Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We all have them in our lives. People who test our limits in one way or another.
There are the ones who thankfully pass through our lives only briefly, like the pushy salesman at your door, or the snippy receptionist at the clinic; not to mention the parents who let their kids run riot in the shops, or the person tailgating you on the highway.
The good thing about these people is that our encounters with them are short-lived, and our best approach is to be firm but polite. And be glad it will soon be over.
Then there are the people that we interact with more regularly.
Anyone from your spouse’s obnoxious best friend or the busy-body neighbour to the challenging client at work, or even to the inept boss can also fall into this category of being a little to full on difficult.
The hardest thing we have to do when confronted by difficult people is to stay true to ourselves. If we have no choice but to deal with them, we have to try and look for the good things about them and work on those. It’s easy to let them dictate our mood; to bring us down and cause us to bite back, but in the long run it only makes us feel bad. And why should we? We need to let their bad behaviour be their issue and not ours.
I'm not saying that we should turn a blind eye to someone who is obviously having a bad day. We don't know what’s going on in their lives that may be affecting their better judgement. But we can keep our own attitude in check, and hope that some of our calmness and positive attitude will rub off on them, and maybe improve their day just a little.
But it’s another thing altogether when we live with difficult people on a daily basis. We know that bad behaviour often stems from defensiveness, and can be their way of testing you. Sometimes they will direct aggressiveness toward you because it’s the only way they can feel a sense of control. If we can look deeper and find the cause, we can begin to separate the behaviour from the person and come up with strategies to deal with it.
Could they be struggling with work or school issues? Money issues? Have they experienced trauma in the past that causes them to be distant or demanding? Could it be health related, or the manifestation of a mental health issue? If you care about them, you will want to help; and the best way is to give them opportunities to open up to you without judgement. Your skill also comes in recognising when more specialised intervention may be needed.
Having said all of that, there are times when the only course of action for our own health and wellbeing is to let relationships go. Life is too short to live in misery trying to be everyone’s buffer.
There is a list that I have had for many years called ‘Tips for staying positive.’ One of these that really stood out to me was this…
Weed your social garden. Choose your friends and associates carefully, and don't tolerate those who will worsen you. This is good advice. Family is family, but there is no reason to retain friends who bring us down or use us. What is the worst that would happen if you let them go?
One thing I've learned is that a serene attitude is self-perpetuating, and the more we deliberately practise it the more naturally it occurs. Therefore, don’t let others dictate your mood or your behaviour. Cultivate relationships that enhance you and make
you feel good about yourself. Smile at the grumpy sales person, even if they don't smile back. Pay your co-worker a compliment, and on the highway let the tailgater pass you and get on their way.