Can’t stand that per­son!

So why are you al­low­ing him or her so much con­trol over your life?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Opinion - star2@ thes­tar. com. my Sandy Clarke

WHEN we come across some­one who irks us or clashes with our per­son­al­ity, the eas­i­est path to take is to dis­miss their value as a per­son al­to­gether. But that’s not al­ways the best path to take.

Re­cently, I re­ceived an e- mail from a reader who asked how they could best deal with “dif­fi­cult peo­ple”, ex­plain­ing trou­bles they’ve ex­pe­ri­enced with a test­ing col­league.

In the work­place, we are bound to find one or two peo­ple we don’t mix eas­ily with or who sim­ply cause us prob­lems, con­sciously or oth­er­wise. Thank­fully, I’ve met only a few peo­ple who fall into this cat­e­gory over the years. It can be a real headache in a num­ber of ways, and some­times even the best ef­forts to rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion can go awry.

In one of my pre­vi­ous roles, I en­coun­tered quite a bel­liger­ent col­league who cre­ated a num­ber of chal­lenges within our work­ing re­la­tion­ship. Pre­vi­ous to this ex­pe­ri­ence, I had never known any­thing like it so I was as­ton­ished at how a pro­fes­sional could act in ways that caused such ten­sion and dis­com­fort.

On my part, it didn’t help at all that I was strug­gling at the time with the cul­ture shock of liv­ing in a new coun­try, and I was cer­tainly much less mind­ful of the sit­u­a­tion as I might nor­mally have been. In­stead of re­spond­ing to the sit­u­a­tion, I found my­self re­act­ing to my emo­tional im­pulses, and in the end I de­cided the best course of ac­tion for me at the time was to cre­ate space by mov­ing on from the sit­u­a­tion.

Af­ter a short while, I no­ticed that I was still re­play­ing sit­u­a­tions and con­ver­sa­tions in my head, which served to fuel the neg­a­tive emo­tions that should have long since dis­si­pated.

Soon af­ter I caught on to what I was do­ing, I had what I call a “mind­ful con­ver­sa­tion” with my­self in an ef­fort to re­solve the ten­sion that I was feel­ing.

First off, I re­alised that no one who’s happy and truly con­tent with them­selves is likely to seek to cre­ate prob­lems for oth­ers. Of­ten times, dif­fi­cult peo­ple have con­sid­er­able in­se­cu­ri­ties, a low sense of self- ac­cep­tance, and they may also be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing hard­ships in their per­sonal lives. We might have to en­gage with bel­liger­ent peo­ple dur­ing work­ing hours, but they have to live with them­selves all the time.

With that recog­ni­tion, a sense of un­der­stand­ing be­gan to emerge. We of­ten as­sume that peo­ple cause us prob­lems for the fun of it; how­ever, if we think about how they might be strug­gling, then the po­tency of our emo­tional re­ac­tions be­gins to lessen.

We can even think about times when we have been dif­fi­cult to­wards oth­ers. It tends to be the case that, when we’re the ones caus­ing the prob­lems, it’s likely be­cause of some­thing that’s hap­pen­ing at home or maybe we’ve had a bad day, or we’ve re­ceived some bad news and we’re find­ing it dif­fi­cult to cope with.

While this doesn’t ex­cuse the be­hav­iour, it at least ex­plains why it hap­pens. It’s also help­ful to re­alise that we all have our but­tons that, when pushed, can cause ad­verse re­ac­tions within us. We can’t con­trol how peo­ple be­have to­wards us, but we do have a say in how we re­spond to their be­hav­iour – we can choose to step back and take a few deep breaths, and try to min­imise our suf­fer­ing that would oth­er­wise in­crease if we choose to fully en­gage with un­help­ful im­pulses.

If tak­ing a few deep breaths and lean­ing away from trou­ble­some re­ac­tions is tough at first, then per­haps avoid­ance of the dif­fi­cult per­son en­coun­tered might be an op­tion, for a time at least. De­pend­ing on the per­son, it may be pos­si­ble to po­litely raise the is­sue of their be­hav­iour with them, let­ting them know how you feel. They could be en­tirely un­aware of their be­hav­iour and its im­pact on oth­ers.

It’s im­por­tant to re­alise that no one should be so im­por­tant that they are al­lowed con­trol over your hap­pi­ness. It might take some time at first to over­come hos­tile feel­ings to­wards dif­fi­cult peo­ple, but it’s crit­i­cal to try to un­der­stand why the other per­son may be be­hav­ing in a chal­leng­ing way.

This is a key step to­wards al­le­vi­at­ing the neg­a­tive and un­com­fort­able feel­ings that can arise within us, as it al­lows us to re­gain some con­trol over our emo­tions and there­fore rein in their of­ten pow­er­ful in­flu­ence over us. Sandy Clarke has long held an in­ter­est in emo­tions, men­tal health, mind­ful­ness and med­i­ta­tion. He be­lieves the more we un­der­stand our­selves and each other, the bet­ter so­ci­eties we can cre­ate. If you have any ques­tions or com­ments, e- mail star2@ thes­tar. com. my.

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