Dealing with Difficult People
We've all been there. There's that one person who just gets under our skin, who we can't understand, and who operates in a way that makes little to no sense to us.
Let's get clear on a few things before I start getting into this. First of all, when I say difficult people, I don't mean 'people who are intentionally difficult.' I simply mean people who we experience as difficult. That's key here. Secondly, difficult people can include those people who we just don't click with. Regardless of what we've been taught from young ages ("everybody can get along"), the truth is that there are people who we simply don't jive with and operate much differently than. This, in and of itself, is a nonissue. However, when it comes to interacting with that person (through work, family, or friend groups), that's when problems can arise.
Now, let's pause.
Think of that person in your life. Hopefully, it's hard for you to think of somebody. Realistically, one person immediately popped into your head. No shame in that.
Now, here are three things you can do to hopefully slow down your agitation train and chillax on the relaxation yacht. (Don't judge my language, just go with it).
- Remember that it's not personal.
Yes, I understand. This is so much easier said than done. With that said, it's still effective. If we can take into consideration that this person isn't acting maliciously or intentionally trying to sabotage us (and our sanity), then we can have a little more leniency with them. Most people aren't doing things intentionally, they're doing things as a result of their own temperament, personality, and lived experiences.
- Assume similarity.
This one is funny. As frustrated as you are with this person? It's highly likely that they're equally as frustrated with you. It's not as though you're alone in your experience of frustration. And what we know about assuming similarity is that it can create some space for empathy (for the other person). Don't think about empathy as making excuses for the person - think about it as being able to see something from their point of view. That's all it is. Taking on the stance of the other person.
- Self-reflect on your role.
This ties in with the whole "assume similarity" piece, but the point here is that you actively self-reflect on your own role in the interaction. For example, are your expectations unrealistic for the other person, but you're also unwilling to change them? Or are you assuming they know how you think or feel without actually sharing it with them? Are you guessing at what they're thinking or feeling without asking them? I could go on and on, but I'll stop. I think you get the point. And, an important note, taking responsibility for your own role is not the same as taking responsibility for the whole interaction. That's not what I mean, nor is that useful. However, focus on yourself in the interaction - what do you do and what can you change?
That's about all from me, folks! It sucks being in this place, where we feel stuck and frustrated about having a difficult person (or difficult people, plural) in our lives. With that said, try to adopt the three suggestions above and see what difference it makes, if any. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences, also, so make sure to share below!