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Whether a coworker, a family member, or even a spouse, our exposure to difficult people may be completely beyond our control. We may have no choice but to face the difficult person or people in our life time and time again.
How then, do we face them yet again?
- Recognize that you are not the problem, they are. Whatever their issues are, they are just that…their issues. Do not bear the burden of feeling that you are the cause of the conflict that occurs with the difficult people in your life. Am I saying that anytime you face a difficult person or situation you are innocent of wrong doing or in some way not playing a role? No, I am not. But in dealing with an angry, depressed, self-centered person who continually looks out for their own self with complete disregard for you or anyone else around them, you have little to do with their frame of mind or repeated toxic behavior. Don’t own their problems.
- Stand up for yourself. Don’t let a difficult person belittle, demean, or insult you. Don’t let them take advantage of you, blame you, or in any way harm you whether physically or emotionally. When they try to do these things, speak up and stand up for yourself. Speak your mind, let them know how you are feeling and ask if their intent is to make you feel this way. Don’t pretend that they are not hurting or frustrating you.
- Don’t accept their negative behavior, and don’t make it seem as though their behavior is ok with you or in some way normal. In dealing with this sort of toxic personality, they need to know that their behavior is not normal.
- Don’t take their toxic behavior personally. It may seem personal, but it is not.They may be doing something negative to you, but it is not personal, it is part of who they are. Again, it is their problem, not yours.
- Extend the olive branch. It is ok to try to bring about peace in your relationship, but do it only on your terms. If you are dealing with a manipulative, explosive, or abusive personality, they will naturally try to take all the power in the relationship or in the interactions you have together including in bringing about peace. If you are the one being violated in some way, you get to be the one to establish what is and is not acceptable in the relationship.
- Protect yourself by limiting your exposure and changing the parameters of the conditions in which you will be with them. Perhaps not allowing yourself to be with them exclusively is in order. Examine how you can best protect yourself from this person, and enlist the help of others if necessary.
- Seek the wisdom of others you know who face difficult people in a similar situation. If it is your spouse who is difficult, talk to friends who have learned how to live with a difficult spouse. You could also read books on the subject. Talking to or reading about people who have traveled this road ahead of you can be invaluable, even if it is only to offer an empathetic ear from someone who understands almost exactly what you are going through.
- Not to be forgotten is to pray for them. Jesus instructs us and repeatedly demonstrated for us the importance of praying for those who harm or hurt us. Prayer is the most powerful tool we have in living with difficult people.
Learning to deal with difficult people is something we all have to endure at times, and maybe it will be for a very long time. Keeping a few things in mind like the importance of protecting yourself and keeping a healthy boundary will help tremendously. We are all commanded to love our enemies, but we can to so in a way that still honors who we are as people as well. In time, hopefully the difficult people in our lives will be a bit more manageable.