How Meditation Helps You Deal with Difficult People

Image by Ashish Choudhary from Pixabay

The music system banging, people talking loudly on the phone, family members arguing with each other, and dogs barking outside the window. This is what my environment sounded and looked like when I used to meditate.

Sometimes it’s still like that — or even worse.

But one thing has changed — the way I look at these situations. Inevitably, every meditator or spiritual seeker comes across people and situations that trigger an emotional reaction.

Suddenly, then, our good intentions to be calm, peaceful, and loving are thrown out of the window. We get angry, caustic, sarcastic, sad, and go on an emotional roller coaster.

Later, we repent, having failed to make good on our promise to ourselves.

Therefore, to maintain the peace we feel in our meditation practice we need to learn how to feel with difficult people in life. If you’re someone who’s looking to start meditating, this post will also help you understand how meditation will enable you to deal with such people.

Let’s first understand who these people are and then we’ll learn how to deal with them effectively.

The Narcissist

The narcissist, as you very well must know, is someone who makes everything about them. They want to tell you about all the amazing things they did, their successes, possessions, and so on. They will mold even an unrelated conversation to one where they’re at the center.

In their hearts, they need your attention and confirmation. They want to boost their egos even if it’s at the cost of making others feel worse. Being around them can make your life seem boring and uneventful.

Needless to say, it’s difficult to stay in the same room with a person whose only source of happiness is their pride.

The Drama Queen

The key feature of a drama queen is their amazing ability to create a mountain out of a molehill. Exaggeration is their specialty. Their emotional reactions to little issues make one wonder why they don’t get exhausted all day!

Being with such a person inevitably leaves the feelings stirred in one’s heart. If you feel calm and composed, they can shake you off your center very quickly. They expect you to imitate their response and be emotional with them.

In fact, all they’re looking for is your attention and support. But giving even those two things can get exhausting for the listener.


These are driven, competitive people who have to be right all the time. They not only believe they’re better than you but leave no opportunity to prove it to others.

They often don’t accept or apologize for their mistakes, only putting forward their best, flawless selves. They too are seeking your admiration, praise, and in some cases, submission to their superiority.

In the process of showing they “know it all”, they can use condescending language to point out others’ faults and inadequacies. This, in my experience, comes with frequent sarcasm and taunts.

Talking to a person like this can make you feel bad and even powerless.

The Complainer

Complainers always find something to complain about. Even if they’re on the vacation of their dreams, they have the nerve to get mad at the waiter for not having their cocktail cold enough.

Things are never good enough for them and they want to express this feeling every time. They’re perpetually dissatisfied and in my experience, are often perfectionists.

The reason they share these feelings with you is they seek your validation. But even going along with their feelings casually can instill tons of negativity in our life.

The Antagonist

The antagonists are pushy and confrontational. They might have strong feelings of dislike toward certain people, situations, behaviors, and so on. Most likely, they may not have anything to do with you — they might as well be bubbling with anger and frustration which is then projected onto everyone they meet.

They’re skilled at triggering feelings of anger, distress, and abuse in others.

Now that we’ve seen the kinds of difficult people we find in our path, let’s see how we can deal with them.

Presence and Equanimity

Being present in the moment is the solution to most, if not all problems in life. As meditators, this is what we strive for — to bring our consciousness to the present moment away from the mindless chatter. When we’re present, our emotions don’t have a stronghold over us. We can act from a state of logic and calmness.

The way to use this technique to deal with any kind of difficult person is to pause and breathe first. This gives you the time to think about your response rather than blurt it out.

Grounding yourself will also ensure that you’re free of tension and therefore, free from frustrated reactions.

If you’re dealing with a drama queen, for example, you can get back to the present moment and see they’re exaggerating everything. If you’re dealing with Mr./Ms. Better Than You, you can affirm that you’re not impressed by their big words.

This presence lets you be in a state of equanimity where there’s no fear or defensive action. Fortunately, this feeling is a direct fruit of your meditation practice.

Since meditation involves focusing our attention on an object of focus, we learn how to bring our attention away from our thoughts and emotions at will.

Now, using the armor of equanimity will save you from trouble, but it might seem unkind to others. It can make them feel you’re emotionless, not interested, and disrespectful. This brings me to my next point.


While equanimity is crucial, it needs to be balanced with compassion. When you respond with compassion you tell the other person that you understand where they’re coming from.

Often all kinds of personalities above are likely wounded emotionally, or mentally. They have narrow worldviews and little knowledge about the Self. It’s not their “fault.” It’s just the way they’ve been trained.

Every human being will come to the Supreme Understanding in their own time. Meanwhile, our job is to be compassionate for others who may not be where we are.

Thus, what they really need from you is help. Treating them with their own medicine will only make matters worse.

This is why compassion needs to be added to the mix. By being compassionate, you put yourself in their shoes and feel what they’re feeling.

When you do that sincerely, your anger will diminish. I can tell you this from experience. Eventually, you’ll realize that there’s no use in getting angry or frustrated at them. You need to accept them as they are and help them grow.

It’s not always easy. But remember that in helping them grow, you’re growing tenfold.

Standing Up

Many spiritual philosophies and practices often lean on the side of doing nothing. The core focus of such philosophies is to accept the situation as it is without reacting to it.

Gandhi’s way was such. He was completely harmless and believed in turning the other cheek when slapped. When he was once asked what would he do if a madman came to the village and started shooting everyone, he said he will let himself be shot first.

Swami Kriyananada however, said that’s not necessarily the right thing. The right thing here would be to stop the madman, using force if needed, for it saved the lives of hundreds of other men at the cost of one.

Similarly, if a person is going on with their negative patterns you can either accept them or stand up for what you feel is wrong. Both paths are fine, but the latter takes more courage.

Acceptance too can get frustrating after a point and it stops helping anyone improve their life. There’s rarely any merit in getting dragged in their mess and negativity.

The right thing, should you choose to do it, is to use an adequate mix of compassion, calmness along with boldness, and willpower to break the pattern. Yet, this isn’t your free pass to be aggressive.

To explain this further, there are three levels to standing up that you can choose from depending on your temperament:

The first is the more passive way where you just remain silent, letting the other person do what they’re doing. Eventually, seeing that you’re not affected they will stop themselves. Your non-involvement offers no validation whatsoever to the aggressive person.

The second is the questioning where you ask the person questions to help them see things from a different perspective. Instead of reacting to their arguments ask questions and let them come to a positive conclusion on their own. In this case, rather than fighting back, you’re calmly leading them to the right understanding.

The third and the most aggressive way of all is to directly confront the person. This means calling out their behavior and telling them who they are. This can be useful when the person is continuing their condescending behavior. You should be careful with this and decide if you want to use it or not, depending on the stakes. As a result, they will see you as someone who calls their game and will be more mindful when they talk to you next.

Walking Away

If nothing from the above works, then you have only one option — to walk away politely from the situation and call it a day. If the other person is not receptive to your compassion, the least you can do is be compassionate to yourself and end the conversation.

This doesn’t have to be rude. You can simply say, “Look I don’t feel this conversation is going anywhere. Let’s talk about it some other time?” If you feel the person isn’t going to reform soon, you can just say that you don’t want to be engaged in such conversations. Either they will stop talking about it with you or leave you alone.

In both cases, you’re able to retain your peace of mind.

Final Thoughts

Difficult people or situations, especially in the life of a meditator are a great opportunity to test oneself and actively apply the virtues we aspire to hold ourselves to.

By poking the right buttons inside us, difficult people make us aware that these buttons still exist. And that we have more work to do if we want to eradicate them.

In that sense, these people are a blessing in our lives. For only they are able to make us aware of our faults that we otherwise would’ve missed.

Dealing with such people from an attitude of gratitude, compassion, even-mindedness, and a little touch of boldness can bring harmony back into our lives. Learning to use all these virtues together is indeed a practice of a lifetime.

But as you get better at it, you will find your life getting much more happier and harmonious.

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Written on September 19, 2021