6 Things to Know When Responding to Difficult Personalities

6 Things to Know When Responding to Difficult Personalities

Our personal ways of “fighting” come from our natural instinct, personality and early family dynamics.  Many of us are unable to defuse conflict because we are repeating the extreme patterns of childhood, either attacking or avoiding. June Hunt further categorizes these personalities with the animals below. Read the goal of each person and six suggestions we should know when responding to them. 

How to Respond to Attackers

Things to know when dealing with Attackers, people who want to feel significant.

  • WolvesGoal: To feel powerful
    • Let them have their say without interrupting.
    • Get their attention with praise.
    • Hold your ground. (Match strength with strength.)
    • Avoid arguments.
    • Don’t put yourself down.

    “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)

  • SnakesGoal: To feel superior
    • Be aware of their power to destroy.
    • Catch them in a lie.
    • Enlist someone to help you confront them in private.
    • Expect them to deny what they have done.
    • Don’t let them get away with an attack.

    “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15–17)

  • HornetsGoal: To feel valuable
    • Learn to cut off negative conversation.
    • Respond only to what is important.
    • Confront their game-playing.
    • Encourage a look at solutions.
    • Don’t reinforce their complaints.

    “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

How to Respond to Avoiders

Things to know when dealing with Avoiders, people who want to feel secure.

  • TurtlesGoal: To feel safe
    • Ask questions that can’t be answered with yes or no.
    • Seek to get them to talk on the feeling level.
    • Hang in there until you get a response.
    • Be positive, not critical with them.
    • Don’t answer for them.

    “A man is praised according to his wisdom, but men with warped minds are despised.” (Proverbs 12:8)

  • ChameleonsGoal: To feel accepted
    • Make it “okay” to disagree.
    • Help them identify priorities.
    • Learn their hidden fears.
    • Reinforce their decisions.
    • Don’t accept their “yes” as complete agreement.

    “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Proverbs 12:25)

  • WeaselsGoal: To feel courage
    • Avoid accusations.
    • Don’t get drawn into arguments.
    • Be strong and immovable.
    • Be forgiving.
    • Be consistently encouraging.

    “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses … in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left.” (2 Corinthians 6:4, 7)


Article Used by Permission from Hope for the Heart©

Scripture, unless otherwise indicated, taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

June Hunt

June Hunt

June Hunt, M.A. Criswell College, is a biblical counselor whose award-winning radio program "Hope For The Heart" is heard on 900 radio outlets around the world. For more than 25 years, she has counseled people, offering them hope for today's problems. June has helped many people with emotional, relational, and spiritual problems experience God's love through biblical hope and practical help. Click here to find out more about Hope for the Heart.

Hope For The Heart Board of Reference

Dr. Henry Blackaby (Blackaby Ministries International), Dr. Rick Warren (Saddleback Church), Dr. Tony Evans (The Urban Alternative), Joni Eareckson Tada (Joni and Friends), Kay Arthur (Precept Ministries International), Dr. David Jeremiah (Turning Point), Dr. Tim Clinton (American Association of Christian Counselors), Dr. Bruce Wilkinson (Bruce Wilkinson Ministries), Dr. Chip Ingram (Living on the Edge), Roger Staubach (SRS Real Estate Partners), Steve Arterburn (New Life Ministries), Vonette Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), Dr. Charles Stanley (In Touch Ministries), Zig Ziglar (Ziglar Training Systems)


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