistic personality disorder traits. These include:

  • They lack empathy for others
  • They believe that they are inherently more important than those around them
  • They crave recognition for their inherent superiority
  • They showcase extreme arrogance through their attitude and behavior
  • They are paranoid of others being too envious of them
  • They have a natural sense of entitlement, believing that the world belongs to them
  • They obsess over fantasies of power, love, and success
  • They exploit others to fulfill their constant need for admiration and attention
  • They believe that only other special people can understand them properly

While some researchers believe that people are born with a narcissistic personality disorder, there are others who believe that it is a behavior that is learned through the environment.

They argue that while disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar have been proven to have genetic and chemical backgrounds, Narcissistic Personality Disorder showcases no physical abnormalities or differences in the brain.

Two Types of Narcissism: Covert and Overt

As described above, the two types of narcissists – covert and overt – share the same goals and desires but seek to achieve them through different means.

The overt narcissist can be described as confident, assertive, and loud, but the covert narcissist is more insecure, passive, and quiet.

While both types of narcissists have an inflated sense of self-importance, the covert narcissist – for one reason or another – displays a shyness that will never be seen in the overt narcissist.

This makes the covert narcissist much more dangerous than the overt narcissist, as the covert narcissist can convince you they are anything but a narcissist, while still working towards narcissistic goals.

Covert Narcissist Overt Narcissist
Insecure, passive, and quiet Confident, assertive, and loud
Their will matters most, but they know they can achieve more if they play by the rules They don’t care what anyone thinks; their will matters most
They understand that a fake apology can keep people happy Will never apologize for the pain they’ve caused
They care about their reputation and looking good, so they make sure they cover their tracks They blindly do whatever they want, regardless of the consequences
Prone to depression, with experiences of failed ambition, and often feel fragile and empty Ambitious and charming, full of energy and self-righteous strength
They embrace their victimhood, using their vulnerability to seem sensitive to gain affection Always bragging about themselves and the things they’ve done
They believe that the world has shunned them because of their inherent superiority They believe that the world recognizes their inherent superiority
You can live with them for years without realizing what they are You can see them coming from a mile away

Signs of a Covert Narcissist

1) Quiet Self-Importance

Real-world example: One-Upping

What you might have heard: “You got an A on the test? That’s great! Not as great as my A+ last week, but still, good for you.”

How they want you to feel: A confusion between praise and shame, and a reminder that you are lesser than them. You are forced to thank them for their “kindness”, even if it doesn’t feel right.

Like the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist can’t stand the idea that they might not be the smartest or best person in the room. But unlike the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist doesn’t spread out its colorful wings every time it feels threatened.

Instead, the covert narcissist is much better at showcasing their superiority in subtle manners. This includes minimizing accomplishments by comparing them to their own, back-handed compliments, and other smug remarks.

2) Nonchalant Disregard

Real-world example: Ghosting

What you might have heard: “Oh you texted me? Sorry, I didn’t see. I’ve just been super busy with everyone else messaging me.”

How they want you to feel: Unimportant and small. They know that they have you on a leash, and want to remind you by showing you who’s the boss every now and then. They want you to know that they don’t care about your time or your feelings.

Narcissists love having the spotlight on themselves, even if that spotlight is just the attention of a single person.

This involves manipulating the people in their lives into believing that no one’s time, wants, or needs matter except their own.

So while an overt narcissist might openly demand that you abide by their wishes, a covert narcissist does it slowly and carefully.

Over time, they carefully break down your own self-respect for your time and your needs. They do this by not sticking to their plans with you – arriving late for meetings, changing plans on-the-go, never sticking to promises, and even ignoring your messages.

3) Appreciated Altruism

Real-world example: Sharing Charity Donations

What you might have heard: “So I slipped in $20 into the tip jar at Starbucks and the barista was so grateful, it was hilarious.”

How they want you to feel: Admiring them for their generosity as well as their wealth. They want you to know that they are a nice person, but they would not perform the nice deed if they didn’t have the opportunity to tell you or anyone else.

Altruism is supposed to be a selfless act of kindness and love. It should be about helping other people and enriching their lives at the expense of part of your own, unconditionally.

But narcissists are unable to empathize with people and don’t see the need to help others if it does nothing to benefit themselves.

While overt narcissists wouldn’t even bother with the mind games, covert narcissists care about the way other people think of them.

They want their social network to know every time they’ve done a good deed because the good deed isn’t for the recipient; it’s for them to raise their own brownie points.

These are the people who, when tipping in the tip jar at a coffee shop, wait until as many people in the line are looking before they drop their tip.

4) Confusing Others

Real-world example: Gaslighting

What you might have heard: “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

How they want you to feel: Uncertain of what you believe in and what you understand. They want you to question your reality and your perceptions, and in doing so, they want to further establish and reinforce their own opinions and desires.

Covert narcissists love confusing other people. They love to see the self-doubt other people experience when their thoughts and perceptions are challenged wholeheartedly.

By taking away a person’s ideological foundation, it makes it that much easier for a covert narcissist to exploit and manipulate them.

Remember: covert narcissists only have a single goal, and that is to feed their own ego.

They will do that by whatever means necessary, even (and most of the time especially) if it at the expense of people who care for them.

5) Emotionally Inaccessible

Real-world example: Too Busy For You

What you might have heard: “You’re too sensitive. Just get over it already.”

How they want you to feel: That your emotions are a negative part of your psyche. They want you to feel that they are superior to you because they have full control of their emotions, while you do not.

They make you feel small and stupid for even needing emotional support from a friend or a partner since they are so emotionally stable and put-together.

Narcissists do not experience emotion the same way that others do, which is why they have difficulty building meaningful relationships with those around them.

While overt narcissists express this through obnoxious and loud behavior, covert narcissists will just tend to ignore their partners and friends altogether.

They do not understand the need to compliment or praise other people, because they naturally believe they are inherently superior, so anything that their partner or friends might do is never enough to impress them.

Other Experiences of Being with A Covert Narcissist

  • They get angry when you are sick
  • They condescend you for no reason
  • They forget about your requests on purpose
  • They gaslight when it comes to sex
  • They make people fight each other
  • They drain all your energy but don’t give you any
  • They have no interests beside self-gain
  • They project their own issues onto you
  • They give you the silent treatment and make you beg and plead
  • They never try to make you happy
  • They don’t really know anything about you

Part II: Dealing with a Covert Narcissist

Countless people are trapped in relationships with covert narcissists. If you have experienced any or all of the examples listed above, then your partner might be one, too.

Are You a Target for Covert Narcissists?

Covert narcissists tend to target a certain personality type. These are people who possess characteristics that make them most susceptible to covert narcissist behavior, people that covert narcissists can manipulate, exploit, and control over an extended period of time.

These characteristics include:

  • Nurturer, home-maker (they pity the vulnerable side of the narcissist)
  • Caretaker
  • Extremely sensitive
  • Quiet
  • Doesn’t have a big social network (they must rely on the narcissist)
  • Self-doubting
  • Overly kind
  • Self-reflective (they have a desire to become better which the narcissist can exploit)
  • Self-sacrificing (even if they do recognize the exploitation, they stay to help)

You may also like reading (article continues below):

Why Covert Narcissists Make Dangerous Relationships

Unlike relationships with normal people, relationships with covert narcissists are a game from start to finish. They are designed to manipulate their victims from the onset.

There are three stages of a relationship with a covert narcissist. These stages are:

Love Bombing: Love bombing is the first stage, in which the covert narcissists does everything to make themselves your ideal partner.

They do this by understanding your background and any underlying issues you might have, and then presenting themselves as your ideal partner.

Love bombing is different for every person, as we all have unique wants and needs in a partner.

Some people might be looking for someone more dominating to take control of their lives; other people might be looking for someone who will listen and react to their issues.


Understanding Anxiety, Agitation and Restlessness

October 27, 2018

Anxiety affects our emotions, thoughts and bodies. If you’ve been dealing with anxiety for a long time, you’ve probably noticed that your anxiety can leave you feeling like you’re just not yourself anymore. You may be a bit more agitated and/or restless; and you may find yourself quicker to experience annoyance or other negative emotions. This is all a part of anxiety.

For example, a person with anxiety may find that they are frustrated with their partner and more prone to lashing out. They may get annoyed when someone tries to help them even though the help is kind and justified. They may become resentful without too much provocation. At times these emotions may be strong enough to erupt into fully-expressed anger. At other times, this may just be a matter of low level agitation that makes you more prone to experience unpleasant mood states.

Difference Between Agitation and Anxiety

There are ways in which anxiety and agitation are similar. Both cause tension. Both put a person in a more heightened state of arousal. Both make people irritable. Both can also cause the other, where agitation can make someone anxious and anxiety can make someone easily agitated.

But the difference lies in the primary symptoms. A person that is agitated is quick to frustration or anger, often feeling bothered. A person with anxiety tends to have more of a fear response first, with symptoms like nervous energy, rapid heartbeat, and sweating. Their agitation then stems from the discomfort of those experiences.

Negative Emotions Are a Part of Anxiety

People think of anxiety as its own emotion. But in reality, it would be more accurate to say that anxiety is a state of being which can manifest in our thoughts, behaviors, physical sensations and emotions. In other words, anxiety is a psychological disorder — one which often causes a host of other symptoms that may seem unrelated.

There are many different reasons to explain the link between anxiety, agitation, and other negative feelings. Some include:

  • Nervous Energy At their core, agitation and restlessness are linked to nervousness and the impact that anxiety has on your body. For example, anxiety provides a constant flow of adrenaline in your system. This adrenaline puts your entire body on edge because it’s preparing you for «fight or flight» — an evolutionary system designed to keep you safe in times of danger. Of course, people with anxiety often experience this in the absence of any real threat, so that energy goes unused, and this leads to a feeling of being very agitated.
  • Negative Tendencies Not all agitation is physical. Anxiety has a tendency to cause the mind to notice and focus on the things that are negative. Research1 has shown that anxiety is actually linked to changes in brain chemistry and electrical activity, making it less likely that you’ll be able to view situations in a positive light. During periods of high anxiety — especially during or right before an anxiety attack — anything that may bother you becomes amplified, and you start to feel as though the world is a bit overwhelming.
  • Anxiety-Related Fatigue Finally, many people become more restless and on edge simply because they’re tired of the anxiety. Dealing with anxiety every day can often be very troubling, taxing your resources for coping. Eventually, you may find yourself feeling annoyed at yourself and your anxiety every time it happens. This, too, can cause agitation, and in some cases negative emotions may even cause you to lash out at those around you.

Agitation can be defined in many different ways and when it comes to anxiety, agitation can manifest in varying forms. It’s not as simple as saying that your fight/flight system causes agitation or that you’re agitated because you’re irritated with your anxiety symptoms. There are so many things going on every time you’re dealing with anxiety that all of them come together and create that restless feeling.

How to Control Anxiety-Based Agitation

This form of agitation can cause its own distress, which is why controlling agitation is so important. If you don’t control your agitation, you’ll find that it causes more anxiety which causes more agitation. Many people find that agitation can precipitate a panic attack, often because the feeling of being on edge puts your body on high alert, which in turn causes you to focus more on your anxiety.

The first key to controlling agitation is simply to learn not to fight it. It’s a symptom of your anxiety, and in many ways it’s important to simply accept that you’re going to be agitated, and remind yourself that anxiety is causing it. This is extremely important, because spending unnecessary energy fighting agitation and restlessness in ways that don’t really work could cause you even more stress. These things aren’t going to simply go away on their own; and it helps if you can stop blaming yourself for how you feel.

Another strategy to reduce agitation is to work-off that energy. Remember, adrenaline is pumping through your body because your body thinks you’re encountering some type of threat. The feeling of restlessness is often caused by all that adrenaline sitting there, going unused. So use it. Get moving. If you can run, go jogging whether outdoors or on a treadmill; and if all you can do is walk around for a while then take a stroll. Whatever form of physical activity you choose, getting moving can help to dissipate some of the energy that underlies your agitation.

Other strategies to try include:

  • Mantra Meditation Mantra meditation is a useful tool for reducing stressful thoughts and controlling breathing. Placing yourself in that type of relaxed environment can have a powerful effect on anxiety. Search online for some guidance regarding to how to get started, if you have never tried meditating before. If you feel that mantra meditation isn’t necessarily for you, there are many other meditative options to choose from.
  • Yelling Sometimes, all you need is a good yell. If no one is around you and you’re in a place where no one will hear you, try yelling as loud as you can. Loud yelling can help release some of that pent up energy and in some cases can help you reduce your stress.
  • Laughing Finally, if you can find anything to make you laugh, that can be a big help. Laughter can be very difficult when you’re suffering with agitation, but if there is anything in your life that consistently makes you laugh, focus on it. Laughter, like yelling, reduces some of that nervous energy and puts your mind on something much more positive. If you need to force the laughing, that’s alright as well. Often, in the process, you’ll find yourself loosening up and perhaps even laughing at the absurdity of the fact that you’re forcing yourself to laugh!

Anxiety causes a great deal of built up tension. While you can use the strategies we discussed here to reduce and cope with the agitation you feel, this is not really a long term solution as you’re not tackling the real root of the problem.

To do that, you need to address the anxiety that causes that agitation in the first place. Anxiety can be treated through therapy, medications, lifestyle changes, and self-help treatments that will make an impact. Only then can you truly stop agitation from continuously affecting your life.


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