Dealing with difficult people can be a rewarding adventure when you apply these 3 steps. But heed this WARNING. If you are potentially in harms way by dealing directly with a difficult person and could be hurt by them physically, do not follow Step 1 below. In that case, go to an authority figure who is in a position to step in and help protect you. Sometimes it’s a fine line to determine whether it is safe to deal with a difficult person directly or not. Trust your gut. If you are in normal day to day situations with family, co-workers, bosses, etc. (be prudent with authority figures and measure your level of intensity with them to fit the setting if you are concerned how your dealings will affect your job status, legal issues, etc.) and you are not in harms way by addressing them directly, proceed with all 3 Steps below.
Step 1 – Stand Up To Them
In response to their disagreeable actions or words, stand up to them and meet them with what you believe to be the truth in the situation and tell them. If you do not stand up to them and show you are not afraid, they will likely continue to try to give you a hard time. If you can respond calmly and clearly, that helps. If you have anger and force in your response, that’s ok too. The main thing is that you stand up to them and speak your truth. But don’t try to change their behavior. Let them act out and do not use any name calling, put downs, or cursing when talking with them. Tell them the way you feel and why – your view. Be honest and avoid exaggeration.
If they respond harshly to you again, continue to speak your truth until the situation wears itself out. If you come to some agreement, great. If not, that’s fine too because you have accomplished Step 1 in dealing with difficult people. Note that in most heated discussions there is more of an agreement to disagree with both parties leaving still angry anyway.
If the timing is such that it wasn’t prudent or possible for you to respond to their verbal attack, abusive behavior, etc., do not try to get back at them by going around them and bringing in a friend or having someone else say something to them. It needs to be you who addresses them directly (at least at first) unless you are in danger as I warned above.
Why address directly at first? First, you need to fight your own battles. The issue is between you and them and needs to be treated that way. It’s not fair to you or the other person when you go around them without addressing them directly. Second, going around them through someone else complicates the situation and gives them more fuel to address you the next time – they may say, “you told so and so about what I said to you and it’s none of their business and you’re a son of a _______ for doing that…”. Now you not only have the original situation to deal with, you have a new one on top of it. Third, only you can convey the words, energy and message that you want. When you bring a third party into the mix, the message can easily be misconstrued and misunderstood and if the difficult person has any questions about the message, you are not there to clarify. Once you have addressed them directly, if they still are defiant and difficult with you and you are in a situation where an authority figure such as a boss can step in and talk with them, go to the authority, tell them about their behavior and ask for their support in addressing them.
Step 2 – Let It Go
Once you have addressed them directly, whatever the result, let it go. This is where most people fall down and prolong the drama so it never gets resolved. Don’t retaliate in any way, shape or form! Even though it is our ego’s natural tendency to want to set them straight and punish them. Forgive their actions and send them love knowing that they and you are always doing the best you can even though it may not seem that way. The reason they are being difficult is due to a fear they are holding onto that has nothing to do with you – its nothing personal. Let the universe, God, natural law (whatever you want to call it) correct another’s actions. In reality it is our job to let go and let them be, let them make their mistakes and let the universe correct them. There is no better teacher than life itself. Your mind may have a hard time letting them go and cutting them slack, “but they did this and that, how dare they, I’ll show them…”. Resist that temptation to retaliate! The sooner you do, the sooner you will be free of the pain you are causing yourself and them by holding onto the anger and hatred.
In the same way, do not have anxiety about them retaliating against you and fear they may do you harm (unless you have physical evidence to believe so). Just send them love and let it go. Go about your business and know that all is well.
On the flip side, after your confrontation you may experience thoughts of guilt or shame towards yourself…”I shouldn’t have shouted at them or I shouldn’t have gotten mad at them…that wasn’t the Christian thing to do or I am not a good person for getting angry, I should be able to control myself more…” These are all just thoughts you have been conditioned to believe and you need to let go of them as well. Our culture has a fear of anger and expressing it so it is natural to buy into the belief that expressing your anger is wrong or bad. The truth is, you getting angry and raising your voice toward them may well have been the exact appropriate response for the situation (as long as you refrained from hurtful name calling, put downs, etc). So don’t let those thoughts beat you up. Let them go and love yourself.
Step 3 – Watch What Happens
What I have found amazing, time and time again, is that even really intense situations got turned around when I followed these steps for dealing with difficult people. The person that I made out to be someone unlikeable and uncaring actually softened, turned around and expressed some kind of compassion towards me after Step 2. The love I expressed towards them turned them around even though it was done silently. Energy doesn’t lie whether you express it overtly or silently – the message still hits home. It is very comforting to have someone say or do something against you that is not just and have the universe mend it naturally. You have responded in harmony with natural law. Note also that after your disagreements or your arguments, you don’t need to try and make things better with them by approaching them in any way – just let it go as outlined in Step 2 and watch the universe do its job. My experience has been that the universe mends the situation by the next day and I will see visible signs of change in the other person and/or their life situation. They may overtly respond in kindness to me or just never engage or be difficult with me again.
The Next Level
Ready to go deeper and see this at the core spiritual level? At the deepest level it’s not “personal” because you and “they” are one. It’s all God acting out different parts on the stage of life. Do you get mad at actors in a movie when they are behaving badly? Maybe subconsciously but in reality you know they are just actors, playing out their role in the movie or play. The actors (you and I and all humans) are being played out by the one Supreme Being. It is totally impersonal, there is no one to fight, no one to rally against – we are all one body. We are like waves on the ocean – each wave has it’s unique expression but it is always still part of the one ocean. Before I experienced this at a deeper level, it didn’t make sense when people would say, “We are all one”. Really? How can this be? I have my body and mind. You have yours and we are separate. Or so it seems. The mind can’t quite grasp this, so if it’s not making sense now, that’s ok. Just be open to a new possibility of reality as you know it. You will find more understanding and insight in other posts here and in the book Formula For Peace™.
Does that mean you don’t need to take these 3 steps in dealing with difficult people? Possibly. What it means is that when you don’t take it personally, you don’t see their action as “trying to do harm to you”. You can lighten up and see their action without judgment. You can take your response to the next level and not react at all to their behavior, even ignore it to some degree. Many times, difficult people unconsciously feel that if they get under your skin and get you to react and play in their drama, they have control. If you don’t react, they realize on some level that you are not playing in their game – they can’t manipulate your behavior. Depending on the situation, many times you can avert conflict altogether by not reacting and thereby forgo the 3 steps I have outlined. Over time you will spontaneously respond in the way that is best for resolution of the situation.
Obviously, if they are in a position of authority in relation to you such as your boss, the government, etc., there are certain rules and laws you may want to play by or not – that becomes your choice. But that does not mean that you have to take it personally and see them as “trying to get you”. When you don’t take it personally, you can move with ease and grace in whatever direction feels right. Let me know your experience and questions by commenting below…
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1st image courtesy of Michal Marcol at freedigitalphotos.net
2nd image courtesy of Ambro at freedigitalphotos.net