Dealing with Difficult People.
All of us have them in our life. I think that I have more than my fair share. There are just some people who will never be happy no matter how hard I try to please them. Dealing with these people is very hard and can tire us out very quickly.
But these people are also important to who I am and what I do. The question that I often ask myself these days is how can I transfer their negative energy into a positive energy. The task is to be able to transform that negative energy into something that is creative and helps them to escape its prison.
Like most of us often my first reaction to a difficult person is to get irritated. Once I am irritated it is very easy to say something that is less than helpful for that person. After I say something that is less than helpful (read into this abrupt or rude) then the relationship is on a downward spiral.
What can I do next to stop this spiral?
Firstly I would try to see first what is good in that person. Even when they try to take me to that negative place first I try to use diversionary tactics and lead them to a better space. Often difficult people will bombard you with problems and issues and controversy. I find an effective strategy is to find something positive to agree on. This allows a platform on which to build a positive relationship.
Secondly I would try to say less and listen more. It always helps to hear what the other person is really saying. When we know that a person is difficult it is easy to stop listening when you feel inundated with their flow of negative energy. Be prepared as much as possible before you meet so that you are ready to listen. Realize that this meeting is going to tire you and you will need space before and after to recover your own energy flow. More often than not if you take the time to listen to another persons story not matter how difficult they may be you will have a greater appreciation of who they are as a person.
Thirdly I would establish clear boundaries for the relationship. Be careful about how much personal information that you divulge because it may be used against you in the future. I only need to share with a few close personal friends because they have the capacity to be totally trusted with whatever I tell them. I have lots of people that I meet and talk with and encourage every day but they don’t need to hear about my personal issues. It is important that I establish boundaries with difficult people because they will tend to overstep into spaces in your life where they don’t belong. Those private spaces are for trusted friends.
Fourthly realize that most difficult people are really searching for intimacy. Often because of who they are they have driven many people away. Usually you will find that their lives are full of shattered, unfulfilled relationships. You can make yourself the one bright light in their lives if you are able to establish caring boundaries that allow for intimacy at a level they have not been able to experience before.
I know I used to be a people pleaser. I thought that every time someone didn’t respond positively to me or reacted angrily that it was about me. I have learned that this is often not the case and that their reaction is more about themselves than me. I do not need to take responsibility for this. When I try to do this all the time I find myself being worn out
When I make a committment to understand I am committing my self to appreciate that person beyond what they may show on the outside. A lack of understanding brings with it bias and ultmately hatred. This is evidenced in the personal and global wars that have been fought since humanity began.When I choose to try to understand I am beginning a peace process within my own life and with all those that I have relationships with.
Whenever I talk to people in the workplace I find that conflict is inevitable. When they describe their situation I can usually discover that at the root of the conflict is another person. A DIFFICULT person. Manage them well and they could become one of your greatest assets.