Dealing With Difficult People - 5 Tips for Artists

I’m certain many of you have had the misfortune of encountering the dreaded, ‘fault finder’. That person who just loves to nit-pick and cut down the accomplishments and dreams of others. They gather power from minor infractions and seem to thrive in cyber world. From the safety and anonymity of their computer, they can harass, embarrass and dismantle you. They can’t wait to point out a spelling error in your blog, a sketchy shadow in your painting or any other shortcoming that other’s wouldn’t notice. Deep inside, they hate that you spent more time developing your technical skills and they’ll make every excuse in the book to explain why they aren't doing as well. Their fragile ego requires them to project - they take out all their unhappiness and personal failures on you. For them, it’s some sick form of therapy. If they magnify your flaws, they’re able to minimize theirs.

I've never subscribed to the belief that one person’s success is responsible for another's failure.  That antiquated, Karl Marx jargon is utterly ridiculous and extremely dangerous. The world is brimming with opportunity and for those willing to take a risk, there is enough money and success to go around. In order to retrieve your piece of the pie, you must find out what you're good at, and carve out your own niche.  Stop envying, copying and lamenting - these negative pursuits cultivate a rich environment for self-destructive behavior.  

But the real question, is how can we deal with these difficult people without stooping to their level? How can we guard our own fragile ego’s and protect everything we’ve worked so hard for? The answer isn’t demanding that social media companies intervene and censor our virtual reality. Rather it’s incumbent upon us to know what’s good for us, set boundaries, and take action to filter our individual reality. Let’s be honest, no mater how much I may disagree with someone or dislike their comments, they have a right to voice them and that right should be preserved in a free society. As an individual, you also have the right not to put up with abusive language or vicious, personal attacks. When online debate no longer maintains a sense of decorum, you don’t have to engage and fan the flames of poor behavior. This day in age, I think we forget there is a human being behind the other computer struggling in their own way to live and prosper in an unforgiving world. We forget their point of view is based on their personal hardships or victories - all factors that shaped their world. Before lashing out and cutting that person down, take a moment and employ some empathy. Just remember, your cruel comeback could be the small push that someone needs to dive over the edge. Know when to concede, ignore or scroll on. Social media gives you all the tools you need to find your tribe and retain that communication. It’s your responsibility to nurture your emotional well-being and preserve your reputation. Below are some tips built on years of painful experiences.

5 Tips on How to Deal With Difficult People

1. Don't engage with difficult people - they’re not worth your time and reputation. 
When you entertain them, you give them power. These people normally wouldn't lift a finger to change their lives but the second you engage them, they become a soldier for their own ridiculous vendetta.  Morgan Freeman is quoted as saying, "It's hard to win an argument with a smart person, but it's damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person."  Hardworking and respectful people don't cut down or belittle others.  They value the hard work and determination it takes to make something.  Remember that.

2. Delete and/or block if you have to on social media
There are billions of people on social platforms and it’s easy to find people who will offer constructive advice and heartfelt accolades.  Social media is one of the best things that has happened to the art world.  In contrast, it has been one of the most distracting and harming things for the artist. One negative comment can crumble months of work. One jealous, nasty word can open an emotional can of worms that can paralyze us. When we waste creative time dwelling on the hurt, the bully won - they’re now kicking around our head. Learn to brush it off. Learn to restrain your desire to protect your ego and move on. Block the person if they continue to be hurtful or ignore them until they realize your not a power source.

3. Understand the origins of the problem- it's not you, it's them. 
This might sound overtly parental, but it is absolutely true - the origin of most criticism is jealousy.  The origins of jealousy stem from a bad self-image.  People who genuinely feel good about themselves are not the kind of people who lash out at others. Bitter people waste precious time wondering how they ended up with such a crappy life and anyone who has a life they covet becomes a bullseye for their angst. Sadly this is a great part of our society today.  You have one shot at life - you can make it heaven on earth or a living hell. 

4. Prioritize! 
Marketing is more important than engaging with difficult people.  As artists, we have a finite amount of time to get our message out.  I’m an avid believer that your time should be split between the studio and promoting. However, if you waste your time arguing with someone that has all the time in the world, you’re not using your marketing time wisely. Wasted minutes or hours will get you nowhere. Even if you win the argument, you may lose a chance at selling a painting or making an important connection. 

5. Do not let a bad comment keep you from posting again. 
Recently, a friend of mine, who’s a respected artist, and writer, was a victim of a vicious, online attack. Most of us wonder, "Why would someone attack a person for posting an article meant to help someone?" Sadly, I've dealt with this crap numerous times.  It's hard to accept that all that hard work and sincerity can be soured in seconds. But I’m not one to give in - in fact, my tenacity has gotten me this far. Yeah, it bothers me but I quickly recover and force myself to laugh at the obvious insecurity of the person. If I let every jerk with a vendetta stop me from being productive or helping others, who wins? For every jerky comment, I receive a thousand positive ones that I chose to focus on. Keep moving forward and let the negatively roll off you.

If you're like me, you know that the road to learning how to paint in a classical manner can be a difficult one fraught with confusion and disappointment.  If you'd like to take advantage of my 25 years of experience as a professional artist, I am currently taking on new students for online instruction and for individual workshops.  My method of teaching is pragmatic and gets results.  I teach the same skills that allow me to create museum-quality work in a very high-pressure environment.  If you want to make huge changes in your career click here for more information and schedule your classes today.  Take action and claim your success as a professional artist.


I've also been producing a series of videos to help artists on YouTube called "The Truth About Being an Artist."  Check it out, like the videos if you enjoy them and subscribe to the channel.  Thank you!