It’s hard to know when you’re going to be face to face with a difficult person. Or maybe you know exactly who you’re dealing with. The anxiety and frustration grows deeper and faster within you as the countdown to interaction begins. Or maybe someone who is normally pleasant is currently possessed with a terrible attitude….the kind with fangs and a sharp bite.
Difficult isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A parent can be tough, a test hard and a project grueling but there are benefits in the long run. THIS is not that scenario. You’ve probably heard of sweet revenge. It’s glamorized in unrealistic plots and dramatic telenovelas but let’s get real, there’s nothing glamorous or sweet about it. Honestly, revenge will only end up burning you. So the burning question is how do I deal with these strenuously tiring people?
Are you non-confrontational or worried how the person or group will react? Have you been left tongue twisted and taken aback by an aggressive offender or a manipulative one? Remember the old saying “To every action there is always opposed equal reaction”. What you say will be met with a response.
Maybe the difficult person that comes to mind is the impatient man behind you in a supermarket line, or the bank teller who is short with you on the phone. We eventually learn to work around this type of person, pick our battles, and stand up for ourselves. In general, if the only difficult people you interact with are strangers, every so often, then congratulations! You’ve either won the lottery on best family and friends or my guess is you’ve jumping a lot of hurdles to gain the respect, compassion, and courage it takes to maintain relationships that make your life more enjoyable and worth living. Kudos to you! Flaunt your gratitude and tell those people! Good people rock! Although angry guy behind you in line may just be having a bad day or a terrible year.
Tense situations with complete strangers are easier to emotionally remove yourself from because you’re probably not as concerned with what a complete stranger thinks about you. We’re able to better distance ourselves in these types of interactions knowing, “Hey, you’ll probably never see them again.” Yes, there are exceptions – and NO, you’re not off the hook from treating strangers with respect and decency but let’s face it, it is a lot easier to distance ourselves in an argument with a complete stranger than someone that is actually a part of our lives.
The majority of us have honed and crafted our – TELL THAT GUY OR THAT LADY OFF SLOGAN – and we have it ready for an appearance at all time. We’ve bottled our past experiences of anger and resentment and we love a reason to exercise it. We do. We have docile to feisty on speed dial like it’s an old friend because it’s easier to blow up. Then again the people we love and trust the most may be the ones we blow up on because we know they’ll still love us. Even so, we have to be careful to not damage the relationship.
Odds are. the stress of dealing with difficult people stems from our most precious and fragile relationships. The people we see every day by choice. Whatever the case, I’m going to give you three insightful tips on how to address difficult people or difficult situations with vital people in our lives.
1. Assess the situation.
a. Cue the attitude check: yours, theirs, and the environment around you.
b. Keep your body calm. Pay attention to what your body does around ‘Person X,’ and what emotion this makes you feel. Your body is working to help you cope. Steady your voice and your breathing. If you’re at work or at a social gathering, you probably shouldn’t yell or cry.
c. Conversations with family members, coworkers and close friends are often delicate and need to be done in the right place at the right time. Request conversing in private to avoid the drama of other people’s involvement. You’ll know if it’s the right time when you’ve cooled down any in-the-moment emotions that would cloud your judgement and prevent you from acting civilly. You give yourself permission to express your true view of the situation with maturity, willing to meet in the middle.
d. Listen – listen for cues the difficult person is trying to reason with you. If you can work it out, you should. Everyone, including you, has to learn to accept the fact that there are different perspectives, ideas etc. Deal with it. No one is perfect but you decide who’s worth it.
e. Survey the environment around you. Negative energy is toxic – if the person is unwilling to listen or cooperate - find an escape route. Agree to disagree and head out.
2. Set the tone.
a. Initiate respect. You may not have a solution or ever come to an agreement but if you set the tone with respect and a calm attitude it opens the door for ‘Person X’ to follow suite. It tends to put the other person at ease because you will be creating a courteous environment.
b. Never choose revenge. Stooping down to their level may make you feel better in the moment but it’s a web you can’t unspin. My philosophy is being revengeful is like giving away ammo to be used on you later.
c. Be humble. Don’t be prideful or concerned with being right. You’re never too good to practice forgiveness. Find a calmness to both disgrace and praise. Do not gossip about the person. If they are truly a sucky person, have heart, they’ll prove it. Bad mouthing them only makes you look bad and no one likes a complainer so if you’re really seeking advice, admit that you don’t know everything. There’s always more to the story than what appears. Respect that. If you don’t like that advice think on it and come back later. If you still do not like the idea of humility, the problem may be you.
3. Define Boundaries.
a. Realize you cannot change people or the way in which they came into your life.
b. Take the lead to show people how you should be treated. Learn to love yourself for who you are, baby steps and the stepping stones to change. Sure I sound like Mother Goose, and she’s annoying but know, if you love yourself you give people permission to do the same for themselves. They will in turn respect you, unless they’re a psychopath, and that is worth working on.
c. Set Boundaries: Clearly communicate what is and is not okay.
d. The grounds for your meeting should be respect and civility.
e. Respect your wellbeing enough to limit or remove yourself from situations and/or poisonous people.
f. Your character – is the only thing you’ve done is complain, blame, shame?...if so you’re definitely part of the problem; work on yourself and you’ll be amazed how things change. The good news is nobody is perfect but you can accomplish a lot things when you put your mind to it.
We all have our good days and our bad days. Everyone can be a PITA PAIN IN THE A…, as my parents lovingly nicknamed my sister during her terrible twos. Sure, how we define difficult varies but make no mistake, the concept of decency and common courtesy towards yourself and others is not subjective. Demand to be treated with dignity and respect and demand you show others the same.