Handling Difficult People – The Sniper Personaility

Have you ever been caught off guard by a remark, or been made to look foolish in front of others?

Perhaps when you are making an important presentation?

Then you have just experienced sniping?

This article  is part of my series around handling difficult personality types. Today I am focusing on the person who throws out one liners to caught you off guard, trying to discredit you in front of others – known as the sniper

When the sniper is threatened, they hide behind rude remarks, sarcastic humor, with a biting tonality to their words. They often demonstrate nonverbal signs of communication by rolling their eyes when you are putting forward a point of view.

What motivates the sniper’s behavior?

Now there are several motivators, which include holding grudges, angry around a missed opportunity, threatened that you may excel in your role and that you may gain more attention then themselves.  Some snipers who are termed friendly snipers -just want to gain attention and this is a behavioral tract of theirs.

Meeting the Sniper

I remember my first workshop that I facilitated for a company as a contractor. It was my first day working with start-up business owners.  I was very familiar with the content; however, I was still learning the policies and procedures of the company.  Seated at the back of the room was my immediate manager, so I am a bit nervous; however, I was able to control my nerves and once I started the training, I was feeling confident.

I was questioned by some of the students if they could come directly to me if they had any issues . Of course i said confidently, after all what else was I supposed to say.?

All of a sudden I hear “No that is not correct” , “They all have to go through me or the state manager “to find out that information. You need to ensure your information is correct.

Yes that is how my immediate manager handled the situation. She turned out to be a sniper, threatened by me, and unable to adapt to change within the company.  I was in the wrong place , at the wrong time. 

 Her remark had come from the back of the room; completely throwing me  off guard. I felt foolish and incompetent at the time.  The sniper fires off the shot and disarms you in front of people, leaving them in control.

I was confused as to what was behind this type of attack. Was it the fact that the company brought in a trainer, instead of her doing all the training? Did she feel threatened by me?

I" What have I gotten myself into?" This was the first time that I had ever been treated so poorly, humiliated and put into my place in front of all the students.  I stayed in the company for the six month contract, then voted with my feet. 

Signs of the Sniper

 The sniper hides and operates covertly.   When you are in front of others, they will throw out disarming remarks, sarcastic humor and rolling of the eyes,

Their aim is to make you look foolish and incompetent in front of others.

They are controlling and attention seekers.


Goal -  Is to expose the Sniper - Bring them out of Hiding

Step 1

 Stop, look, backtrack

– Since your goal is to bring the Snipper out of hiding, you must first zero in on his or her hiding place. If it seems that someone is talking shots at you, stop! – Even in the middle of a sentence.

Interrupting yourself brings attention to the Sniper, effectively blowing his or her cover.

 Look directly into the person’s eyes for a moment, and then calmly backtrack his or her remark.

Step 2


 Use searchlight questions

 Now it’s time to turn on the searchlight, asking a question to draw the Sniper out and expose his or her behavior.

The two best questions are based on intent and relevancy: “When you say that (backtrack), what are you really trying to say?” and “What does that (backtrack) have to do with this?”

 The key to asking a searchlight question is to keep your tone neutral and maintain a neural (read “innocent) look on your face.

Step 3


Use Tank strategy if necessary

If a Sniper becomes a Tank, you may have actually improved the situation; at least now you know what the problem is! Use the strategy recommended for dealing with the Tank not only to command respect from the Sniper, but also from those who have witnessed the attack.

Do not overreact with the Sniper

This simply encourages the Sniper to dish out more of this behavior.

The Best attitude to develop is one of  amused curiosity.  Try not to take it personally, instead focus on the Sniper and bring them out of hiding.

Have a private Conversation with the Sniper


Have those conversations to clear the air

If you respect that someone is holding a grudge against you, but you’re not certain, see what you can scout out. If you find evidence that someone is harboring a grudge, you may want to clear the air.

 If you’re successful in bringing the grudge to the surface, listen carefully to all that your Sniper has to say. Once you fully understand and express appreciation for his or her candid description of the problem


Setting Boundaries

Whether in private or public, finish the interactions by suggesting an alternative behavior for the future.

 At the end of any encounter with the Sniper, it’s important to let him or her know that your preference in the future is open and friendly communication


Distinguish between friendly Snipers and malicious Snipers

 Friendly Sniping has its origins in the intent to get appreciated, the need for attention. Malicious Sniping, on the other hand, originates in the intent to get it done and fulfills the need for control by seeking to undermine the control of others


“You Decide to Step Over the Line

Commitment Leads to Action

Action Leads to Getting Different Results”

Lee Stemm

Remember your Goal 

 Gain Respect from the Sniper - Expose their position - Bring them out of hiding

About the Author

I coach women, online business owners, to take consistent action to get their online courses launched and sold out.

My primary focus is on unlocking limiting beliefs that hold them back, list building, and live launching of their courses, primarily via webinars and easy-to-follow blueprints that step them through the complete process.

I lead the way by being in the trenches, studying with the top online course creators in the world, implementing all the latest proven strategies in my own business, experimenting, measuring, teaching from experience that truly works.

Through a mix of coaching, hand-holding, and honest feedback,

I hold my client's aspirations close to my heart, never leaving them behind feeling isolated or disillusioned

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