Lawrence E. Kincade, Ph.D., LCSW > The Anatomy of a "Difficult" Person


It is very important to be able to separate someone's behaviors from who they are as a person.  To do this, it is important to be aware of factors that may play a part in those difficult behaviors.  Knowing where the behaviors may come from can help you see the behaviors as something other than a personal attack.  Beyond seeing the behaviors from another perspective, it is not advisable to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out why someone acts the way they do.  Even if you could analyze them to the point where you "figured it out," the behaviors would still be there and it would not solve your problem.  Here, then, are some explanations for some difficult behaviors.

  • Their behavior is learned:  People tend to repeat behaviors that have gotten them what they wanted in the past.  Difficult people have gotten some reinforcement or reward for behaving that way. 
  • It is based on emotional factors:  Often the driving force behind difficult behavior is some emotional state, usually fear, anger or insecurity.
  • The don't know any other way:  Some people are just not aware of how to act another way.  They may lack the social skills or communication skills to behave more appropriately.
  • They may have low self-esteem:  Some types of difficult behavior can be the result of people feeling so poorly about themselves, that they feel a need to prove something to the world and to themselves and overdo it in the process.
  • There may be medical or biological factors:  Biology, brain chemistry and medical conditions can explain some difficult behaviors (e.g., attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, depression, bipolar disorder).