When I was a kid we used to play that simple card game called battle. Whoever had the higher card won and you'd turn over each card until done. Life can be a bit like this game, if you want it to be. But it doesn't have to be. There are difficult people everywhere: at work, at home, in volunteer circles, and yes, in your friendship pool. Difficult people are difficult to avoid so you need to learn how to play the game of Battle, in a different way.
Three practical tips...
1. Connect and seek to understand them. Be Socratic. Use inquiry. Most difficult people want to control the situation and can become very defensive in the way they articulate and express themselves. I have always found it's good to ask questions instead of making statements. Generally difficult people want to know you have heard them out, and sometimes they like to repeat their points over and over. They don't want you to tell them the answer. They want to have all the answers. Lead them down a path of giving answers and stimulate critical thinking.
2. Win the war by picking battles. Many years ago I read an awesome book on philosophy called "The Art of War".
If you've not read this book, pick up a copy. If you have got a copy of it, buy one for a friend or loved one and re-read it. There are variations that have evolved over time, however it's one of the timeless classics I have on my re-read list. It teaches you strategy in dealing with people.
3. Always take the high road and never give into the behavior. Yeah, so this is a difficult one. We all have egos and feelings, but practice and master the ability to step outside of your ego, smile, laugh and show the common ground. People will know who is reasonable, and who has the issue. Leave pride at the door and show the path to resolve and you will become known for your ability to play the game well.
At the end of the day, we've all been dealt the same hand: this is our life and people are at the center of it, so the single best thing you can do is to learn how to master the art of people.
And remember, a game of "Battle" doesn't always have to be 'highest card wins'...