Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People: Summary

powerful phrases for dealing with difficult people book cover

Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People is a guide on how to communicate and navigate interpersonal relationships with difficult people and in difficult situations.

Bullet Summary

  • Always calm yourself down before addressing the situation
  • When it’s unexpected, say that you need to think about it

Full Summary

About The Author: Renee Evenson is a writer of business books on communication, customer service, and conflict resolution.

Use “I” Sentences

When you need to voice a complaint never start with “you”, lest it sounds like you are attacking people.
Use I sentences instead.

The same concept applies to relationships, and you can see many examples of “I statements” in this article on fixing criticism.

The 5 Steps to Deal With Difficult People

The author recommends five steps for dealing with difficult people or a bad boss.

  1. Think first (think about the issue from all angles and calm down)
  2. Gain a better understanding of the situation
  3. Define the problem (once you understand, say how you see it and get a common understanding)
  4. Propose your best solution
  5. Agree on a resolution

Dealing With a Bully

I liked the dialogue the author presents on how to deal with a bully.
This was my favorite part:

Going forward I expect you to treat me respectfully. If you can’t, then please don’t say anything to me.

Also read: what to do when your boss screams at you.

Dealing With Credit Takers

What do you do when someone in your team takes credit for the whole team’s effort?

Renee Evenson recommends that you speak up right away while they do it.
Doing it after is always more difficult, and not doing it at all is the equivalent of giving your consent to their behavior.

Real-Life Applications

There are a lot of relevant lessons learned here, and they are particularly relevant to this website and this website’s credo.

Tackle Challenges Head On
If something deeply bothers you, then you must tackle it. Failing to do so is a sure way of becoming a nice guy or a passive-aggressive.

When Unexpectedly Put On The Spot Say You Must Reflect On It
If you reply right away, you risk sounding too defensive and taking on too much of the blame.
I agree indeed that saying that you must think about it will not give you a win, but it’s a powerful tool to limit your losses or completely erase the potential for losses.


  • Sometimes Simplistic, With Easy Examples

Some of the examples were very interesting, but they were all solved too easily.
I wish I had seen some really nasty character with which it’s truly difficult to deal with.

  • Sometimes “Not Bad Enough”

I feel that some of the examples were too direct and made your position too clear.
For example, with some people, you can build a better working relationship.
But with some others, you should mentally categorize them as an enemy and then move from there. If you try to address the issue with them, they might use it against you and only undermine you more subtly (and more powerfully).

  • Sometimes Didn’t Like the “5 Steps Formula” Applications

The author uses the 5 steps format in every single situation.
I don’t think that was always the best approach.

For example, to a colleague who is giving big discounts to make a sale, she asks:

“I’m wondering why you do that”

I feel that such a question is annoying to anyone because the answer is obvious, which would be “to make a sale”.
Asking that question makes you come across as slimy. When the “why” is obvious, it’s best to approach it directly in my opinion.


Good Foundations
Some good, solid basics of communication here.


I was surprised to see the book with rather lowish reviews on Amazon.

I have seen plenty of bad books with good reviews, and “Powerful Phrases for Dealing With Difficult People” might be a bit basic but it definitely shares solid foundations of communication.
In my opinion, it deserves more credit.

Overall, it’s not the power moves style of book I was looking for but I give it a nod when it comes to improving communication skills in difficult situations.

Check out the best communication skills books, and the best books on power, or get the book on Amazon

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