WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE
people are exceptionally difficult to get along with. They complain, threaten
and bluster, sometimes withdrawing, at other times becoming intimidating.
We leave such interactions frustrated, angry guilty and drained.
can all be annoying, irritable, indecisive, passive or hostile when overly
stressed or threatened. But difficult people exhibit such behaviors regularly.
most common kinds of difficult behavior are
· Hostility, aggression and threats. Such behavior is really motivated
by fear. Although aggressive people may seem to be attacking, they think
they're defending against a threat.
· Whining and complaining to avoid responsibility or get attention.
Such behavior is irritating and frustrating.
and evasiveness. Some people will lie to avoid others anger or disappointment.
Others become evasive when they don't know the answer to a question or
can't honestly say what they think others want to hear. People are angry
and hurt when lies are revealed, and are confused by evasions.
Fear of being criticized or hurt can become so great it's paralyzing.
Such behavior is frustrating to others as they try to draw a response
from an unresponsive person.
People who are unhappy or insecure can be relentless in their pressure
for sympathy, approval and reassurance. They ask over and over for approval
and acceptance, draining our energy and patience.
Whether out of fear of making mistakes or as indirect ways of expressing
anger, procrastination drives other people crazy! Reactions range from
irritation to exasperation to fury, depending upon how much inconvenience
the procrastination has caused.
way we feel about such difficult behavior determines whether we retain
control of the situation or hand it over to the difficult person.
YOU CAN DO
discomfort caused by Difficult People comes partly from their behavior
and partly from our thoughts and feelings about them. You can reduce your
· Shifting the way you see difficult people. It's a common misconception
that people who are difficult know what they're doing and are in control
of the situation. In truth people usually act" difficult" when
they feel helpless and threatened.
Difficult people are unhappy people. Difficult behavior stems not from
a desire to frustrate others but from a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem.
Fear and defensiveness caused by disappointment and self-doubt plague
difficult people until they become their own worst enemies. They wind
up alienating people when what they really want is to be loved.
When you look at difficult people sympathetically, you can see that the
hostile bully is actually afraid of being criticized or controlled; the
constant complainer feels unappreciated and unloved; and the procrastinator
is afraid of losing approval or affection.
· Knowing your own "hot buttons" and doing all you can
to disarm them. Realize that you have as much personal power as anyone
else. No one can have any more control over you than you give him or her.
When you feel secure and self-confident you're less defensive and better
able to have empathy for others.
who are hard to get along with are one of the hardest kinds of people
to deal with because of the power differential between boss and employee.
Management styles that cause problems include:
· Controlling bosses want everything done "their way,"
and communication with employees is one-way, from boss to employee. These
bosses are usually so afraid of making a mistake that they will only do
things the way they've always been done.
· Pleaser bosses are so anxious to be liked that they try to accommodate
everyone's ideas and wishes. They are confusing to work for because they
do not make their expectations clear. Communication is one way, from others
to the boss.
· Defensive bosses try to keep things running smoothly by ignoring
or short-circuiting problems. Instead of communicating, they withdraw,
so communication is again one-way, from the boss to employees.
work best when they feel like they are working with their boss, not for
him/her. In order to manage effectively, bosses must develop two-way communication
with employees so that their ideas and viewpoints can be considered before
plans are made.
A BAD DAY?
important to be able to tell the difference between a basically nice person
who's behaving badly because they're having a bad day and a person for
whom every day is a bad day! The basically nice person deserves and will
be grateful for your sympathy and understanding. A Difficult Person may
see sympathy as permission to go on being difficult!
are ways in which Difficult People and people having a difficult day differ:
People having a bad day
· Know they are acting badly.
· Are embarrassed by their bad behavior.
· Usually calm down when others offer help or sympathy.
· Are regretful and apologize sincerely when they realize they've
· Alter their future behavior based on what they've learned from
· See nothing wrong with their behavior, even when they know that
other people find it offensive.
· Feel no regret for their actions.
· Apologize to keep the peace and avoid conflict without really
understanding why they were hurtful.
· Usually shift to a new complaint rather than being calmed by
offers of help or sympathy.
· Do not learn from experience and repeat the same bad behavior
again and again.
parent will tell you that some of their children are more difficult than
others. Happily, there are things you can do to keep difficult children
from growing into difficult adults.
· Set reasonable, consistent limits with appropriate consequences.
When Johnny hits a playmate, it makes more sense to send him to time-out
than to take away his television privileges.
· Enforce limits promptly. Respond at the first sign of trouble
instead of waiting until you're angry and apt to over-react. If you don't
react to the small tantrums, children will move on to more dramatic means
of seeing whether you mean what you say.
· Take charge. Don't get involved in power struggles with your
children. If you allow yourself to be drawn into bickering with your children
or punish them out of anger instead of love, they'll see you as a peer
instead of an authority figure.
· Have confidence in you parenting skills. If you believe you're
in charge, your child will believe it, too. If you allow yourself to be
bullied or dissuaded when you set limits, the child will know he's in
the driver's seat!
· Criticize the behavior, not the child. Children often behave
badly because they've come to believe that they are bad. Make it clear
that even when you don't like what they do, you still love them.
· Insist that children take responsibility for their actions. The
earlier difficult children learn that there is a consequence to their
actions, the easier their adult life will be.
can't change people who are difficult, but we can do a lot to decrease
our discomfort when we're around them by taking charge of the situation.
Here are some ways you can do that:
someone is being threatening or intimidating, respond to the way he's
talking to you rather than what he's saying. "Don't talk to me that
way; I deserve respect as much as you do."
you're dealing with a chronic complainer, listen quietly and then repeat
your request for action, phrasing your question, "will you
Don't give up until they answer your question directly. Few people are
willing to say "no" flatly, so if they say, "Yes,"
ask when they will do it.
someone seems to be evasive or if you suspect they are actually lying,
don't be afraid to ask as many questions as necessary until you're satisfied
you have the whole, truthful answer.
Outflank procrastinators by setting deadlines that are well in advance
of when you need something done. They'll still procrastinate, but you'll
be in charge because you have anticipated it. This also works well with
people who are always late for appointments.
Avoid the irritation caused by people who frequently interrupt you with
unnecessary questions by planning to give them some positive attention
each day, before they ask for it. Give them sincere compliments, or ask
how their day was: you'll prevent many interruptions before they start!
Passive people who are afraid of being criticized for making mistakes
often blossom when given patience, encouragement, praise, and support.
When people are difficult, their behavior is not aimed at you in particular;
they're just being themselves, reacting more to their own doubts and fears
than to the world around them. They're not trying to make you unhappy,
but trying to protect themselves.
disparate difficult behaviors often arise from the same issue. For instance,
both boastful over-confidence and self-effacing indecisiveness are caused
by low self-esteem. In the same way
· Both aloof & effusive people struggle with how to express
· Authoritarian and unorganized people have different views of
· Perfectionists and slobs struggle with how to create order.
· Workaholics and procrastinators' lives are ruled by time.