Dealing with Difficult People: The Disrespectful Jerk


There’s nothing more difficult than dealing with a friend or client who is negative, often disrespectful, and yet completely unaware of his behavior.   In my experience, people who are insecure are also not self-aware. So a heart-to-heart about their self-centered ways usually doesn’t work. They will generally deflect that to you and try to play the victim–which is their preferred position. Sometimes they will apologize not because they think they have done something wrong, but because they think you are mad at them and they want to be back in your good graces. It’s not “I’m sorry I have wronged you,” as much as it is “I’m sorry you feel that way.” See the subtle and yet important difference? Here’s my approach:


So we need to break the cycle of abuse, and the only way I have been able to do that is to wait until another “infraction” happens. Talking about the past seldom works because of the insecurity and the distorted perception of events. The moment it happens: a snide remark or a slight put down, you need to take control of the conversation in the most calm and rational way possible. Stop it in its tracks. I have said something like this before:
“Your last comment bothered me.” He will look puzzled and say “Why?”.  And then you need to be honest and calm and let him know why his words were disrespectful. “I was just kidding.” is often the cheap way out.

“It doesn’t matter if were you kidding or not, the impact is the same on me. As a matter of fact, these types of disrespectful comments have hurt my feelings for a while now. I value our relationship and want to make sure you know that it bothers me.” He can either say “I’m sorry, I had no idea.” or he can blow you off and tell you that you are making too much out of nothing.

The next time it happens, you do the same thing. If he is not able to see the point, that should be a good indicator that you either accept the status quo and allow for the abuse to continue, or you walk away from the relationship.

How have you dealt with the disrespectful jerks in your life?

  • justinlathrop

    Great post. So helpful. I’m such a people pleaser it is hard for me to pull the trigger when it’s time. Having a set phrase to say when it happens again will be helpful for me.

    • Jim

      It is a nice post, but I need direct advice, I am a college student and I do not talk much in class. A guy that I do not talk was seated behind Me and was searching My bag. Without My approval Ido not know what to do. Any Advice? Urgent?

      • I would call him out and make sure he didn’t take something. If he did, report him to campus security.

  • Noel Sparks

    Thank you for sharing Maurilio. I deal with someone who consistently demonstrates this behavior. I have been mulling over how to confront him. Your article nailed it. I needed it. 

  • @PeteBillingham

    Thanks for an insightful post about dealing with difficult people. It’s the”I’m only kidding” response that really is difficult to handle but your phrase is very useful and practical. I work in a “Christian” organisation and have spent many years in and leading churches and often people are uncertain how to handle relationships because of a confused understanding of “love your neighbour” or that people will think we are not loving because we bring such people to task. Often, people are afraid to respond allowing someone else to verbally abuse them (even kidding can be abuse) and many just leave churches, have miserable work lives because of “Jerks” around them. Really helpful advice.

  • jmann521

    According to the Biblical Worldview people will react in one of two ways when confronted with biblical truth; They will attack like dogs, or roll around with pearls of truth in the mud like pigs (Mathew 7:6). Good article right on point. 

  • Damian

    This perfectly describes my best friend. I have a really bad problem with this person in my life though. All of my other friends suck up to him and when I call him out on the things he does, they come to his aide, and I am silenced. He has subtly been able to make them all see me as a clueless idiot. And none of them would know each other if it weren’t for me.

    • Damian

      it got so bad I became depressed. I began to to feel alienated from them all. I questioned my worth. I stumbled over my words once, and he made a t-shirt with my name under the quote in big bold letters, and dispite my disapproval, my friends encouraged him.

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