How To Deal With People You Can’t Stand

Self-awareness is the key to being truly unbothered.
self awareness psychology gestalt meditation breathing breathe headspace mental health acceptance
Let's all aspire to be unbothered queens. Photo: Thirdman, Pexels

We’ve all been through unsavory situations. You know the kind. 

Maybe it’s an acquaintance going on and on about themselves without asking you a single question about what’s up in your life. Maybe it’s your boss telling you to work overtime. Or maybe it’s a high school frenemy, bringing up some embarrassing thing you did 10 years ago—again


How To Not Give a Fuck

Difficult people and difficult situations are a fact of life, and as much as they make your teeth grind, sometimes, there’s not much you can do except deal with them the best way you know how. There may be times, however, when the anger or irritation gets too overwhelming, and we end up making decisions we, uh, wish we didn’t. 

This is where self-awareness comes in. 

Self-awareness can be defined as “the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don’t align with your internal standards.” It’s a skill that can help you navigate an array of situations, from making big life decisions to setting realistic goals. 

In the case of difficult people or difficult situations, self-awareness can keep you from reacting in ways you might regret. And most importantly, help you achieve the ultimate enlightenment of being unbothered.

“Awareness can make a person master their situation because they can be aware of their reaction or response to the situation. It can attune them to the experience of the other person as well,” Emmanuel Hernani, a gestalt therapist based in Cebu City, Philippines, told VICE. Gestalt therapists specialize in increasing a person’s awareness, freedom, and self-direction. 


Self-awareness is a life skill that can be tricky to master. Most of us go through life with little to no self-awareness at all, and to develop it, we must be aware of the problem in the first place. So to get to the bottom of this chicken-and-egg situation, VICE asked three experts on self-awareness about how to cultivate the skill and call on it when the situation arises. 

Accept that difficult situations are a part of life

According to experts, we get upset over difficult people or situations when they don’t meet our expectations of how we should be treated.

“If you try to understand why you’re hard on people, the more you will understand that you have unmet expectations of how people should treat you and what they should say to you. But if you really dig deep, you will understand that those expectations all come from yourself,” said Miguel Bermundo, a life coach from Manila.

“Accept that people won’t always treat you the way you want or expect,” he said. “Choose who you’re going to count on for certain things.” 

Acknowledge the emotion, then take back the wheel

It’s easy to lose control in the heat of the moment. Maybe you came across a very rude salesperson, or got triggered by a co-worker’s comment. The best way to regain control of the situation is to check yourself before reacting. 

“The moment you acknowledge and identify what you’re feeling, it suddenly loses its power over you because you’re not blind to it; you see it clearly,” said Anna Manalastas, a yoga teacher, also based in Manila. 


“What self-awareness does is that it brings the attention back to you, and it gives you back the power mainly because you are the only one you can really control or take a hold of. You can’t demand from another person to be nice,” Manalastas said, adding that sometimes, their intention may not even be bad in the first place. 

Bermundo added that the only thing within our control is how we react, and that a little self-awareness can help us stay at ease, regardless of who’s in front of us. 

Harness the power of breathing 

Don’t underestimate the power of a long, deep breath. Manalastas said that breathing is “the simplest, most accessible way to calm yourself down.” According to Hernani, it’s also one of the best regulators of our emotions. When we experience fear or agitation, our breathing patterns change. 

“In order to [emotionally] regulate, stabilize your breathing patterns. You would have to, of course, put some pattern to it. You can count it by threes, sixes, or nines—depends on you,” Hernani said. “The problem nowadays is that we forget how to breathe and react to our situations. We easily get panicky, restless, and irritated because we don’t know how to deal with our situations.” 


Practice self-awareness through physical exercises

Self-awareness is as much a practice of the body as it is of the mind. The way we feel manifests in the body, and so what we do with the body also influences how we feel. 

“You should recognize that you are irritated and at the same time be aware of the other embodiments of your irritation,” Hernani said. “[Maybe] your feet are getting restless, hands are getting fidgety.” 

This is why physical practices that focus on breath and movement like yoga are said to impact our self-awareness and wellbeing. 

The physical practice reminds us that there’s a very deep and undeniable connection between your body and your mind,” Manalastas said. “If you try to calm your body, you’re creating space physically [and mentally].” 

Make reflection a habit

In any pursuit of self-awareness, reflection is a must. Bermundo advised people to practice the two levels of self-reflection: primary and secondary. Where primary reflection just involves thinking about a situation, secondary reflection goes a step deeper to think about the way you perceive a situation. 

“Not a lot of people try to understand the way they think. Why do they react a certain way? Why are they upset? Those are questions that help with secondary reflection,” Bermundo said. 

However, Hernani warned that self-reflection may open a can of worms, which is why some people might actively avoid it. If that’s the case, Hernani recommends seeking the help of a guide—like a friend or a therapist—who can help unpack these unwanted thoughts. 


“One way to break through is to understand what your current mindset is costing you,” Bermundo said. 

Recruit friends and family

If you’re serious about becoming more self-aware, you can recruit the help of friends and family to call you out on bad habits or behaviors. 

Access your toolkit

“Context is crucial to action,” Bermundo said. The more you understand the way you operate, the more clarity you’ll have over how to deal with a situation. He said in Tagalog (a language in the Philippines) that you can do one of four things: hayaan (ignore), iwasan (avoid), patulan (entertain), labanan (fight back).

“But normally, when you’re easy on people, you give them the room to be themselves around you.” 

Follow Nikki Natividad on Instagram.