Stop being difficult, N.S.
We all do it.
We all deal with difficult people or people we perceive as difficult.
You ask them, and they would say, “I am not difficult!” This type of person can elevate stress levels quickly. It is hard when you are working on a team that is not a team, with people who are disgruntled or have a personality disorder.
It’s not just the time in their presence either, it’s the time leading up to being in their presence, the time spent debriefing in your head and then the time venting to family or friends about the encounter. It can eat up a big chunk of your day, especially if you have several people like this in your life.
Your resilience battery can take a real zap when you have difficult people at work, at home, in your social circles or in your immediate family. This can be a big drain, like when your cellphone is in a weak reception area and you don’t realize how hard your phone is working to acquire a signal until it is warning low battery.
This is like your life. All these people are zapping you and you don’t even realize it until your battery in flashing red.
You’re tired in the morning, you have less energy, you’re snapping at everyone, you want to spend more time alone … these are all signs your battery might be getting low. You need to know the signs of when to plug in and recharge.
You could debate you have two options: detangle or learn to work with these people. I have done both in the past. Both could be easier said than done. Regardless, you probably need to limit exposure if you are feeling the symptoms.
You want to decrease your response to difficult people. You are ready to make a change. You have tried before and were not successful. You get sucked into their drama, their problems, reading into what they are thinking and feeling. They are not interested in getting better or making the situation better or perhaps their personality makes it near impossible. This will alter your tactic.
Engineering a strategy that works
The first step is to figure out if you are detangling or using strategies to improve the situation. Either way communication skills are important.
You need to let people know. I am not saying detangling is easy. You might want to have less exposure to a family member but still be there when they really need you. You probably can’t — and don’t want to — cut them off but you might not be able to do an hour on the phone every day.
If you decide to stay in the situation, here are a few strategies that might help. Stay calm and carry on
When in the moment and it is escalating, it’s easy to react to an emotionally charged situation. Keep notice of your breathing rate, the tone of your voice, how and where you are standing. Recently, they made potential astronauts stay in a small tube for four months to get ready for the potential of going to Mars. They monitored the tone of their voice, how close they talked to others and word recognition software … “jerk,” “hate,” etc. Check and regulate yourself.
I remember reading Dr. Dwyer’s work in the 1990s. “Stop being offended, don’t judge, give up your need to win,” were just some of his teachings. Not easy. Keep in mind you don’t have a full picture of what that person is dealing with that day. They are likely feeling vulnerable or have some fear. Try the compassionate route, the road less travelled.
Saying “I understand” makes it worse
To defuse, ask: “Tell me more so I can understand better.”
Save the smile and the joke The person will most likely feel mocked and joking nearly always backfires.
How to sustain your mojo?
Keep in mind your own personal health is important. Most likely dealing with difficult people is draining. You need to remember you help no one if you’re struggling. Keep this in mind if you are in multiple situations and are starting to feel it. You might need to prioritize your people and focus on those most important relationships. Your job puts food on the table, so this might be at the top.
If you are a leader in an organization or the figure head of the family, lead! Address this issue head on in a safe environment. Get professional help if needed. Employ a psychologist, get human resources involved, hire a consultant. Ignoring it is the worst. You can have all the fitness challenges, family barbecues and games nights with friends but working on it needs to be somebody’s responsibility.
In the workplace it most likely means policy development and, even better, is to address it in meetings. Put it on the agenda regularly. What does dealing with difficult people look and feel like? How do we address it? Do a barometer check prior to the meeting with a survey. If the needle has moved ask the question why. Why did it get better? Why did it get worse? This can help evaluate a policy implementation.
No one said this was going to be easy. We have an environment that is negative, top down.
Look at our politics and our media. People sometimes see being difficult as part of their job and they are not self-aware enough to know when it is helping someone learn or just being a jerk. You don’t have to tell them they are a jerk, maybe just that it’s not helping the situation. Now!novascotia is The
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Know the signs of when you need to plug in and recharge. Darren Steeves is the owner of Vendurawellness.com, a company dedicated to improving organizational health one step at a time.