Difficult People

By Fran Marmor | June 9th, 2014

Try ‘Plan B’ – and learn the lesson of compassion in dealing with them


I am miserable. My husband and I bought a beautiful patio home four months ago, meant to be our last home purchase, and I am ready to put out a “For Sale” sign! Our next-door neighbor is totally obnoxious. We have a small dog that is so quiet I can hardly hear her bark when I’m upstairs, yet this witchy woman always complains. She glares at me when I get the mail, complains about our visitors parking near her house and has already made snide comments about how we have decorated the front of our house. I was nice to her when we first moved in, but even then she was cold as ice. I can’t stand the sight of her and don’t even like to come out of my house if she is there. I feel like a prisoner in my own home. Help!

– Marjorie 


I truly feel for you! It can be really challenging dealing with difficult people. I used to believe it was always a good idea to try to talk things out with people, but I’ve learned that this only works when both parties are committed to making things better. In your case, I’d suggest you go to what I call “Plan B,” which is having empathy for people who don’t seem to have good social skills.

You’ve moved in with your husband, and perhaps this woman has lost her husband or has a bad relationship with her husband, and her negativity could actually be envy. If you can see her attitude as her issue, it will be far easier not to take it personally. As difficult as it will initially  be, I’d smile and say hi, regardless of what she does. When she complains about things that are not valid, I would just smile, and say, “I don’t see it quite the same way, but thanks for letting me know.” The most important thing is not to let someone who is clearly difficult contaminate your attitude or enjoyment of the house. I once heard it said that difficult people provide you with experience, truly challenging people provide you with a lesson, and the best people provide you with memories. Find the lesson of compassion with your neighbor, and get memories from the rest of the people you are fortunate to have in your life!

– Fran

Fran Marmor, LCSW, has been a psychotherapist for more than 20 years. Though changing some details, she writes of actual cases for BOOMER from Fort Collins, Colo. Reach her at marmor@greyrock.org. 

More from Boomer