One of the classic ways of dealing with difficult people — in an emotionally intelligent way, that is — is to label their behavior. I don’t mean call the person names or even use derogatory terms to describe their behavior…either to their face or in your head. But find a neutral, non-inflammatory way of categorizing their behavior that will enable you to keep working without reacting emotionally.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you have a partner who is something of a control freak. She’s the kind of partner, in fact, who insists on doing a lot of stuff herself (even when it’s your area of expertise) and tends to hover over other people when they’re doing their jobs, as if she’s just waiting for them to make a mistake. Moreover, she’s not the kind of person you can actually talk to about this issue, because she gets first defensive and then offensive when you try.
Try coming up with a label for her behavior. You can say simply, “controlling, controlling” when you see her being controlling. (This is in your head, of course, not out loud.) You could try saying, “hovering, hovering.” Or you could say (again in your head), “there she goes again!”
Simple labeling of annoying or difficult behavior helps to focus your mind, so that you’re not as prone to react emotionally to the behavior. It also can help you hone your powers of observation–a key component of emotional intelligence. That is, if you can go further than simply labeling her behavior as “controlling,” and actually call it, “fear, fear” (since fear is at the root of a lot of controlling behaviors), you’ve gotten one step closer to understanding your partner and learning how to deal with her in an emotionally intelligent way.