Difficult People

I can be a difficult person.  For some people.  Some of the time.  Probably, you can be too.

Sometimes my energy is strong, or out of proportion. Sometimes I don’t respond in the way that the other person wants or needs. And sometimes people get upset, irritated or annoyed, with me.

Sometimes I get annoyed and irritated when I don’t get what I want or need from the other person. When they don’t listen to me in the way that I want them to, or when they  don’t understand what I am talking about because its outside their experience. I guess that makes me a difficult person, for that person, in that moment.

I have my difficult people too.  Sometimes it makes perfect sense why I find that person or situation difficult. And there are other people that I simply find difficult, for reasons I don’t yet understand.

Normally we don’t talk about such things. It’s easier to judge or blame the other, so that we don’t need to look at our part in it. In any case  it’s easier to ignore them or avoid them.  After all, who wants to be around a difficult person?

I looked at some of the considered wisdom on the subject, some of the better advice I saw was over here on Forbes. I  am sure some of it can be useful. The problem is that a lot of the advice is all about the other person: how you can protect yourself from these difficult people, and avoid them, and therefore continue to judge them.  Ultimately that doesn’t solve very much.

I have found a different approach more helpful. I started using this mantra when I am challenged by one of my difficult people:

Here is a person, just like me:

  • This person is just like me, they are seeking some happiness for his/her life.
  • This person is just like me, they are trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.
  •  Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.
  • Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfil his/her needs.

(with huge thanks to Anita Sheehan for introducing me to this practice)

Clipart arguing

In this image, it is probably easier to identify with the guy in the blue.   Who wants to be  the guy in the orange?   – but the reality is, we can all be both of them.

So instead of falling into negative thoughts, or blame or judgement – I recognise that this other person suffers like I do.  It brings me more peace and calm than I can find otherwise.  I am not running away from the difficult situation between us. I am not pretending thing are OK when thy are not.  Sometimes they really did do something that was not good for me, or they judged me, or they did something that I felt was wrong.  And maybe  sometimes I just got triggered. AND at the same time, whatever they did or didn’t do they are also a human being with fears and hopes and longings, just like I am.

In some situations it takes a while to get to this place and to really mean it.

I invite you to play with it.

I gave this exercise recently in a two-day training I was giving for a client.  Much to my surprise at the end of the training they asked to do this exercise again because they felt it would be a great way to go out in to the world.

I am wondering how you handle  your difficult people?

And if you don’t think you have any, I invite you to look again.  Maybe you are just ignoring them, and not noticing how much they annoy you.    The thing is we all have shadows, and often the shadows show up in our interactions with other people, sometimes with the people we are closest to.  Who in your circle annoys you the most?  I invite you to use this mantra for that person and see what happens for you.

Please let me know in the comments below.