I don’t believe there are “difficult people”. There are just “people”. The difficulty is ours. Yes – it feels more comfortable and goes someway toward shifting the burden of dealing with them if we can point the finger at them and tell ourselves (and everyone else) that they are difficult. But is this true? And how does it help us in dealing with them?
Does labeling them help us deal with difficult people?
My short answer is no. Call them purple? Pandas? Fairy floss heads? – I bet you a million bucks this does not make them go away or be pleasant. It will however make it easier for you to blame them for the struggle you are enduring with them (afterall they are difficult people) and labeling them will definitely reduce your ability to engage them with curiosity and openness and ultimately strike a deal that works for both parties.
How about ignoring those difficult people?
Ignoring those difficult people will work, to an extent. I believe whatever you focus on grows, so focusing on them will make them seem like a bigger challenge for you than they really are and that certainly doesn’t foster a childlike sense of curiosity about them and how they got to where they are as a human now does it?
So we agree – focusing on them makes them grow, so steer clear of that then.
As for downright ignoring them, well? There will be pros and cons and circumstances unique to each scenario. Some folks thrive on the drama and so taking away the audience will work for you if the drama-queens are your “difficult people”. But some folks don’t feel heard and this has nothing to do with you, it’s their stuff. Can you imagine what ignoring a person who doesn’t feel heard will do for their motivation to feel heard? Yep – you got it! Louder and louder, more and more…”difficult”.
When it comes to ignoring those “difficult people”, work out exactly what kind of person you are dealing with and allow this valuable piece of wisdom to be your guide:
If it does no harm to me, you or The Universe, then it’s ok. ~ Deborah Bow.
Well I’ll try to please them then!
For lots of people out there this is their go to – you know who you are. Bending over, every which way in order to please others, be they “difficult” or just your kids or the neighbour. The idea is that pleasing people will result in being liked and for a moment it may actually feel like it’s working. Until the next time we feel down or negative about ourselves and are asked to do something for someone else.
You see, unless the person asking is one of “your people”, you know the ones who LOVE you for exactly who you are, then that faux “I am liked” feeling you get from pleasing them will be temporary. And because you are training them to expect you to do exactly what they want, they will keep asking you. Wouldn’t you?
Confronting those difficult people
Just like ignoring them, confronting the “difficult” people has its pros and cons too. The same challenge exists with knowing your audience and what their triggers may be, but confronting them adds a new challenge for you because you are opening up and asking to deal, negotiate, converse, problem solve with them. You are taking the responsibility here to help get a resolution.
The good thing about confrontation is, you don’t need to do it with the person present. Allow me to explain. We are more than just the meat and bone you can see and touch. In addition to our physical body, we have other bodies; mental, emotional, esoteric and our other bodies are communicating with each other too. I believe everything that happens in the physical world happens in the spiritual world first and so we can painlessly confront these “difficult” people there e.g. Write them a letter with all your thoughts, feelings and points of debate and burn it or bury it or go out into an empty field or onto a deserted beach and have the conversation with them there. I bet the next time you see them, there will be a softening, a change, increased flexibility.
It is important to make a stand for yourself in this world; to tell The Universe and everything in it that your boundary has been reached, you have had it up to your point of saturation, you are maxed out. It is vital to set these boundaries for yourself. It sets the rules of the game of you and tells others how to play it. Sometimes you will set your boundary, confront those “difficult people”, resolve the issue and be tested again. There is always a test of your resolve. But stand strong, be you, hold to your values and your beliefs, do no harm and you will come out the other side with a clear line in the sand for all the next times.
Just like toilet training a puppy – we need to set healthy boundaries for the puppy, be gentle, patient, kind and very clear about where to pee. Accepting that the puppy is only little and new to all this stuff will help us be consistent with them, even when they inevitably test our mettle. We need to stay cool, responsive, thinking. If we react, get stressed and loud, guess what our little puppy does? That’s right – picks up our lead and runs with it.
My best advice (the short version)
Validate. Validate. Validate.
This is not to say agree. Let’s get that clear right now. Nor does it mean approve.
It means validate; I am hearing what you are saying/picking up what you are putting down and I acknowledge it.
And you just watch them stop.
Then it’s your choice if you want to discuss an issue you have with them – at least they will be more responsive to you because you have validated them and this is the cornerstone of rapport.
Know when to be rock and when to be water. Be willing to lose a battle to win the war. Always find a way for them to save face and exit quietly. A cornered badger is fiercer than a tiger.
Maintain a childlike sense of curiosity and take responsibility, turning that pointer finger back around and asking yourself this:
What is it I am seeing in them that I don’t like/find difficult about myself?
There are no “difficult” people only difficult situations, difficult behaviours. Address the behaviours and care for the people. You may like to choose to believe, as I do, that people are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. Make this one of your beliefs and you will set yourself free from “difficult” people forever.
Rachel has worked in Allied Health for over 17 years and loves helping empower people to step up, take responsibility and lovingly, yet candidly supports them in making the changes they know they need to be happy.
She believes all we really need is to feel happy in each moment and this is her number one Coaching goal. She wants to make the world a better place by helping more people find happiness. She LOVES working with clients who want to make the world a better place too.
Because she has experienced the isolation of living in regional Australia and also the comfort of having access to quality remote health services, she offers Life Changing Coaching and Mental Healthcare online/over the phone so everyone, anywhere can feel connected and get the help they need.
She lives in Melbourne with her husband, LOVES walking on the beach, homemade lamingtons, gardening and going on adventures to new places.