4 Types of difficult people with whom to resolve conflict

April 14th, 2010 · by Tom Stuart · Relationships

This is my fourth blog on talking it out in relationship conflict.  Today I want to deal with four types of people who may take you all the way to step 3 or 4 of the reconciliation process as outlined in yesterday’s post.  

My goal is to help you identify these people in your life and encourage you to relate to them with wisdom and grace.  God loves them and so can you.  And keep in mind, you just might be that type of person to someone in your life.

1. Irregular People – These are people who think and act differently than you.  For all you know they could be from a different tribe, or planet.  They have a way of saying and doing things that frequently rub you the wrong way.  They probably don’t even know, let alone intend, to be irritating or offending you.  They are oblivious to the effect they have upon you.

These relationships are grace testers.  Often they are relatives, workmates and neighbors whom you have no choice in not relating to them.  Attempts to talk it out with them are frequently an exercise in futility.  In this situation, the only answer in dealing with irregular people is to learn to live in the tension with a dependence upon God’s grace.  God will use it to make you more understanding and loving and in the process just might change them as well.  (Proverbs 27:17)

2. Authority Figures – Conflict with this type of person can be problematic because as leaders, bosses, parents etc. their opinion and perspective typically carry more weight. Those in authority may also be oblivious to the intimidating, controlling effect they can have in relationships with those under them.  As a result it makes it difficult for subordinates to relate to them on a level playing field. 

Trying to sort through a relationship conflict from a weaker bargaining position is a challenge at best.  And sometimes, with an abusive or insensitive authority, it is sadly and seemingly impossible.  The Bible encourages us nonetheless to maintain a submissive, respectful attitude even in the worst of king/subject, master/slave relationships.  We are told to trust God who is our absolute authority and promises that He will ultimately see to our best interests.  (1 Peter 2:13-25)

As a final caveat, those in abusive authority relationships should seek professional help and in most cases would do well to do everything you can to get out of that relationship.

3.  Big Wake People – Working out relationship conflict with these type of people is difficult because although they are not our authorities, they act like it.  They could be compared to intimidating ocean freighters steaming along that leave a huge wake behind them that can easily capsize much smaller boats.  They are big dominant personalities, hard driving type A’s who can sink your boat with their words and actions.  They are oblivious to the effect they have and offenses they create with those who are affected by their wake.

Mark Spencer in his new blog refers to this as “personal presence” affecting another person’s space. (Check out his new blog by the way!)

What do you do with big wake people?  Definitely take all the reconciliation steps but be prepared to be offended by them again.  They are who they are, and you are who you are.  This is where Jesus’ advice about forgiving 70 times 7 times really comes in handy. (Matthew 18:22)

4.  Irreconcilable People – Relationship conflict with this type of person is the most trying of all.  These are people who no matter what you do, will not cooperate in a reconciliation process. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)  They may be divisive people, those set in their ways and stubborn in their opinions.  No amount of appeal will soften their attitude toward you.  For whatever reason, they have chosen to be an enemy. 

Sometimes they may be people whom you have deeply offended.  The Bible tells us that in such cases trying to win them back is harder than taking a strong city. (Proverbs 18:19)  In this situation all you can do is ask forgiveness and seek to build a track record in your relationship with them that will hopefully rebuild trust. (See my blog entry – The perplexity and probability of restoring broken trust)

Some irreconcilable people you need to learn to live with, and others you had best distance yourself from. (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 3:9-11; Romans 16:17) 

Can you think of some types of difficult people I may have missed, with whom it is tough to resolve conflict?  What lessons have you learned about this topic?

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2 Responses to “4 Types of difficult people with whom to resolve conflict”

  1. Bonnie Beckstrom April 14, 2010 at 7:11 am

    How about the people who always appear or seem to appear and say that “everything is just fine” when you know it isn’t. They could just be naive-but usually just don’t want to cause any troubles or deal with stuff.

  2. Bonnie – This is definitely one of the challenges of trying to resolve conflict – those who won’t acknowledge there is some. I guess we do the best we can to live peaceably with them, hoping and praying that if there is something they are carrying they will either genuinely be able to release it or get up the courage to talk about it. Thanks for the insightful comment. Tom

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