You probably have people in your life who make you feel just downright happy when you are around them.
They are easy to be around, they share your interests, they are kind and thoughtful, and you respect them. Let’s call them your “happy people”.
Most of the people you choose to be in your life, your friends for example, should be happy people, don’t you think? I mean, hey, why chose friends who aren’t friendly?
(Just as an aside here, I’d like to remind you to take really good care of your happy people. Be a happy person right back at them. These folks are to be nurtured and treasured.)
As much as we want happy people in our lives, it often happens that difficult people appear in our circle to gum up the works. In fact, some of those difficult people can be right in our own families.
Lots of times they work with us, or they are the parents of our kid’s friends, or we are put with them in some situation or circumstance that is unavoidable. And sometimes, darn it, we do choose them and hang on to them for some ungodly reason that makes no sense, at least on the surface.
There are various levels of difficulty with difficult people, but they all have the capacity to stir us up and bring out our worst traits. Let me rephrase that.
We allow our peace of mind and equanimity to be challenged when interacting with a difficult person.
Because that’s the truth of it, isn’t it? Difficult people can push our buttons, but only if our buttons are turned on.
Granted, it is no easy task not to get sucked up and twisted around by unpleasant, negative types. It happens to me all the time.
Sometimes the difficult behavior comes in the form of a comment or look so subtle that you don’t realize you’ve been sliced to the quick, until you feel the sting. I am always, always taken by surprise by this under-the-radar approach, and it makes me so mad that I can’t respond to passive meanness without looking small myself. I’d rather they be overtly rude and loathsome.
Let’s face it, it’s easy to get along with easy people. But it is so very hard to be the person you want to be when the weight of a negative personality is dragging you down.
This is a task, and I mean a real task, of proactive decision making on your part. You have to start with the decision that you will be the person you want to be in spite of the behavior you encounter and the feelings it stirs up.
I’m not suggesting that you just belly-up and take it. But I am suggesting that there are ways to prevent difficult people from pulling you into their sphere of unhappiness and boorish behavior.
These are hard things to do. They take self-reflection and a willingness to deal straightforwardly with very uncomfortable situations. If you are reading this post, you probably aren’t someone who just sweeps problems under the rug.
If you want to manage your difficult people and reclaim some peace of mind, I present these ideas for your consideration:
1. Know thyself. Define in writing the person you want to be. What are the elements of your character, integrity and values that you want to reflect to the world in your words and actions? Now, define how you’d like that person to respond when faced with the difficult people.
2. Let go of certain people. Remember the part about choosing your friends? Well, you can also choose to let them go. If someone is truly draining you or hurting you and is not attempting to correct their behavior, then by all means, let them go. This does not have to be a dramatic production.
3. Have the uncomfortable talk. There are some people in your life who are difficult, but you are not ready to let them go. You want to give them a chance, but realize that people generally aren’t mind readers. You have to tell them you have a problem and how it can be fixed.
4. Feel empathy for them. This is hard to do for someone who is genuinely a real pain. But accept that this person is doing the best they know how to do in the moment. People are where they are on the ladder of introspection and personal growth. You can’t drag them up the rungs. They must want to climb it themselves
5. Seek help if needed. I have a few friends whose parents are the bad apples. Oh my, this is such a difficult dynamic.
We all need our parents to be kind and supportive and loving. But when they aren’t, it’s nearly impossible to let them go completely. The pain can be deep and scarring.
Sometimes only a professional can help you navigate these murky waters. Seek this help willingly so that the pain from this dysfunctional relationship doesn’t infect your “happy people” or your own soul.
Dealing with difficult people is never easy, but it is an unpleasant task well worth the investment of time and emotional energy.
When you set boundaries or even let go of people who do not support and nourish you, you reclaim a part of yourself.
You discover energy and well-being that allows you to evolve into the best person you can be – for yourself and those around you.