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How To Handle Difficult People

Aug 17, 2007
They are out there. They may either be your boss, college professor, business partner, landlord, or even your own spouse, children, siblings or parents. Anyone can be a difficult person to someone else.

You may not admit it, but at one time or another all of us have been difficult people to other people.
It is vital to see if you are in a situation with a difficult person or if you yourself are beginning to be one. The first solution to any problem is recognizing the problem.

Most times, difficult people do not realize they are difficult. They do not see that they are demanding too much from other people. They think their attitude is just normal. Likewise, some of their victims may not see that they are dealing with difficult people.

It is vital that at this early point, we grasp the fact that avoiding difficult people does not solve the problem in question. As earlier mentioned, these people are everywhere. There is no privacy they cannot invade.

Ironically, the more successful you get the more difficult people you have to meet and cope with. Coping with difficult people might even be considered an essential skill to getting and staying successful in your life.

If you enjoy sailing in the sea you have to get used to its moods. The key is not to stay out of it but to learn to sail smoothly through thick and thin.

Likewise, it is learning how to deal with a difficult person that gives you smooth sailing amid a storm.
Once you master this, difficult people will start liking you.

So what makes a difficult person difficult?

Everyone out there is fighting a life battle of some kind. The battles may be fierce or mild. Different people have different stress tolerance. When people reach a state of high confusion and overwhelm, they become difficult. They, then, unconsciously project their frustration on you.

As a psychologist, my business is actually in dealing with difficult people, trying to make them less difficult. Once people become aware of their own inner pain, they begin to see how they bludgeon others with it, often unconsciously. Their lives are falling apart because they are critical, judgmental, and hostile to themselves and other people. Everything I do in a session is designed for only one purpose: to make them self-aware.

Given this opportunity to see other people more deeply, I have found the best way to stay objective enough to help them is to follow the advice of Don Miguel Ruiz, a brilliant Toltec philosopher.

He said that everyone is living in their own dream, their own version of reality. You have to understand that everything they are saying about you is only a projection from that state of unawareness. In fact, they do not see you at all, only their interpretation of what someone like you means to them. Thus, he advised, do not take things personally.

If you base your values and your meanings on someone else's point of view, you have merely traded in your own uniqueness and become imprisoned in their dream. You are letting them define you. No one can truly understand you for they do not know you well enough to do it.

Once you really get this perspective, you can allow yourself the freedom to see them as upset about something that has nothing to do with you but over something that is bothering them. They are experiencing something about you that does not even exist in your reality.

Often, too, they do not even use the same words in the same way you do. Let me give you a simple example of the often invisible linguistic barrier that arises between people. Yesterday, I was having a discussion with someone about the subject of consciousness. She argued that it had no value for her. This was puzzling to me because what I was witnessing was a being that was animated because of consciousness. After some investigation, I finally understood that she had narrowed the word down to mean "figuring things out." Thus, while I was defining the word as "sentience, life-force, and awareness," she was defining it as "limited, circuitous thinking."

Thus, even when two people are discussing what appears to be the same topic, they are actually talking about two completely different things. Each in their own minds is convinced that they are correct because each is viewing something that is perfectly aligned with their own precepts and vision.

The best way to cope with difficult people is to not take what they have to say personally.

If this does not make sense to you, consider the following. 

Difficult people are difficult because: 

(a) They project their inner pain on you; and you just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

(b) They do not even experience you as you are; but only interpret you a certain way because of their limited experience of you.

(c) They do not even see you as you are; but are only caught up in a dream state of what someone like you stirs up in them.

(d) They do not even hear the words you say; but are only interpreting the meaning of your words according to their own hidden definition.

Thus, when you really look at it deeply, it is not wise to take things personally. Once you remain free of getting stuck in their view of you, then you can intuitively understand how to cope with the situation.
About the Author
Saleem Rana would love to share his inspiring ideas. His book Never Ever Give Up tells you how. It is offered at no cost as a way to help YOU succeed. http://www.theempoweredsoul.com
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