Difficult people – ya gotta love em! Or not. Whether you do or don’t, it’s a fact of life that they are all around us – in our families, places of employment, communities, social events, and everywhere else. For whatever reasons, we all have personal issues that cause us to behave in ways others may find offensive, challenging or just plain problematic. It is our responsibility to pay close attention not to the other person’s behavior but to our own, making sure we are not the one sporting the “Hi, my name is Ob Noxious” name tag.
Having ascertained that you are free from fault (in this regard only), short of severing future contact with the individual, how can one deal with someone who is challenging? Here are a few tips that will make interacting with them easier:
1. Ask yourself, “How important is this person to me at this moment?” Being careful not to devalue them, certain people have greater or lesser significance in our lives. My sister, for instance, matters more to me than a sales clerk in Macy’s. If the party in question does not hold great regard in your life, are you willing to simply let the issue slide and walk away?
2. How important is this issue? Will it matter ten years from now? Again, if not, let it go. It is not worth your time and effort.
3. Can you accept the person as they are? “That’s just the way Uncle Joe is. He’s never going to change.” If you do, you must be at peace with him/her so as not to become resentful and angry later on.
4. Can I change my perception of this person? Instead of “She is so controlling!”, can I see her as insecure? A less judgmental observation allows me to interact with her in a less critical manner.
5. If the party is an important part of my life, I need to set boundaries and guidelines in our relationship to ensure it is as reasonably healthy as possible for all parties.
6. Establish a common ground with them, identify something you both have in common. By doing so, this allows both parties to feel a certain connection and increases the levels of understanding and trust between them.
7. Build trust. Showing genuine interest and concern in them eases their anxieties and fears, allowing them to feel more comfortable in your presence. Once achieved, they will most likely become more cooperative with you.
8. Bring out the best in them. Avoid allowing their bad behavior to influence how you behave. Find some goodness and focus on that.
9. Remember to be fair and open-minded to what they say, believe, and do. Refrain from criticism and judgments, employing understanding and compassion instead.
10. Some of our greatest gifts in life have been the most difficult people who cross our paths. View them as an important teacher who is enabling you to learn and grow. See them as the true blessings they are.
While there is much to learn from encountering those who present the greatest challenges to us, it is not imperative that we keep them in our lives. Those who are determined to continue inflicting chaos upon us may be gently released from our lives. We are under no obligation to allow anyone to disrupt our serenity and joy. Wish them well and send them on their way.
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