Dealing with Difficult People: Learn to Ask Questions

Dealing with Difficult People: Learn to Ask Questions

By Mike Martin


Humans have developed a strange trait that is more common in men than women. That trait allows us to not ask questions and yet still assume we know the answers. When you are dealing with a difficult person in your life, even if you’re afraid, try asking them some direct questions. What’s the worst that can happen, they’re already intolerable? And you may even get some answers.

Why don’t we ask questions more often? Some people like to pretend they are smarter than they really are and others somehow see it as a failure of some sort on their behalf. Asking questions is not an admission of failure. It is a statement of your intention to understand or be understood.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask questions is a fool forever”. Which would you prefer? In addition to not being considered a fool most of us would prefer to be successful. Sometimes to be successful we have to ask for help.

Some people don’t ask questions of the difficult people in their life because they don’t want to hear the answer. Because knowing the truth about a situation may move them out of their comfort zone and might force them to take an action that they don’t know if they can handle. But if you want to know what’s really going on inside the head of the difficult person, why not just ask? In the immortal words of one of my heroes, Kermit the Frog “Asking questions is a very good way to find out about something.” Try it you might like it.

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of “Change the Things You Can” (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit:

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