Your coworker may drive you up the wall, but you’ve decided you’ll no longer rise to her bait. Try these tips for improving your relationship with her—and anyone else who pushes your buttons

1. Prepare yourself


Thinking about potential criticisms ahead of time allows you to have an appropriate response on hand should you need it, says communication expert Rick Brinkman, coauthor of Dealing With People You Can’t Stand.

So when Aunt Martha says it looks like you gained weight, thank her for being concerned and then change the subject. “If you don’t get engaged in the content of her comment, you push her back into a positive intent,” says Brinkman, “which makes a person think about why she offered a rude comment.”

2. Play devil’s advocate


Realize that every single human being has a different way of looking at life, “then make an effort to understand the other person’s point of view,” says John McGrail, author of The Synthesis Effect: Your Direct Path to Personal Power and Transformation. If you try to approach things from his or her perspective, you may find that potentially sticky conversations will go far more smoothly.