Dr Judith Orloff's Blog

4 Surrender Strategies to Communicate with Difficult People

Judith Orloff - Thursday, October 09, 2014

(Excerpt from Dr. Judith Orloff's national bestseller The Power of Surrender: Let Go and Energize Your Relationships, Success, and Well-Being)

Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time and energy contending with difficult people or “emotional vampires” at work and at home. It’s a reflex to emotionally contract around them feeling powerless, irritated, hurt, or miserable, reactions that just wear you out. But, they can’t steal your happiness unless you let them.

Surrender can improve your communication skills in many kinds of challenging interactions. For instance, do you know when to surrender your need to be right in order to restore love at home, or when to surrender resentments so that you can forgive? How to avoid taking things personally? Or deal with a friend or spouse who’s doing something you disagree with?

Be aware that your ego could resist the concept of surrender as its aim is to create open channels of communication between people rather than stonewalling or defending, responses the ego is more accustomed to. Instead if you value “we” as well as “me,” you become a master at diffusing negativity, not a pushover. Let’s say you’re deadlocked in an argument; nobody’s giving in. Then what? Don’t turn it into a battle for supremacy. Instead, give the first inch, an act of true strength. Apologizing for your part in the conflict shows that you value the relationship more than your ego. This opens the door for others to admit their part too. It’s people with real power who step up first to surrender their ego, promoting impeccable communication.

Here are four strategies from The Power of Surrender to help you deal with the difficult people in your life.

Strategy #1: Follow the Laws of Impeccable Communications

Follow these general laws of communication so you’re able to flow with difficult people and prevent blocks. In your daily life, these will ensure that you’re leading from a position of strength not anger or desperation. You’ll be flexible instead of just meeting conflict with an oppositional force.

The Laws of Impeccable Communication


  • Be calm, not emotionally reactive
  • Avoid defensiveness--it makes you look weak
  • Patiently hear someone out without interrupting or needing to have the last word
  • Empathize with where people are coming from, even if you disagree with them
  • Pick your battles, apologize when necessary
  • Don’t

  • Be drawn into drama
  • React impulsively out of anxiety or anger so you say something you’ll regret
  • Hold onto resentments or stay attached to being right
  • Attempt to manage other people’s lives or become their therapist
  • Shame people, especially in front of others
  • Get in the habit of applying these laws to both friends and foes. The “dos” involve surrender and discernment. They will move you closer to resolving conflict by first harmonizing with another’s position, even if you disagree. This sets a tone to resolve conflicts or set boundaries whereas antagonism just alienates.

    Strategy #2: Be Mindful of Your Attitude

    Your attitude is important. Difficult people can be like spiritual teachers who are meant to awaken us, though they aren’t conscious of their role. Nobody said awakening is always pleasant or easy. But they can teach you about surrender: the attitudes you must release to triumph over them or set boundaries and which of their behaviors you must not surrender too. 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.

    Strategy #3: Watch the Tone of Your Voice

    Your tone of voice is important too. A critical tone only inflames people. Set limits with them and firmly say “no” with love, instead of sounding snippy or blaming when someone “steps over the red line.” 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.

    Strategy #4: Be Compassionate

    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.

    People can be annoying and disappointing, as we all sometimes are. None of us is perfect; most of us are doing the best we can. So keep searching for a part of someone that you can empathize with, even when it’s a stretch. You may not always succeed, but keep trying. This doesn’t make you a doormat or a victim. Rather, such compassion allows you to become the finest version of yourself, even as you set limits with bad behavior.


    Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. She is a New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive Healing. Connect with Judith on  Facebook and  Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website.

    Anonymous commented on 15-Oct-2014 01:23 PM
    Thank you so much for the much needed advice - couldn't have come at a better time!
    Elan commented on 15-Oct-2014 04:06 PM
    Your insights have been treasures for me. You've help me embrace the strength, understanding and joy of my blessed life. Thank you with all my heart!!!
    Colleen commented on 16-Oct-2014 01:48 AM
    Thank you for this advice. I run a support group for depression and anxiety sufferers and related problems, where it could be very useful.
    Debra richardson commented on 16-Oct-2014 06:13 AM
    yes i haveenergies vampires but why when i tell people good things in my life that positive they dont respond or say any thing
    Kate commented on 16-Oct-2014 09:15 AM
    The book rocks! I refer to it often. Highly recommend it to everyone!
    lucy commented on 16-Oct-2014 11:05 AM
    I bought my carless, jobless, abused neighbor a van. Helped her out financially. When she refused to help me with a little housework, actually she would agree and then never show up. I decided to end this one sided friendship. I never have known such a vindictive, hostile person. She sent me the most awful emails, called me names out her window, called me out in the street to fight. I'm 56 and have never fought a soul in my life, Her husband started stalking me and giving me death threats. I have called the police 3 times, after their children threw rotten tomatoes at me and my house and for the stalking and death threats. She finally stopped the emails and now they release their Pit Bull on me and I did warn them to stop and I finally after about 6 times called the animal control. It has been the worst summer of my life. I actually thought her husband was going to kill me. I have lost 40 lbs and now suffer from insomnia. They are neighbors from hell, that I just tried to help and as they say, "no good deed goes unpunished. I own my house 36 yrs, and they are renters, who I pray to God will move!, so I can get my life back. Sincerely, terrified in ,mo
    sue commented on 23-Oct-2014 10:33 PM
    LUCY!!! you need to get the law involved, that is terrible! Do you know the landlord? get them evicted, but in the process, get an order of protection, and maybe a HUGE male cousin that has a giant doberman to move in for a while! I'm not a counselor, but land sakes, thats more than an energy vampire/thats real earth demons!! Stand up for yourself! Get this done,top notch-without their knowledge. You are probably not the first human target, ya know? YIKERS
    JPJ commented on 23-Jan-2015 11:50 AM
    Lucy!! Stop being the victim and take control of your life!!
    You have the law on your side so use it and stop just complaining.
    The are intimidating you. Take charge here.

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