You know who I am talking about, in fact their face popped into your mind as soon as you read the headline. Maybe it’s your boss or a parent, the people in power in your life. That face that flashed in front of your eyes may be your co-worker, sibling, neighbor… hey, the choices are almost endless. Even during these times when we are interacting less, but starting to interact again, we have to come into contact with people who make it difficult to move a conversation or action forward.
I know I don’t have to tell you, it is frustrating, and I am sure that you would love it if I told you that it’s okay to just let them have it when they come for you, just go all off. Yes, that might feel really good in that moment… Did you just picture that in your mind? Yeah, you did, but here are the questions you might want to ask yourself before you do anything even close to what you pictured.
What will the consequences be?
How will that resolve things?
In how many ways will this blow everything up?
All legitimate questions that need to be answered. May I suggest another approach? Get these three things down and you are on the way to making some changes in this situation.
Work on understanding why they are difficult.
I know this one irks you. Why should you care? Because it will help you to manage yourself in the situation. I have worked with three incredibly difficult bosses, one I discovered had a serious cocaine issue, one was struggling with his own self-image and the third was a perfectionist who rarely found people who lived up to her standards. It took me awhile to observe, listen and gather information. The cocaine discovery was at an office party in the ladies room, I walked in on her sniffing it up. Interestingly, her reaction was to offer me the “great opportunity to get high with my boss.” Her words. I knew it was bad when she didn’t even ask me to keep quiet about it when I refused the offer. Knowing this information about these three people helped me to understand that it really wasn’t about me.
Don’t take it personally.
Most often, people who continue to be difficult are working with a whole set of problems that are not visible to you. They are not dealing with present day, they are still working from wounds inflicted in their past. It’s not you, it is the words and actions coming from you that trigger them back to whatever hurt they are choosing not to deal with. I know that it is hard to believe, because it is you that they are taking it out on. It’s important for you to remain in the space of this is not personal and work to manage the feelings it brings up in you. Listen to what they are saying in order to tease out what you need to do in order to get through this conflict quickly and productively.
Know your boundaries and keep stating them.
Just because they are being difficult doesn’t mean that you have to allow them to speak to and treat you in whatever way they choose to. Let them know what your boundaries are and when they have been crossed. Be firm and consistent. Yes, that can be difficult when they are your boss, but it is important to your mental health that you at least try. Say something like “that really crosses my boundaries around respect. I need you to…” and then state what you need.
It’s a lot of work, no question, but if it starts to crack the difficult persona you are facing, then it is worth it. Ok, I know you are shouting, “but what if it is personal?” Well first, be certain that it is. Don’t assume, ask the question. Then consider if there is any truth to what they have expressed. Don’t defend until you consider. If ongoing conversation proves unfruitful then you have a decision to make. Do you remain in this situation or continue to put yourself in this situation?
Difficult people are everywhere and unfortunately, because of COVID, fear and sheltering in, there are many more of us being difficult. Understanding that going into the situation can spare you a lot of unnecessary pain.
We can get through this.