Entrepreneur Tips: 5 Best Ways to Deal With Difficult People


Life is like a merry-go-round. We can either choose to enjoy it to the fullest while it lasts like my five-year-old, or lament about the poor music choice, flickering lights or possibly anything that is wrong with the ride.

Being an entrepreneur is tough. This epiphany came after a long and rough year at work: Within a year, the company saw four administrators come and go. Despite trainings and incentives put in place, each of these ex-colleagues left although for different reasons: One decided to pursue her tertiary education. Another decided to forgo her visa and return to her home country. The other two? Well, let’s just keep the stories for another day.

Everyone has their own problems at work and outside work. Once in a very blue moon (there is indeed a blue moon this year), both merge.

Towards the end of last year, during the holiday season, we received a request to pitch. The request came from a company where a family member of our colleague works in. My team worked doubly hard. It was a new prospect, and we had to make our referer feel that coming to us was the right choice.

Through the Christmas and New Year holiday season, my team worked tirelessly to put together a proposal that was refreshing – a twist from an otherwise mundane and traditional event. We went above and beyond the requirements to deliver our ideas and our proposal was well-received. At the eleventh hour (six days before the event), someone from the company intercepted and insinuated our referer of nepotism and misconduct, and ordered to suspend my team from their vendor’s list for work we had not even been awarded, much less paid.

We were all baffled. What did we do wrong? We were pitching on our own merits. The only thing we did wrong was to put the team in overdrive to deliver the proposal. In the end, we had to drop the pitch with the interest to protect our referer’s reputation

It was hard for my team. They were motivated, united and trudged forward despite challenges. I salute them but felt disappointed, not by the team but by people.

Dealing with people is tough but we manage them well with our credentials and most importantly, sincerity. That’s just part and parcel of any business, not just the communications industry. Dealing with people who have a ginormous ego and derive pleasure in hurtling helter-skelter down everyone’s way simply because they can, is just plain impossible.

There are too many of such people whose ego is sustained by their business title or inflated by the brand they wear. As an entrepreneur, resilience is as important as grit. From my years of experience (this year marks my 20th year in communications), loving life, loving work and loving yourself are the best ways to deal with difficult people and bounce back to action. Here’s how:

Show Gratitude
No, we don’t get all the pitches we like. We don’t get all the media to say yes either. But we must always be grateful for opportunities and feedback. In fact, it is the best way to deal with difficult people – get them to give you something in return – feedback. This is the best way to learn how to deal with such people going forward.

Focus less on how others see you and more on improvement
We are our own greatest enemy and if there is anyone we should please, it is ourselves. I do not mean it in a self-indulgent egoistical way but with humility. Yes, it is important to win that pitch. That is what a business is about. But always look back into the very reason or purpose when you first started the company. If your goal is to offer better solutions or value, then don’t lose that because of a setback. Setbacks are part of running a business. And us, entrepreneurs, never say die. Focus on right values, right people and superior delivery. As long as the mission and vision are set straight, team spirit and consistent improvements outweigh the importance of what others see of you, especially those difficult and clueless ones.

Distance yourself from negativity
There are people who willing to take you down or break your spirit even without knowing you personally. When you give in to those who disrespect or disregard you, you lose. Look for support that motivates and inspires you. All things are possible if you stay positive.

You are what you think you are worth.
Know your worth and your strength. You can’t expect people to appreciate you and your efforts if you do not know your worth. If you think you can, you can. The key is to identify what you want, claim it as part of who you are, and believe that you are worthy to have it. Don’t ever let difficult people question your self-worth.

Don’t be afraid of failures
You only hear of failures from people who dare to challenge. Success does not breed from following the norm. Being an entrepreneur is about making a difference. And to make a difference, we must look into the eyes of failure and challenge it. Losing a pitch or two to difficult people? Well, it’s just part of the game. Just stay grateful and positive.

in the grand scheme of things, a setback from a difficult person is annoying but should really be no skin off the back. Have a drink, think about it and tomorrow is a brand new day with new challenges!


Written by Elaine Seah. She wants to play Game of Thrones theme song on her pipa.