Four Ways to Manage Difficult People

by Dani Fake Webb on August 25, 2010

You know what I mean. You are talking to someone, one on one or in a group, stranger or acquaintance, by choice or forced.

And the conversation is awful.

Totally one-sided. Or frighteningly negative. Or you’re getting advice you did not ask for. Or being totally offended.

What you really want to do is tell the person what a horrible human being they are, how their relational skills are below those of an elephant, and then throw your wine on them and run screaming from the room.

Unfortunately, doing those things make you no better than the person you are offended by.

So what do you do?

A couple of months ago I had such an encounter. I was traveling for work and was meeting a person I had never met before. We met after work to get to know each other – you know, networking.

In the course of this meeting, I was told a) why what I was doing was a ridiculous idea, b) how many hundreds of others are doing the same thing, c) what I needed to do instead, and d) got the chance to speak about 1% of the time.

It. Was. Awful.

As I sat stewing in anger, extreme annoyance and indignation, I recalled words I had recently read: “We are always at choice.” Always.

“Ah, crap,” I thought. “Here I am, yet again, accountable for my own life.”

I was choosing to sit and receive what was being given.
I was choosing to have annoyed thoughts about it.
I was choosing to be in the negative energy that was there.

So what other choices did I have? (I did have the choice to tell them off, throw wine and run screaming away. But that might just backfire. And, it’s not who I want to be. Though it might have been fun.) I digress…

Here are four alternative choices you can make when dealing with difficult people.

1.  See the Innocence

I adore this term. It is so easy for us to judge others and to unconsciously (or even consciously) assume negative intent. What if, instead, you looked at others with the perspective of “seeing their innocence”? Instead of judging them, assume the best about their intent. Try it. It’s amazing how it can shift your perspective.

2.  Engage, Pursue, Love

When we are being offended by another, most of us have one of two natural reactions: fight or flight. We either fight by engaging in argumentative dialogue, or we take flight by retreating into ourselves and seething in silence.

Try this instead: Let go of wanting or needing anything from the conversation. Instead, pursue what they are talking about. Ask questions. People love to talk about themselves. Give them that gift. You might be surprised what you can learn. Which leads to #3…

3.  Ask Yourself What They Can Teach You

If you are interested in being the best You you can become, then it is important to consider everyone on our journey as a potential teacher. The final quote of the movie Eat, Pray, Love sums up this idea beautifully:

“If you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on [your] journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.”

So, you are in a situation with a difficult person. What are they there to teach you about you?

You can ask yourself why you are so offended. What part of you is activated and what is that part trying to protect? How can this difficult situation help you to grow to be more of the person you really want to be?

4.  Walk Away, Kindly

Finally, if all else fails, you are at choice to walk away. In kindness. No one is keeping you there. If you can’t figure out how to get out of the situation, let that be more information for your own growth. What can you learn to be able to set your boundary more solidly in the future?

Above all else, when dealing with difficult people, remember that you are always at choice in both your attitude and your actions.

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August 26, 2010 at 11:39 pm

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