Words are dangerous. Words hurt. Words can leave scars. Be very careful what you say when dealing with your difficult person.
It is easy to lash back. It is easy to say things that are meant to hurt in the middle of a confrontation, whether it is intentional or not. When someone pushes our buttons we often strike back verbally without realizing the dangers of pushing back. It is so tempting to want to hurt the other person the same way they are hurting us.
The best thing you can do is to let a verbal attack hang in the air. Say nothing at the time. This doesn’t mean that you’ll ignore it forever. It means that for now, the conversation is over.
You’ll continue the confrontation/conversation at a later date. At a date when you are calmer and so are they.
Have a look at a confrontation between co-workers Mike and Steve:
Mike: Steve, that isn’t the correct way to do that. Here, let me show you how.
Steve: I’m not listening to you. You’re an idiot. I can’t believe they haven’t fired you yet. You’re so stupid and constantly messing up, there is no way I want your advice!
Mike: (Holds extended “silent” eye contact with Steve), says nothing, and walks away.
Can you imagine if you were Mike? The attack seemed to be uncalled for. Clearly they have challenges together, and clearly Steve is completely out of line. What will happen if Mike fights back? More fighting. Professionally (and personally) a very volatile and dangerous situation will occur.
Picking your battles is a sign of strength. The next day Mike can approach Steve about this conversation, but now is not the time.
Try it. It will save you from saying something you regret. Take the high road in situations such as this one.