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The 4 Types Of Difficult People And How To Deal With Them

by Judith Orloff MD

Relationships are always an energy exchange.

Difficult people can leech the energy right out of you. To successfully deal with these “energy vampires” you must be methodical.

To stay feeling your best, you must ask yourself: Who gives me energy? Who saps my energy?

Here’s how to spot four types of energy vampires and protect yourself from having your energy sapped.

difficult people

Types Of Energy Vampires

1. The Narcissist

These vampires have an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement, and they crave attention and endless praise.

Some narcissists are obnoxious ego maniacs, but others are charming, intelligent, and masterful seducers. If you’re needy or vulnerable, they love being your white knight to save the day.

Related: How To Communicate With Difficult People

Narcissists know how to play you like a fiddle so that you’re enamored with them. However, once your admiration stops or you dare to disagree, they turn on you by becoming aloof, punishing, controlling, or passive aggressive.

Self-defense tips: Because they value control and power over love, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can get a narcissist to truly care about you. Keep your expectations realistic.

Don’t make your self-worth dependent on them, and don’t share your deepest feelings with them; their reaction will only disappoint.

Complaining or getting angry won’t work with a narcissist. Instead, stroke their ego and show how your requests fulfills their self-interest.

2. The Drama Queen

They have a breathy flair for exaggerating small incidents and making them off-the-charts dramas. Life is always extreme, either unbearably good or bad.

Related: Take Charge: 4 Ways To Be Free Of Drama Once And For All

They spend life flitting from crisis to crisis, energized by chaos. Histrionics are their middle name. The roller coaster antics of a drama queen can put you on overload and wipe you out.

Self-defense tips: With a drama queen, setting limits will reign in their emotional extravaganzas.

Understand: this vampire doesn’t want you to keep a cool head; they only win if they succeed in getting you worked up.

To keep your calm, the moment you sense a drama queen revving up, take a slow, deep breath to center yourself. Keep concentrating on your breath. Let your breath release tension and ground you. This will keep you from getting caught up in a drama queen’s schtick.

3. The Passive-Aggressive

These types express anger with a smile or exaggerated concern, but always maintain their cool. They are experts at sugar-coating hostility.

They often use procrastination or the exasperating excuse of “I forgot” to avoid commitments. They don’t give straight answers.

These people are infuriating because of their seductive or innocent veneers. They appear eager to please, but know exactly how to make you mad.

Related: Why Arguments Are Good For A Relationship (If You Follow These 4 Steps)

Self-defense tips:  If their mixed message feels confusing or underhanded, trust your intuition.

Address the behavior head-on: “I don’t appreciate that you brought me ice cream when you know I’m trying to diet.” Being specific with passive-aggressive people pins them down.

Let go of the idea that you can change them. Passive-aggressive energy vampires often developed this behavior in response to a childhood where expressing anger was unsafe. Sabotaging others is a way for them to feel in control.

4. The Fixer-Upper

This vampire is like a fixer-upper house that requires endless repairs.

There are two types to watch out for. The first makes you into their therapist. At all hours they call, desperate to have you fix their problems. As a friend, you want to comply, but their conundrums are endless. The tyrannical neediness lures you in and takes you for all the energy you’re worth.

Related: 7 Ways To Get More Energy (Without Napping)

A second type of fixer-upper is someone who you perceive needs an overhaul and can be taken on as a “project.” This vampire is so seductive because (s)he doesn’t put up enough of a fight to dissuade you from trying to fix the problems, yet (s)he’s not interested in changing.

Self–defense tips: If you’re susceptible to fixer-uppers, try to mercifully understand what ropes you in so you don’t repeat this going-nowhere pattern. Ask yourself: Am I motivated by the desire to be liked? To feel wanted? To control? Guilt? An inability to say “no”?

When a fixer-upper appears, start by setting the ground rules of how you interact with them by offering emotional support without compulsively spewing solutions.

If you’re consistent, many will be dissuaded from calling; others will be spurred to rely more on their inner wisdom and/or an appropriate health care professional.

Dealing With A Difficult Person

Forced to deal with difficult people? Keep this in mind: your attitude is important. I view difficult people as Bodhisattvas, spiritual teachers who are meant to awaken us, though they aren’t conscious of their role.

Related: How To (Finally) Find Your Soul Mate

But nobody said “awakening” is always pleasant or easy. Most difficult people aren’t trying to harm you: they are just unconscious or self-absorbed. Very few are truly dark and have evil motives.

Your tone of voice is important, too. A critical tone only inflames people. To get the attention of chronic talkers or those on a rant, it helps to open your remark by lovingly saying their name. Hearing one’s name aloud instinctively makes us pause.

Remember, we all can be difficult at times. Let this sobering fact curb your enthusiasm for chastising the shortcomings of others in word or tone.

The Takeaway

Do your best not to vilify people, even when they’re obnoxious or unkind. Realize that anger addicts, guilt trippers, or the other types of difficult people are insecure, wounded, and disconnected from their hearts. The challenge around bad behavior is to maintain your power and priorities while setting clear boundaries, no matter how annoying, negative, or full of themselves others can be.


Judith-Orloff-MDJudith Orloff MD is author of the national bestseller The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life, upon which this article is based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, intuitive healer, and New York Times bestselling author who synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. An Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, she passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today.

Photo by QuinBaker

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