As the holidays rapidly approach, I find myself short on patience. I feel overwhelmed by all the extra things I need to do. On top of that, I am having to deal with difficult people.
Understanding the Problem
TV shows and movies often illustrate the problem well. They might show a person who is just awful, angry, and mean to everyone around them. Then, in the next scene, you see how that person suffers or is that way due to being mistreated.
It’s a good lesson to learn when dealing with difficult people. If you can dig deep and remember that these people act that way for a reason, you might find some compassion for them. Something in their lives is making them feel awful, but they do not have the skills to deal with it properly, so they lash out at other people. As a good example, I wrote a Medium story about a man who was awful to me in the grocery store.
Compassion Heals You
If you think about that person who is making your life harder, with a bit of compassion and understanding, it will make you feel better. It may not solve the problem, but you will not hold onto any residual resentment or obsess about it.
Last week, a client of mine had a bad day, and they took it out on me. I had done nothing wrong, but they pestered me with angry little outbursts like a petulant child. It all came down to control. They wanted to control me and couldn’t. At first, I got angry, but I quickly kicked into my mindfulness practice to let it go.
Letting Go Doesn’t Mean Letting Them Off the Hook
I used to feel like anyone who did something wrong should be punished. If I let it go or forgave them, they would be let off the hook, which was unacceptable. That was messed up thinking. It’s not about them; it’s about my peace and well-being.
I care more about how I feel about it than how they do. When I remembered that, instead of shooting off a retaliatory email, I did a few rounds of tapping (EFT) to rid myself of the anger and resentment. Very quickly, I felt better and forgot all about them. I ignored their last message and had a great weekend despite them.
How to Deal with Difficult People
There is no one-size-fits-all answer for dealing with difficult people. But here are some tips that I have found helpful. The goal here is to make sure you are okay, not them.
- Ignore their outbursts and go on being you. Be professional and courteous no matter what. Let them be them, and you be you.
- Be assertive, state your case, and call them out for their behavior. This can be risky with a particularly difficult person. You may experience quite a bit of blowback, but you will also stand up for yourself. You must pick your battles.
- Use mindful techniques to let go of your anger and resentment. Tapping and meditation are great tools for this.
- Try using compassion to understand them better. You may even feel sorry for them, making it easier to let it go. You might even be extra nice to them as a result.
- Sever the relationship. As a last resort, end the relationship if someone constantly bothers you with their bad behavior. That may mean quitting a job or firing a client, but it will improve your peace of mind.
- Use loving detachment to step back and remain unaffected by your difficult person. Acceptance helps a lot, too.
Don’t let someone else drag you down to their level. You can always find a way to deal with difficult people that improves your life by letting it go. You don’t have to show up for every fight you are invited to. Life is hard enough without having to deal with difficult people. Be better than them; lean into your mindfulness practice and experience peace instead. You can choose how to respond.