On dealing with difficult people - Marcus Aurelius

  • We consider people to be difficult if we believe that they have done us wrong with respect to our expectations.

  • When you are confronted by a difficult person, ask yourself what is my relation to this person and mankind. Say to yourself that you are made for one another. It is your responsibility to look after your fellow man, do not forsake the person, be their guardian.

I came into it (life) to be their guardian - as a ram is of the flock - Marcus Aurelius.

We are concerned with mankind, which is you. - Jiddu Krishnamurti

  • Understand what is driving them, how much are they in compulsion to protect their opinions and beliefs. Or are they driven by pride? It might not be you they are difficult towards but an opinion you might (or might not) hold.

  • Consider, very honestly and after setting aside your opinions and pride, if the person is right in his actions. If the answer is yes then do not be displeased! But if the answer is no then they are not doing you wrong intentionally but out of ignorance. They are misguided.

  • Remember you can be difficult to others too.

    • Always remember that you too are only a man and have your faults. Ask yourself if you have the same faults as the wrong doer.
    • If not try to imagine if you are capable of doing the same things under similar circumstances.
    • If the answer is still no, it might well be that the reason you abstain is due to cowardice or fear of criticism.
    • Remember we are blindest to our own shortcomings.
    • This realization will make you more tolerant towards faults of others.


  • You do not have a complete understanding of what is right or wrong.

    • You do not have enough information about the circumstances the wrong doer is contending with.
    • Before you can pass a correct judgement about a person or his acts, you need to learn a lot about the person. What special training have you received in judging people? What makes you an expert?
  • Understand that your life is very short, a brief moment. Being vexed makes this even shorter. In a short time we all will be dead and lie in the ground beside each other, consider the futility of the disagreement in light of this fact.

  • Be clear that no wrongful act of another brings shame on you and you will be hurt less.

  • It is not the wrong act that disturbs us, it is our judgement of them as being excessively grievous that makes them painful. Dismiss them and they will seem less harmful.

  • Understand that being sad, angry and vexed, as a result of a wrong act against us, does us more harm than the act itself.

  • Genuine benevolence is invincible.

"For what will the most violent man do to thee, if thou continuest to be of a benevolent
disposition towards him" - Marcus Aurelius

  • When someone is trying to harm you, try to correct their errors gently and kindly, saying -

"Not so, my child: we are constituted by nature for something else: I shall
certainly not be injured, but thou art injuring thy-
self, my child" - Marcus Aurelius

  • Note that being driven by passion and taking eye for an eye is not manly or courageous or honorable . If that would be the case then any brute could be a philosopher.

  • Facing difficult people with genuine mildness and gentleness is the mark of a brave man. Philosophy teaches us that.

  • Lastly understand that there are bad men who will do wrong acts towards everyone and not just you, to expect otherwise is foolish. So is it not unjust for you to allow them to be unjust towards other, but expect them to be kind towards you ?

Read more about this at On dealing with insults

Note from Book XI Meditations