Learning to cope with difficult people is key, as we’re going to encounter many of those people at some point in our lives. In fact, I bet that you yourself have been a difficult person at some point in somebody’s life, it’s just nature.
A very common suggestion is to cut difficult people out of your life, but I think that’s not always realistic. You can’t avoid everybody who you find difficult. What if that difficult person is a family member? What if it’s a coworker? What if it’s your boss? Are you going to forever and ever avoid seeing a relative or not going to work?
Personally, I have never used avoidance as the solution to dealing with difficulty in my life ever, ever, ever, ever. I choose courage over avoidance for many reasons, but primarily because I love how I feel about myself when I look back, and I think ‘that was hard, and I did it’. That feeling fuels me to do this again and again and again.
In order to properly cope with a difficult person, we have to be ready to apply some self control and to employ our best resources to set limits and be authentic. So in this episode, I will give you some of my ideas as to how you can deal with difficult people in your life. It is possible!
Assume that they’re doing their best
First things first: assume that they’re doing their best. I know once we have a negative view on a person, it is hard to make a positive assumption about them. Once a person has done something that we didn’t like, it’s easy to now begin to assume that they’re always going to be that way.
One of the factors that make dealing with a difficult person harder, is that your assumptions about them are negative. You may not even notice it, but by thinking that a person who is difficult is intending to be that way, you’re actually creating more conflict within that relationship. You’re making it harder on yourself.
The more negative assumptions we make about a difficult person, the less open minded we are to be able to problem solve and move past the difficulty. We add more mental drama than it needs to we’re ready psyching ourselves out of a good interaction with that person, before the person even sets foot on our preference. So keep in mind, the person you find difficult is also trying to be understood and welcomed. They’re also human.
Accept the differences
Second, I would say accept the differences. Most conflict is generated by our desire to be similar. We often wish people would think more like we do, and will behave more like we do. We’re under the impression that if we all work and think alike, that there will be no conflict. But just like you are unique, so is everyone else.
Being different is more likely to be the case than being similar to somebody. If we have the expectation that we have to be the same to get along, it’s only a matter of time before we feel very isolated. So a great tip to deal with difficult people in our life is to accept that the way others think, talk, behave and feel might be different from ours. And yet it might be as valid as our own way of doing things.
Sometimes we spend all of our energy trying to teach the difficult person, or to avoid them, but in none of those options we win. So I want you to focus on you. And if you need to change your perceptions, you begin to liberate yourself from the difficulty that you feel this person puts in your own aura, or energy, or life.
Set clear boundaries
I also want you to think about setting limits, because this is so much better than avoidance. This may seem an obvious suggestion, but the reality is that setting limits, especially for people who we find difficult, is not the easiest thing to do.
A big part of conflict resolution is based on respect. So thinking of a limit is not a sign of rejection or added conflict with that other person. But rather, it’s a sign of respect for your time, your patience, and the relationship itself. I don’t want you to think about avoiding this person out of your life, think about it more as setting boundaries.
When we refer to difficult people as vampires of energy, this really means that we have not set any limits with them. Therefore, they feel free to take as much as they need. They’re not to blame for that.
If you’re feeling drained by the difficult person in your life, please revisit your interaction with them. Do you usually tell them what you mean? Do you say no? Or just say yes, indefinitely? Do you schedule them at a time in your life when you’ve got extra energy? Do you set limits when you get together? Do you take a deep look at your limits with that difficult person? And if they are not any? Do you do something about it?
I’m going to ask you to really take a deep look, and consider setting clear limits that you abide by. Remember: setting up limits is not about protecting, it’s about respecting your time, and your relationship with that person.
Act, but don’t react
Lastly, I would ask you to act but not to react. A huge part of the conflict of dealing with a difficult person is that it’s usually accompanied by reactive behaviours. Those are the ones we might regret. Like when you lose your patience, or you say something very quick and short.
In moments of conflict, we tend to make assumptions and anticipate behaviours that hasn’t happened. We then react quickly in order to protect ourselves, but we also tend to have regrets later about those reactions.
What does that mean to act instead of react? Instead of speaking right away, I step back. I step back, and I give myself a buffer between the awareness of my frustration and speaking up. I sit back, I breathe, and I take control over me. Those are the moments when we create change, and when we’re better prepared to act and not react.
That is the power that comes when you are able to decide that the difficult person has no control over you, but that you control you. Nobody makes you feel frustrated, angry, sad, happy. I always tell my clients, “it’s not this person inside of you reorganising your thoughts and feelings, it’s what you’re telling yourself in this interaction”. So when you ask me how to deal with a difficult person, I want you to answer: how do you want to deal with you?
When you’re in front of somebody you find difficult, this is all your perception. You label them difficult, you get frustrated. It’s your perception. What belief, what mindset, would you rather bring when you’re knowingly going to interact with somebody who is not your favourite human?
I’ll leave it with those four main points for now: assume that they’re doing their best, accept the differences, set limits, and act but do not react. I hope this was helpful! If you liked this episode, please leave a review, share it with others and come hang out with me on Instagram!
Ps. Don’t forget to sign up for my Detox the Mind Workshop: From Self-Critical to Self-Confident