Dealing with Difficult People
Have you ever had to deal with difficult people in your personal or professional life? I’m talking about someone that absolutely drives you wacky and brings out the worst in you! Maybe it’s that ONE individual that drives you so crazy at work that you’ve contemplated quitting your job. But here’s the problem with using that kind of exit strategy as a solution; difficult people are everywhere.
They’re part of our families, they live in our neighborhoods, and often share the cubicle beside us at work. Because of this, learning to deal with these people is an important skill to master. Here are a couple tips to help you navigate the rough social terrain.
Try your best to keep the emotion out of your interactions. I know what you’re thinking; that’s easier said than done! But the fact is, losing your temper will just escalate the situation and that’s the last thing you need! At work, a flaring temper can backfire on you and make it appear that you’re the “difficult one” in the relationship.
Try to understand what motivates this individual. Attempt to understand the underlying reason for this individual’s behavior. Once you’re aware of what truly motivates them to do what they do, you can develop some empathy for the individual. This, in turn, can help keep your emotions in check. For example, maybe you have a co-worker that talks incessantly and it drives you bonkers. Looking beneath the surface, you might discover this is someone that’s lonely in his or her personal life and starved for human contact during the workday. This enables you to change your perspective on the situation.
Don’t waste time lamenting, talking and gossiping about this person. Talking about this person to others and how they’re driving you crazy is a natural reaction to this situation. However, if you’re spending every waking hour talking, thinking and stressing about this person, you need to reassess your priorities in life. Is this truly a valuable use of your time and energy? None of this behavior is going to change or improve the situation.
Reach out to someone you respect and trust to get their opinion. I once worked in a company where I clashed horrifically with a woman I’ll call Ann. I began to believe our relationship issues were my fault entirely, so I kept trying harder and harder to make it right. I reached out to a trusted individual that no longer worked in the company. Before I said anything to her about the situation, she asked me if I worked with Ann. I asked her why and she went into a 10-minute tirade about how Ann drove her crazy until she finally left her job. I immediately felt validated, which in turn made me feel energized to come up with strategies to deal with the situation. Talking with someone you respect helps you look at the situation objectively.
Assess what you CAN control in the situation, and what you can’t. You can’t get control the fact that there are going to be certain times you’ll be forced to interact with this person. You CAN control whether you have boundaries with this individual. For example, if you work with this person, you don’t HAVE to go out to lunch with her every day and you don’t HAVE to be friends with her outside of the workplace. Limit the amount of time you interact with her during your day as much as possible.
Accept the fact that you’ll need to treat this person differently than the way you treat other people. You’re not going to be able to be “you” every time you’re in their presence. You’ll need to be aware of your boundaries, keep your guard up and careful about what you say in this person’s presence.
There will always be difficult people around us; it’s just a fact of life. However, learning how to interact with difficult people is an essential skill needed if you are striving to be happy, healthy and successful. I know you can do it, girlfriend!