I have a friend who is very difficult. The problem is, she doesn't even know it. How can you have relationships -multiples, not just one- filled with conflict and not know you are the source?
My experience is that difficult people are impenetrably hard to deal with for two reasons:
- They get away with it. We let these miserable misfits stomp on our delicate optimism. It hurts, so we avoid them or pretend they don't bother us and they get away with it.
- They get something out of it. We avoid them, so they end up with less work, fewer interruptions, and less difficult assignments. We don't challenge their ideas because we know effects of their wrath.
When I was funny motivational speaker for a Physician Recruitment Healthcare Conference in Boston, there were several sessions on dealing with difficult people... with apologies to doctors!
One of the other speakers for the healthcare conference showed research that suggests that difficult people get better shifts, more pay, and they work with better people. In short, they are getting a lot out of their tirades.
If you let difficult people bring you down, realize that your quality of life is more important than you think. This person's random episodes of misery are affecting your buoyant optimism and ability to remain positive. You must confront and deal with difficult behavior.
3 Steps to Deal with Difficult People
- Decide what it is that bothers you about their behavior and how you will communicate this to them. Be specific.
- Choose a time when conflict is low to express what bothers you about their behavior. Don't get defensive; stick to the facts.
- Get agreement and a commitment for change.
My experience is that difficult people respect when others stand up to them. Some may not even be aware of the behavior that has become habitual for them.
In some cases you may have to agree to disagree. In the case of my friend, when I tell her what bothers me, she refuses to listen and accept responsibility. In some relationships (when you have a choice) you just have to assess if this is worth it. Either you cut your losses and move on, or you consciously decide to pay the price for the sake of the relationship.