Life is a web of relationships. Human beings are social creatures, deeply entangled in countless relationships throughout life. It’s natural to gravitate toward those relationships that bring you the most happiness, growth, and fulfillment. Regardless of our age or social status, there will always be some difficult people out there who want nothing more than to bully and belittle us. Sometimes they’re colleagues at work, sometimes they’re people in our neighborhoods, sometimes they’re those mean kids on the playground.
Here are some easy and effective tips to turn around any situation with a difficult person:
1. Be still and calm yourself.
Naturally, when we are confronted with a rude, irritable, or irate person, we tend to avoid them. We think that if we avoid them they will go away, or at least we hope they will. The truth is that, although this may happen, it is much more likely that they won’t until we learn an alternate way of dealing with them. Negative energy has a force and it can knock us on our butt, usually in the form of us engaging in toxic behavior. If we are not grounded, we may find ourselves arguing, judging, or stomping out of the room. Making sure we are firmly planted in our body enables us to look the person in the eye and be completely present. It gives us the opportunity to remain calm and pause rather than engage in behavior we may later regret.
2. Stay aware of their emotions.
Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so. When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.
3. Take positive control of negative conversations.
It’s okay to change the topic, talk about something positive, or steer conversations away from pity parties, drama, and self-absorbed sagas. Be willing to disagree with difficult people and deal with the consequences. Some people really don’t recognize their own difficult tendencies or their inconsiderate behavior.
4. Shift from being reactive to proactive.
When you feel offended by someone’s words or deeds, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. When we avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, we can perceive their expressions more objectively. People do what they do because of them more than because of us. Widening our perspective on the situation can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding. Another way to reduce personalisation is to try to put ourselves in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment.
5. Pick your battles.
Not all difficult individuals we face require direct confrontation about their behavior. There are two scenarios under which you might decide not to get involved. The first is when someone has temporary, situational power over you. For example, if you’re on the phone with an unfriendly customer service representative, as soon as you hang up and call another agent, this representative will no longer have power over you. You have the power to decide if a situation is serious enough to confront. Think twice, and fight the battles that are truly worth fighting.
6. Continue being polite.
No matter the response of the other person, keep your cool. Do not resort to name-calling. Take breaths before your responses. The key is to not let yourself sink to the other person’s level. Also, the calmer you remain, the more likely the other person will notice and reflect on his or her behavior.
7. Be honest with yourself.
If we are repeatedly in a situation with someone who is abusive verbally, physically, and/or emotionally, we must stop trying to change him or her. If we find we are practicing a spiritual way of life and someone close to us isn’t changing, it may be time to get honest with our self and find out what is really going on.
8. Think like them.
Just imagine you are in their shoes for one moment. What do they want? If you were in their situation, what would it feel like? Just this one tip will get you far because most people are seeing one point of view: theirs. Great problem-solvers can change perspective.
No matter where you live or work, you will encounter people who seem like they are out to hurt others. The key is to learn how to deal with these sorts of people. Because they are impossible to avoid, it may help you to identify some of the different types of difficult people so you can decide the best way to interact with them. Of course, this takes practice and is not easy. However, as we take more and more responsibility for our life, circumstances and people lose their power over us.