Dealing with Difficult People

The Call Is Coming From Inside the House
If you’re like me you have had to deal with difficult people. And by “like me” I mean “human”. We all have to deal with difficult people.

And it’s not just the cashier who had a bad day or the customer who believes the world revolves around them. There are people that are interwoven into most of our lives that seem to live to make our lives miserable.

Maybe you have a coworker who loves to complain – someone who always finds the fault in everything. You ask them to lunch and as you sit down to a new restaurant you have been excited to try they tell you about all the carcinogens that might be in the food. They just can’t seem to help it.

Or maybe you have a mom or a dad that seems to think you can never do anything right. Maybe they never seem to care about any of your successes, but use your failures as a time to highlight how you are doing things wrong.

You Don’t Always Get to Choose
If you pick up any book on becoming more successful or growing as a person, they all tell you to surround yourself with people who love and support you and to minimize your interactions with people who tear you down. This is fantastic advice that I fully support.

But we don’t get to pick and choose everyone we interact with. And it would be pretty shallow if we completely ignore certain people in our workplace, our place of worship, or our kids’ school. Sometimes we have to deal with people we don’t want to.

So how do we do it? How do we deal with these people without pulling our hair out or letting them know once and for all exactly what’s on our minds? How do we treat them with respect and kindness, knowing everyone needs love, without destroying our happiness in the process?

There have been some relationships I have had that have been less than glowing. I have found a few tips and tricks to help deal with the people in my life that are difficult to deal with. The next time you have to deal with a difficult person, why not try these three things.

Approach with Positivity
Smiley Emoji
Several years ago I had a brutal divorce. My ex and were like fire and ice mixed with oil and water. No matter how hard we each thought we were trying it seemed to only cause the other pain.

But we have two kids, so the divorce by no means ended the problems. We had so many tough interactions afterward, and all of it bled from previous hurts and misunderstandings. I know for my part I would get a call or a text and read so much beyond what was being said.

Then my ex did something brilliant. It was sheer genius. She started sending her texts followed by a smiley face. I realized that she was trying to say “This was meant with kindness or at the very least free of any malice”. The positivity really helped to turn our interactions around.

Today I can’t say that our interaction is perfect, but I can say it’s much better. We definitely have some things that don’t work between us, and I have found a way to work through that which I will share a little later. But for now, approaching the other person with positivity, kindness, and an honest desire to want the best for them can go a long way, especially if you pair it with the next thing.

Use Fresh Eyes
One of the most frustrating things we all have to deal with is being typecast. “She’s the shy one.” “He’s gay; he must like theater.” “She’s always so moody.” It never seems to be right, either.

Typecasting can help people, but it can do a lot of damage. Have you ever noticed how a CEO can make a joke and it always gets a laugh, and if the average person makes the same joke it goes no where. Is the CEO always funny? Are people just pandering? I don’t think so. I think people expect the CEO to be successful, so there is an subconscious appeal to make the joke funny. After all, making a joke that doesn’t land isn’t very successful, so if he’s a successful CEO, the joke has to be funny, right?

I can relate. At one point I was working with a group where I could not make any headway. I had built my own company, written software that I sold in 18 countries, set up my own seminars, spoken at Universities and Fortune 500 campuses up and down the East Coast to glowing reviews, and had created several 2-hour workshops to train people in communication, leadership, and achievement.

Yet my track record meant nothing. I was not seen as a leader. In their minds the group had decided I was a certain type of person, and everything I said was filtered by that. Which only made things more difficult. It was an uphill climb to get anyone to see what I really was versus what they perceived me to be.

Yet how much do we do that to the people we interact with, especially the difficult ones? We expect them to be stagnant and alway the same. If they have been difficult in the past, so often we don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. We assume the worst in them. How fair is that?

We need to view each day as a day separate from any previous action. We need to allow them to grow. We all want people to see us as we are, why not them? Why not just evaluate all their actions as a vacuum without any preconceived notions?

Give Yourself Some Distance
But at the end of the day, the best thing you can do with difficult people is to stay away. If you don’t need to interact with them, it may be best not to.

My ex and I just can’t be around each other very long. We have tried doing trips together for the kids both long and short and sometimes grin and bear it, but for the most part we stay our distance. There is something about the way she looks at life and the way I look at life… like a cold and hot front coming together to create a cyclone. Sometimes it’s just best to stay away.

But not always. We do still hang out. We sit beside each other at the kids’ plays and other events. We help each other – she has let me borrow some things in a pinch, and I have helped her move. It’s good for the kids to see us get along.

Of course, one of the best ways for us to do that is to not be together too long. It’s just best for everyone.

Remember, We All Need Love
At the end of the day, you need to do what’s best for you, but remember that everyone, even difficult people need love. When we get away, it’s not to be a jerk. It’s to avoid being a jerk, first of all to them, and then to the people we may see later in the day.

If we hang around them too long, we aren’t doing anyone any favors. We only have so much energy to give and difficult people absorb a lot of it. We need to have reserves for the people in our lives we spend most of our time with.

So we need to limit our time with difficult people so we can be good to them when we see them, and good to the other people in our lives otherwise. We need to treat them as they are, not based on our past hurts and pain. And finally we need to be positive and find ways to make the situation as good as we can.

Because even difficult people need love, so we need to do our best to be at our best to be kind to them when we can.

David Bishop

David is CEO of Cedowin Productions, dedicated to helping you live your best life through positive habits. He has inspired tens of thousands to improve habits and communication through books, articles, workshops, and apps. He is the creator of AweVenture, helping families enjoy fantastic, active experiences and Zombie Goals, literally making building healthy habits a game. He’s authored several books including How to Create Amazing Presentations, 7 Steps to Better Relationships, and The Man in the Pit, which helps people who have loved ones struggling with depression.

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