Here's a rule of nature: People mired in the depths of misery are absolutely compelled to pull others down with them.

The truth about misery is that it doesn't just love company.

It absolutely demands it.

These days, the need for self-protection against toxic personality types is at an all-time  high.

In his latest book "The Laws of Human Nature", author Robert Greene dedicates an entire portion of the nearly 600 page text to these notoriously difficult human beings. Labeling them as "Toxic Types", Greene offers a psychoanalytic perspective of each persona, their roots in childhood and moreover - the compulsive nature of their behavior. 

Having personally encountered a wide variety of these pernicious types in my own life, I know first hand just how completely soul-depleting they can be. 

Best believe that the last thing you want is to become unknowingly enmeshed in their drama. 

In this article, you'll learn:
  • How to use the power of language to avoid needless conflict
  • 5 phrases specifically designed for disarming difficult people 
  • The psychology behind the effectiveness of each phrase
  • The various contexts in which these phrases have proven most useful

First, let's zoom out and take a look at the big picture. In the Charismatic Communication model, we always begin with the end in mind.

The primary goal here is to disarm, diffuse or bypass the antagonist. The secondary goal is to avoid needless conflict by de-escalating the situation. Two useful questions to start with are:

  1. What does the person I'm dealing with really want or need? 
  2. How can I meet those needs in a way that's caring instead of confrontational? 

Keeping those two questions in mind, the magic phrases you're about to learn all work along the same axiom and fulfill the following three criteria:

  1. Acknowledgement:  The other person feels both heard *and* understood.
  2. Validation:  The other person feels that their opinions or ideas are validated, whether you happen to agree or not.  
  3. Deference:  Showing respect for the other person's intellect and capacity to reason (even in the complete absence thereof).

When communication is structured in a manner that addresses all of these three criteria, even the most determined resistance melts away.


Magic phrase #1. "I'm happy to work with you. How do we fix this?"

Practical application: Useful with uncooperative types who tend to repeatedly discredit your ideas or simply disagree out of spite. A solid option anytime someone digs their heels in and refuses to give an inch.

Why it works: This is the quintessential reframe technique. It effectively shifts the interpersonal dynamic from one that's oppositional/defiant to one that's cooperative/collaborative. 

One golden rule of effective communication is that whenever you find yourself at an impasse, the best course of action is to put the ball back in the other person's court.

This accomplishes two things: 

1. It communicates an eagerness on your part to cooperate rather than compete.

2. It creates an irresistable challenge to your antagonist's problem-solving abilities..

In other words, you've effectively transformed a determined obstacle into an incentivized ally.

Magic phrase #2. "I could be wrong, but ... "

Practical application: Useful with disagreeable, insecure or argumentative types who'd sooner sell their first born than ever admit to the possibility of being wrong.

Also as a "softener" that precedes any statement which might be interpreted as contentious or controversial.

Why it works: Displaying humility by admitting that your logic might be fallible immediately relaxes an antagonist's defensive reflexes. This puts their fears of being scrutinized at ease while simultaneously protecting you from being scrutinized in return.

Afterall, it's rather pointless to tell someone they're wrong after they've just admitted it as a possibility. 

They be like, 'You're wrong'.

And you be like, 'No shit Sherlock'.

Magic Phrase #3: "I like that idea. Can I make a suggestion?"

Practical application: Useful with people who repeatedly interrupt you, talk over you, drown you out, or simply refuse to let you get a word in edgewise.

This one requires that you invite the other person to state their opinion first. Only when you are sure they are finished speaking (Pro-tip: pause for 2-3 seconds), do you pull the trigger.

Why it works: By demonstrating that you are willing to 1. hear the other person out first, 2. acknowledge and validate their opinion (even if it sucks), and 3. politely ask to share input of your own, you've effectively addressed the three criteria for disarming difficult people: Acknowledgement, Validation, Deference.

Magic phrase #4. "Maybe you're right ..."

Practical application:  Use as a countermeasure any time you find yourself being attacked. 

Example: In a fit of rage, someone hits you with a deplorable insult. Instead of reacting defensively with a predictable attack of your own, you simply roll with the attack by suggesting that they're probably right!

The shock effect caused by this technique has to be witnessed to be believed.

Why it works: This magic phrase exemplifies the art of non-resistance. You use your attacker's own power and momentum against them. The more vicious their attack, the more powerfully it boomerangs back in their face. When the shock effect wears off, the shame kicks in. 

They will certainly think twice before tyrannizing you again.

"Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." - Sun Tzu, 'The Art Of War'

Magic phrase #5. "I'll be counting on/I could really use your help ..."

Practical application: I saved this one for last because it's effective at gaining compliance from even notoriously difficult types. Use it to gain compliance and cooperation from someone who is responding to you with unwarranted opposition or hostility.

Why it works: Consider that one secret desire that all human beings share is the need to feel needed. A variation on the reframe technique used earlier, this magic phrase induces an temporary state of confusion (cognitive dissonance) in your antagonizer. 

The language pattern not only presupposes that they are your ally, but that you are relying on them to work cooperatively towards a positive resolution.

Pro-tip: Get specific. Acknowledge one or more qualities that you appreciate or admire in them; the more genuine and specific your praise, the more valuable they feel, the more influence you'll wield.


Caring for people should precede confronting people. You end goal should be to avoid creating enemies by engaging in needless conflict. When dealing with difficult people, the formula to achieve this is simple:

1. Respond, Don't React - Responsibility means the ability to respond effectively (rather than to react emotionally). Maintain control of the situation by staying calm. When asked how he managed to remain so calm amidst the chaos and terror of 9/11, mayor Rudy Juliani replied, 'The calmest person in the room is the most powerful person in the room.'

2. Hear the other person out - Listen intently, acknowledge the other person's opinion (whether you agree or not), and offer them a sense of validation. Once a person feels that they've been fully heard, their opinion acknowledged and their feelings validated, their resistance to you will quickly evaporate.

3. You're not seeking agreement, but understanding - Do not fall into the common trap of needing to convince the other person to agree with you. This will only escalate the conflict and strengthen the other person's resistance to you. People need your understanding far more than they need your approval.

4. Always leave people better than you found them - Charismatic Communicators always seek to create win-win outcomes. We are not looking to maliciously manipulate, cause harm or add to anyone's suffering. Consistently use the power of your language as a force for good and the Universe will reward you accordingly.

Don't forget to share your own insights and experience in the comment box below. I promise to read and respond to them to the best of my ability.

Have any additional phrases you'd like to share that have worked for you? Let me know in the comments below, and if you found this knowledge to be useful, please share it and be sure to comment below.