How to hug a porcupine really did help me understand how to love or relate with the difficult people in our lives. I was reluctant to read it after a close associate of mine recommended it to me (might I add forcefully). I didn’t even plan on reading it as I already had a list of books to read among other things. But after some deliberation, I decided to read it now rather than later.

The Book
how to hug a porcupine book cover

How to hug a porcupine book cover

Title: How to Hug a Porcupine: Easy Ways to Love the Difficult people in your life.

Author: June Eding (Editor)

Forwarded by: Dr Debbie Ellis (Contributor)

Publisher: Andrew Flach

Publication Date: March 10th 2009

Publication house: Hatherleigh Press

Pages: 145 pages

Book Format: Ebook.

Book Genre: Self help.

Goodreads brief: Most of us know someone who, for whatever reason, always seems to cause problems, irritate others, or incite conflict. Often, these people are a part of our daily lives. The truth is that these trouble makers haven’t necessarily asked to be this way.

Goodreads rating: 3.41.

Have you read How to hug a porcupine: Easy ways to love the difficult people in your life? And if so what’s your take?! If not! Please do allow me to excite you on why it should be on your #2022ReadingChallenge.


How to hug a porcupine: Easy ways to love the difficult people in your life a book by June Eding forwarded by Dr Debbie Joffe Ellis breaks down digestible easily adaptable nuggets on how to deal with the difficult people in your life yesterday, today and tomorrow. We see the author use a porcupine as a metaphor to help us understand the nature of difficult people and why we shouldn’t necessarily fear, hate, judge or treat them badly.

“This book reminds us that we humans have the capacity to create our attitudes and emotions, as well as our actions. If we choose to, we can maintain inner peace despite difficult outer circumstances. We can prevent unnecessary suffering.”

In a way or so difficult people would probably be indistinguishable from anyone else, except for their reaction to any kind of threat or incursion of personal space. It’s then that, like the porcupine in nature, they puff themselves up to try to scare off their adversary.

What is a porcupine

Porcupines are rodents whose outer coats are modified with spiny hairs known as quills embedded in the skin. A single porcupine may have over 30,000 quills in his coat.
Their name derives from the Latin words “porcus” and “spina”, which together mean “thorny pig”—porcupines are neither thorny nor are they related to pigs (they are, in fact, most similar to beavers in habitat, diet and temperament).
Porcupine babies, called porcupettes, are born with soft, pliable quills which harden into defensive weapons within a matter of hours. Although some species of porcupine eat small reptiles and insects in addition to a diet of bark, roots, fruit, meadow grass, and tubers, most species of porcupines are strictly herbivores.
Porcupines are generally misunderstood, creatures. Porcupines cannot throw or fire their quills. Nor are their quills poisonous. In fact, when porcupines are threatened, tiny muscles at the base of each quill tighten, causing their quills to stand up and the porcupine to appear much larger than it really is.

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What I liked about the book

I think the idea of using a porcupine to describe difficult people was genius as I believe they are one of the most feared and misunderstood harmless animals.

The key points are broken down into easy to digest pointers that are well explained. This way the reader is able to understand each of them, and hopefully deliberate on an action moving forward. Often times a book will state the problem and the solution lost in translation living the reader wondering exactly what the author was trying to put forward. This book is short, precise and engaging.

What I didn’t like about the book

Some of the advice in this book seems either too good to be considered achievable or that which is too hard to actually do. From personal experience, I’ve been in confrontations where all I had to do is keep quiet, say sorry or let the other person feel like they got the best of me. But I did neither. In the end, learning from past experiences has helped me deal with such tricky situations.

how to hug a porcupine quote

A Saint Vincent De Paul quote

My takeaways from the book
  • The person and the behaviour of that person need and should be differentiated.  They are not the same! Show care and respect in all your interactions with your people, difficult or otherwise. Personally, from experience! Showing respect for people I’ve been in disagreements with has not always been an issue. Maintaining the care and compassion on the other hand has. Often time’s I’ve become indifferent to difficult people in my life, not out of spite or ill-intention but as a defence mechanism for my own peace of mind, physical and emotional safety.
  • “Too often, we focus on behaviour, instead of the motivations behind that behaviour. This is a crucial mistake, for it’s in fact the motivation behind the action that most needs to be addressed.” I believe the reason a lot of problems are not solved or resolved is mostly that we focus on fixing the problem without addressing the root cause (Nurturing the cause). Also, most of us find ourselves confronting the people instead of the problem. This in no way solves anything. We need to do better.
  • Generalising people and problems is a recipe for disaster. Yes, clusters of people categorised under religions, gender, Occupations, locale, or otherwise can share common traits as far as behaviour and beliefs go but when trying to understand your person/people (the porcupine[s]), is imperative you approach every aspect of their life and behaviour objectively and address it without referring to the “they” but rather “you”. Know all the information there is to know but deal with the problem objectively.
  • Sometimes people act out not because they are bad but because of circumstance, environment, past experiences and beliefs. Take time to know what “Gets those quills up”.
  • Create a safe space for your people (Porcupine[s]) to feel safe and be themselves. Listen, understand, talk to them but also be realistic with them. Make them feel safe and comfortable opening up without feeling judged, attacked or misunderstood.
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This book; How to hug a porcupine in a way tried to break down and help us understand the easy ways to love the difficult people in our life. From past experience, I found some very useful tips and nuggets as well as in practice advice that almost often never works.

But all in all, I believe in order to deal with a difficult person one needs to under that they too are difficult to someone else.

Difficult people (Porcupines) may and often have some problems they want to get off their chests. Please, find ways to encourage them to express it in constructive ways. But if their vocalizations get personal, you have every right to walk away.

Personal experience.

I knew a person who I let vocalise their frustrations openly because I thought I understood the source of their pain and hurt. I figured if I let them get a lot of things off their chest, we could get along over time. Soon I realised the more I let this person do and talk as they pleased, the more disrespectful, selfish, entitled and manipulative they got.

Our Arguments became more frequent accompanied by manipulative guilt-tripping outbursts and it’s only when I noticed a growing pattern of violent streaks and threats that I knew I needed to walk away. We all have issues! That’s a fact. I’ve learned to own mine and walk away from those I can’t help fix.

So, what have been your personal experiences dealing with difficult people at work, at home, in your relationships, or elsewhere. Most importantly how have you dealt with them and what did you learn from those experiences?!