Ah yes, such a fun people to be around. You know who I’m talking about! People like Mr. One-Upper; who always has done it, has it and seen it; only better. Or Miss Negative Nellie who can never be happy about anything and desperately tries to bring you down into her pit of misery. Oh and we can’t forget the best of the bunch Ms. Bitter, Miss Talks-but-never-Listens, Mr Loves-the-Limelight and Mr Whine. Really difficult people come in all shapes and sizes. The important thing here is how they are affecting you and your state of mind.
In past blogs I’ve mentioned that you ought to surround yourself with people who are positive, successful and where you want to be. The people you surround yourself with affect you more than you realize. The other end of the spectrum is true too. Having people who are generally negative, bitter and annoying surround you will drag that energy into your life and affect your own outlook which of course no one wants or needs. It can be really stressful to have someone in your life who is difficult to be around and that strain can affect your own personal happiness and life balance.
The problem of course comes around when you can’t choose your co-workers and sometimes your family/friends get to be this way too. Not all people who are negative are bad friends, but their negativity can really wear you out, especially if you are struggling to change something in your own life. Should you just bail on them? Sometimes that is the answer but more often you can’t or don’t want to.
Here are some tips to help you deal with these difficult people.
- Know yourself and be honest. Checking in with your own emotional state is healthy. It allows you to recognize patterns and change them. This includes allowing others to get under your skin and affect you.
- Be certain the problem lies with the other person and not with your reaction to them. If you have easily pushed buttons consider that it is your pattern that needs to change for things to improve. It is a rare case that the issues between people are simply one-sided.
- Ask a trusted friend or colleague to talk it over with you. You can use this to explore your own participation in the issue and to find a mature way to deal with the situation. Be upfront with whomever you speak with that this is confidential and you are asking for a sounding board. Do not view this as a time to whine and complain yourself. A little venting is ok but too much makes you a complainer instead of a problem solver.
- Don’t set yourself up for disappointment or frustration. Don’t discuss politics or religion with confrontational people, don’t rely on your flaky friends, don’t tell secrets to gossips. Avoid, when possible working with the guy who likes to demand attention or is abusive. You can eliminate a great deal of problems simply by not ignoring what is going on around you.
- Subtlety can work. Pointing out the silver linings to the complainers, not laughing at the jokes that are at others expense or simply ignoring gossip with a “I dont’ think Mary wants people to discuss that” and changing the subject are all nicer ways to get a point across. This works only some of the time and can be a slow process or even offend others by making you look like a stick in the mud. However, it might let you avoid having a direct confrontation.
- Talk to the person directly. Ask them if there is a time you could have a discussion and be straight but kind. Use the “I’ sentences and let them know how their actions affect you and what you need from them. Be prepared as some people will brush you off, make excuses or simply won’t care. On the other hand some people just get caught up in their own negative thinking and don’t realize what they are saying and doing is so negative. Remember to be as pleasant as possible and work towards a solution; this isn’t a time to vent every little thing that annoys you about them.
- Avoid blaming. Sometimes two personalities just don’t mesh. That is ok and you need to recognize when this is the case.
- Keep your sense of humour. Humour allows things to roll off your back and not work you up.
- Develop other relationships that lift you up to offset the negativity when you must deal with difficult people.
- Limit contact. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, simply being polite is enough. Give yourself some distance between those who get under your skin. You may even need to cut ties with someone. Let them know why you are doing so and what would have to happen in order to have a relationship. If it is your boss or co-worker you may want to consider switching departments or even jobs if the situation is bad enough.
- Work on developing your conflict resolution skills to help you manage the difficult situations that difficult people bring.
Being in touch with your emotional state will assist you in keeping the effects to a minimum but we all must deal with difficult people sometimes. Keeping things in perspective about what is really going on will go a long way to keeping your sanity in tact and not getting pulled into being negative yourself.