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The ability to deal effectively with other people, including disagreeable and downright difficult people, is one of the most important skills of daily living.

Being able to get along with a wide variety of people and knowing how to have a conversation with difficult people can determine our success at school, on the job, and in life. Yet most people’s skills in dealing with difficult people are sadly lacking. In addition, shy people can have even more trouble with difficult people, because of their seemingly “meek” or “timid” disposition, they can be a prime target for difficult behavior.

A researcher in the field of human relations by the name of Robert Conklin conducted a survey in which he asked 1000 people, “Do you feel you don’t get along with others?” Nearly no one agreed that they were unable to get along with people. Yet when he asked the same number of respondents to list their “three greatest pet peeves,” 998 listed gripes that were caused by…other people!

One of the most important ingredients in dealing with difficult people is the “likability factor.” It is the ability to gain the goodwill and respect and liking of others. If someone likes and respects you, they tend to be more mindful of your needs and desires.

Of course, you can’t get everybody to like you. Still, this is another area in which shy people are at a distinct disadvantage. According to one of the world’s foremost shyness researchers, Dr. Philip Zimbardo “Shy people are often not liked by as many people as they like… but in fact are liked by very few.”

One way to improve your “likability factor” is to develop a skill for remembering peoples names. When you remember somebody’s name, even after only one meeting, it sends a signal that you are interested in them, and by extension, that you are more likely to take their concerns and desires into consideration.

The author of this article describes in many more ways how to have a conversation with difficult people and how to deal with them effectively in his new course, “Break out of your Shell! how to overcome shyness so you can get on with your life!” In it, he discusses the following types of difficult people and how to talk with them:

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