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Posted on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Difficult people sometimes unavoidable in daily life

By Rich Kinsey

Difficult people are a fact of life. Not everyone in the world is full of sunshine and courtesy. In life, we all must deal with difficult people on occasion. Whether it is on the job, in school, on the street, at home or any other place where humans meet each other — difficult people will enter our lives.

Owing to the nature of police work, officers find themselves dealing with difficult people all the time. The majority of those who call the police are in peril, trouble or having some sort of really bad day. The only exceptions to this are parents calling to set up department tours for a group of Cub Scouts or Brownies, or the rare resident who calls to thank the police for something they have done. Therefore, police officers become very adept at quickly identifying and then dealing with difficult people.


Many cops say all it takes for some people to become difficult is a bit too much to drink. file photo

During the past 30 years, I have dealt with my share of difficult people and have received hours of training on the identification and successful handling of difficult people. Early identification of the difficult person is the key to safely and successfully resolving issues caused by difficult people.

One must remember when dealing with a difficult person — or person who is just being unreasonable and rude — that these individuals believe they are being completely reasonable and YOU are the problem standing in their way. Avoidance of difficult people is what all of us strive for and is the best way to handle a difficult person.

Some difficult people, however, just cannot be avoided. Perhaps they are in a position of authority like a boss, co-worker or even a family member. They may be a customer, neighbor or a loved one acting badly. In any event — identifying, categorizing and perhaps even mentally “labeling” the type of difficult individual can aid us in effectively coping with them.

I have found that if we were to assign medical terminology to difficult people, we would find difficult people in two categories: acute and chronic.

This may be a shock, but we are all afflicted by the “acute” condition of being a difficult person from time to time. On occasion, we all are situationally-difficult people.

My family, friends and colleagues have informed me that in my case, the initial symptoms of this malady — spelled C-R-A-N-K-Y or M-A-D — is “the look.” My “look” involves squinting eyes and a frown or sneer and is pretty obvious.

Being a situationally-difficult person can be caused by a number of factors. The situationally-difficult person may be under the influence of frustration, rage, depression, fear, anxiety or almost any human emotion in an abnormally large quantity — with the possible exception of joy.

Any of us under the right combination of stressors causing extreme levels of emotion can become difficult. Various chemicals can combine with emotions and cause extreme lapses in judgment and perception causing a person to become difficult.

One of my police colleagues eloquently summed up a form of the chemically-induced condition, “Take a normal person, add alcohol, shake vigorously and you’ve got an—insert coarse police jargon depicting a difficult person here—on your hands!”

The good news about the “acute” condition, of being a situationally-difficult person, is that its onset is quick, the contagious period is short and the recovery time is brief. Most afflicted by the condition can be completely cured by removal of the stressor, nourishment—ala the “Snickers Diva” syndrome—or a good night’s sleep.

The chronically-difficult person can be a terminal condition. We are all created equal, but we also are individuals. We are all different. We have different backgrounds, upbringing as well as physical, emotional and mental capabilities. Viva la difference! That is what makes this country great and life more interesting. We must however understand, because we are all different and not of like mind, there will be conflict and disagreement.

Some people are just disagreeable, rude and mean on a daily basis. These are the bullies and jerks of the world. They view themselves as always right. These chronically-difficult people view the rest of the human race as jerks, victims or in some manner substandard and not worthy of respect or courtesy. These chronically difficult people feel “entitled” and treat others poorly because they do not understand human decency or particularly care who they offend.

If one should find they feel that everyone around them is a problem or an idiot, that person should take a good look in the mirror because the actual problem is staring back at them. This is an extreme case and such a person should seek mental health care immediately before they wind up in prison or hurting themselves and those around them.

Chronically difficult people, of course, run a spectrum from being mildly obnoxious and discourteous to being the meanest and worst in our world. The condition causing chronic difficultly in people is probably hereditary and may span generations. The reason being that the chronically-difficult person, or jerk or whatever you might label such a person, can only attract similar mates.

Thus two chronically-difficult people mate and bear offspring that will more than likely become a difficult person. The only good thing about being a chronically difficult person is that one achieves a level of immortality in police circles. When retired cops meet they always talk about the chronically-difficult people they had to deal with time and time again.

Today, police cars are equipped with computers. A police officer readily can identify a chronically-difficult person by running their name and checking their records. In the days before computers, however, police officers communicated to each other differently.

For instance, in the days before driver’s licenses were hard plastic, officers would pen a small mark on the back of a license to warn the next officer they were dealing with a difficult person.

A small “A” with a circle around it, on the back of a license was one officer's way of secretly telling another officer this person was an elite — “A-team” if you will — individual and as such entitled to all the rights and benefits of being a “Gold Card” or police “frequent flyer” chronically-difficult person.

If you received a lot of traffic tickets in your youth and still have your old driver’s license, check the back of it. Perhaps you were a member of this elite club and should have been more courteous to the police you dealt with.

Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for



Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.

Good column on a whole but why do I find he seems to be a bit difficult as well, lol Well its really hard to get to know somebody by just reading what they write--in fact impossible, thanks for sharing.

Michigan Reader

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

Very interesting article, but a casual observation can tell you that not all people are created equal. Jeffrey Dahmer was much more difficult than pope John Paul II, and you don't need a victim impact statement to know that. But, different, bingo!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 8:59 p.m.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 7:46 p.m.

This is the best and most useful article I have seen on, seriously. "Thus two chronically-difficult people mate and bear offspring that will more than likely become a difficult person. The only good thing about being a chronically difficult person is that one achieves a level of immortality in police circles."


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

I'm a nice person, but when I put on my hat, I transform into HUGE EH WHOLE MAN. Downvote to your hearts content.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

I always enjoy reading Rich's columns. Very timely and accurate as well as insightful. I have encountered my share of "difficult" people, whether in the workplace or other situations. Never good, and I must say that workplaces are filled with all levels of difficult people; some are bosses and some are co-workers. Some people seem to have a bad day every day, and others seem to be pathological in some way, whether just very angry at life, or perpetual victims, and of course there are those bullies we all encounter whether in line at the supermarket or at work. Some people as adults have never worked through their childhood issues and end up as aging adolescents, playing out all those schoolyard games day after day, as if they were still 7 or 9 years old. It always amazes me to see full grown functioning adults who act in vengeful ways or bully all of those around them, just for the fun of it. Often, these bullies end up in supervisory positions at work due to intimidating everyone along the way, and these can be enormously destructive in workplaces. Be wary of situations where there is constant turnover in an office or department if you are looking for a job; that's usually a sign that there are "difficult" people who are hard to get rid of.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 6:56 p.m.

You've described my workplace to a tee, unfortunately.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 4:57 p.m.

The Police may be difficult because he/she is having a bad day, but if you are pleasant and have a smile on your face you too will diffuse the situation.

John of Saline

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 7:48 p.m.

And it will disperse, like a mist?


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

Of course a police officer could never be a "difficult person".

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 3:51 a.m.

uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...................... oops.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

Hi Rich, Mady here. another excellent article(maybe the "A" stands for a certain body part...?). BOOK!!!!! will continue to harp on this. DO THE BOOK!! I'm a woman. nagging may well be part of my dna. PLEASE COMPILE THE BOOK!!!!!!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

This quote often helps me when I deal with difficult people: There are over 7 billion people on Earth. And you are going to let 1 PERSON ruin your day? Don't.

music to my ear

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

difficult people will always be" Difficult people" to old to change and it is their nature. the less contact with these types are beneficial to our health the old sayin "misery loves company" is so true again as conundrummy has said, we have to watch our backs, no more callin the diff person azz ___ . ( you know ) they could come back at you. at work or home, it could make breathing Difficult.walking on eggshells, try and remove yourself from that situation before you stress your heart.lets try dont worry be happy.wouldnt the world be nicer.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Anyone remember the TV series "A Team". This article spins a new meaning on that title. And you could extrapolate it a bit further into a new meaning for Type A personalities. This may get me into big trouble some day, but when an A Team member is yelling at me I tend to laugh out loud. It seems so silly for adults to yell when a reasonable tone of voice accomplishes so much more.


Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 2:59 a.m.

Heck, one of the best shows ever on TV, how can we forget the A Team

Sarah Rigg

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

A spelling error has been corrected.


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.

That's one. There are about a dozen missing commas (when there are a series of three or more things, does a comma not go before the 'or'?); also, believes should be believe. Nevertheless, it is a good article!


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

Rich....Just because of my background I've called the police/Sheriff's a few times to complement a officer.When it comes to the cops people are quick to complain but almost never complement.Every time the person who answered the phone immediately thought I was going to make a complaint and when I didn't they seem to be kinda shocked


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 9:08 p.m.

nothing says thanks better than baking something yummy!

Boo Radley

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

tdw, it is great that you do that, but consider taking the time to write out a letter of commendation or at least a note and send it to the Chief or Sheriff. A copy will get placed in the officer's file, and generally sent down from the Chief to the officer's supervisors. Sometimes the information received by the call taker is not passed on.

Top Cat

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

On the other hand....I encounter difficult sober people behind the wheel every day....and rarely encounter difficult people at the brewpubs. The bottom line is that lots of people are no longer raised to be polite and respectful. It all begins and ends in the home.


Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 3:01 a.m.

And workplaces, schools, etc. I'm a firm believer in, "what goes around, comes around"


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

Great article! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wish I were better at dealing with the A-Team!

Chip Reed

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

I love Rich's writing, but "insert course police jargon" should be "insert COARSE police jargon"...

Rich Kinsey

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 7:48 p.m.

You are absolutely correct. Thanks for the correction....Rich


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 11:54 a.m.

After a difficult week at work, thanks for the bright moment....still chuckling at my desk


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 11:26 a.m.

When you run into one of these the best approach is usually with honey and not lemons. These types are usually looking for a fight and honey can usally defuse the situation. I try to leave my pride at home to see another day. These days with concealed weapons nothing can be left to chance.