What do you do when people annoy you? We’ve all got someone (count yourself lucky if it’s only one person!) or it’s always possible that we are the difficult people for others to manage.
As we come into the festive holiday season, tensions are sure to rise and situations can become heated in a hurry. This is part of being alive. To be human is to be make mistakes, to deal with mess, to feel irritated by both small and big things that other people do or say.
I’ve been ruminating on the issue of difficult people lately, and thought I would boil down a few of my strategies in case they offer any comfort to others. Here are five ways I handle people who routinely drive me around the bend:
Use Body Language
Words can quickly get us into trouble with confrontational or difficult people, but our body language can speak for us. Try stiffening your shoulders if someone offends you. Raise your eyebrows. Purse your lips. Turn away slightly. If you can, get up and leave the room.
These are all clues to perhaps help the person recognize that you are uncomfortable/pissed off/annoyed. Maybe, just maybe, they will notice and adjust their behaviour.
Set an Example
I always strive to have my own words and actions meet my high standard of conduct – the one I set for other people that they often fail to meet. I can’t do much about others interrupting, shouting, saying inflammatory political or religious statements, allowing their kids to run wild and be disrespectful, etc, but I can do my best to ensure my own behaviour adheres to my moral code and doesn’t violate the social contract that governs our public interactions.
Hold their Dignity Intact
In my presentation on developing emotional resilience, I talk about the goal of holding each person’s dignity front and centre in our interactions. I admit that it’s much easier to do this when the other person is kind, humble and low-maintenance, but it’s a great goal for the difficult, exhausting ones. Even if you grit your teeth and clench your fists, remember that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.
Find the Positive
This is tricky for me. When someone is irritating the hell out of me, I find it challenging to locate any of their redeeming qualities. But try making a mental list. Does she volunteer for a charity board? Does he help his kid with homework? Everyone has some positive traits, even if you have to dig pretty far to find them.
Cope However you Can
Pour a drink. Listen to music. Eat a delicious slice of apple pie. Step outside and look at the stars for five minutes to regain some perspective. Vent to your private journal. Go hug someone you adore who is pleasant to be around and tell her how much you appreciate her.
Count your blessings and remember that difficult people are all around us, but you are in charge of who you spend your time with. Choose wisely.