(I have been very busy with some other projects so I am reposting an older post that I think you will enjoy! Also I will be posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the remainder of this year. I am more than happy to accept guest posts during this time!)
We all have to deal with difficult people at some point in our lives.
Some people are chronically difficult and it is best for your own mental and emotional well being to limit your time with these people as much as possible. It is extremely wearing to be around people who are difficult on a regular basis and it can wear even on the most positive optimist.
Even if you must spend a lot of time with a difficult person, if you live with them, work with them or for some other reason are forced to spend a lot of time with them, you still have choices and options. You can use a little creativity to limit your exposure to their difficult ways.
Ask Them to Stop
Asking them to stop what they are doing is a good first step because they might not even be aware of how difficult they are being on others. By asking them to stop you will find out if they are willing to change their ways. If they are then you are in a great place!
When you ask someone to stop doing something be sure to ask in such a way that is not irritated, demanding, degrading, etc. In order to receive the best response from them:
- Assume that they don’t realize how difficult they are being. In other words don’t take the stance that they are purposefully being difficult to you. You don’t know their motives until you ask no mater how you perceive their actions.
- Use “I statements” when you ask them to stop. “I feel…when you…” is a lot more likely to be received well than are more confrontational statements. Be descriptive of your feelings and their actions and not emotional or judgmental.
- Be willing to help, even asking if you are doing something to contribute to the situation or if there is something that you can do to help them out in the situation. Humility begets humility, if you show that you are willing to change they will be more likely to be willing to as well.
What happens when you ask the difficult person to stop what they are doing and they refuse?
What if they think that they are not doing anything wrong?
What if they think you are the one with the problem and the one whoÂ needs to change?
Set Personal Boundaries
There are many ways that you can set boundaries to protect yourself as much as possible from the harmful effects of being around difficult people.
Remember that setting boundaries is about protection and not punishment. You are not setting boundaries to punish the other person but only to protect yourself from their unhealthy behaviors.
When you set boundaries you have decide what you will do when the behavior happens. For example if a friend or significant other is chronically late you can tell them that if they are late then you will leave on time if they are not there when they say they will be. Then you need to follow through and leave on time.
Another example is someone who takes out their negative emotions on those around them. You can tell someone, “The next time that you yell at me I am going to walk away until you are able talk to me respectfully.”
People Who Are Hurting Hurt Others
This is a very important truth to remember: people act out based on their own feelings about themselves
If you can remember that it might help you not to feel so hurt by what is said to you if you understand this truth. Anytime that someone speaks harshly to you you will likely always feel hurt but understanding that their harshness is not about you can take away some of that sting.
Another thing that I have heard said is that people who bully are actually scared little boys/girls inside. That is why they lash out at others, they are trying to make themselves feel better because they feel inferior. The only reason that someone would put another person down is because they feel lousy about themselves.
You don’t see people with positive self-images going around trying to make other people feel bad.
People who feel good about themselves want to help others feel good about themselves too.
There are some people who are more extreme than simply being difficult, they are destructive in how they are treating others. They can be verbally, emotionally or even physically destructive. You will need to set even more firm boundaries with these people.
First of all, regardless of what you do to them you do not deserve to be called names, to be threatened, to be made to feel unsafe, to be hit, slapped, etc. There is no excuse whatsoever for any of those behaviors or anything like them.
Firm boundaries need to be set in these situations. Trying to ignore the situation, shutting down and holding out may seem like a less scary choice to make but it’s not a healthy choice to make. Ignoring your feelings will only cause them to fester and come out in other ways and also cause deeper issues later down the road. Including damage to your physical health.
One major issue that can come down the road from not dealing with these now is that these patterns will repeat themselves in other relationships in the future. You will keep reliving them until you have finally worked through what you need to work through. How much better to do this now than five, ten or twenty years down the road!
Some people in these situations feel that they may have deserve to be treated badly. They may be feeling this way if they know that you did something wrong. But rest assured that even if you did do something wrong (who doesn’t commit wrongs in relationships??) that you do NOT deserve this treatment that you are receiving. You still deserve to be spoken to respectfully.
Some boundaries that you may have to set may include leaving, asking them to leave, filing a restraining order, calling the police, etc.
Whatever you do make sure that you are safe emotionally and physically.
Setting boundaries is an important part of protecting yourself whether you are dealing with someone who is difficult or destructive.
To Your Success,