Book Reviews for Lessons from a Difficult Person

Change how you deal with difficult people

Official Review

4 out of 4 stars

At the age of fifty, Sarah H. Elliston comes to a painful realization yet an enlightening one. She realizes that many around her consider her difficult! At first, she cannot believe let alone understand how she has lived her life all these years as a difficult person to the people she has lived with and encountered in her life. Denise, her boss who informs her of her distracting nature, tells it to her straight and does so effectively. After this encounter, Sarah gives the experience deep thought. She realizes she has to change and for her to do so, she has to be honest and work through her painful experiences as a child.

What baffled me as the reader is that no one really told her of her disruptive habits and how it affected them. True, others did try but when you read the book you soon understand that many choose to ignore or look past the habits of difficult people while others say something about it but do so ineffectively. This then introduces a number of questions. Why are some people difficult? How can you tell that a person is difficult? Where do you take it from there? Fortunately, Elliston does a great job of answering these questions in the book, Lessons from a Difficult Person. She covers important aspects of recovery. She also explains who a difficult person is and what can be done about it.

The beauty of this book is that the author, Sarah H. Elliston, is a recovering difficult person herself. She has seen it, lived it and is recovering from her past lifestyle. She is now passionately helping those who are considered difficult as well as those around them. The book contains incredible depth aided by the author’s own experiences from her childhood days to her adult life. I liked that Elliston included these sub-plots as they enriched my reading experience and provided a basis for understanding the message contained in Lessons from a Difficult Person.

Further, the book contains invaluable exercises that the reader can use to put into practice what they have learned. The exercises are thought-provoking and educative. They created a way for me to understand the content more deeply and apply it in real life.

Additionally, the book is well-written, with very few grammatical errors and told in a language that was easy to understand. It is also incredibly researched, extremely helpful and practical. We all encounter difficult people in our lives from our bosses, colleagues, family members, and even friends. I myself can think of a few. I was grateful to learn how to handle them and how to effectively communicate my feelings. Overall, reading Lessons from a Difficult Person was thoroughly informative. I, therefore, rate the book 4 out of 4 stars.


Click here to read the review from the Kirkus website

A debut personal-growth manual that asserts that understanding the unconscious motives of “difficult people” can lead to better relationships.

Elliston, a volunteer coordinator for the United Way and a former high school teacher, writes that she used to be surprised by the reactions she would get from some of her colleagues in the nonprofit community, who either avoided or criticized her. Her supervisors frequently mentioned Elliston being “difficult” and having “a need for improved communication skills,” which just added to her bewilderment. She only began to realize how she appeared to others when one supervisor confronted her with specifics about the offending behavior: storming around the office while muttering to herself, “lifting things up and dropping them,” and generally raising the anxiety level of the office. The supervisor added that it was clear that Elliston wasn’t aware of her own conduct and the effects it had on others, but it still had to stop. Stunned, the author searched for why she was so blind to her own actions, and why no one had pointed them out earlier. She quizzed her family members and examined her own childhood, and she uncovered maladaptive habits, such as criticizing, complaining, and blaming, that she mistakenly believed would win her approval. In this book, Elliston suggests techniques for looking beyond “difficult” people’s aggression to understand their fears, their senses of inferiority, and their struggles to be accepted. Posing questions and performing exercises, she says, can lead to a greater understanding of others’ behavior, and techniques drawn from Choice Theory and Reality Therapy offer guidelines for early, though not painless, intervention and necessary conversations. This isn’t just another book about dealing with annoying co-workers, but a fresh look at why they can seem so oblivious. Readers will likely break out the highlighter to record memorable points. Elliston’s suggestions, drawn from the work of Drs. William Glasser, Sidney B. Simon, and Thomas Gordon, will cut through readers’ dread as they plan discussions with others. At times, Elliston’s focus on childhood traumas as causes of “difficult” behavior seems too pat, but her insights and work plan never are.

A practical guide that will bring relief to its readers.