Conflict Resolution: Dealing with difficult people (repost)

Fitness Challenge: Mental health is just as important as your physical health

Disclaimer: this post is not aimed at anyone in particular – just some things I learned in training over the years.

In continuing with my Fitness Challenge – Mental Health and Fitness theme – I decided today, to focus on how to deal with difficult situations and people. Most of you know by now that I work in an office type of job. And I have been in this line of work for nearly twenty years. In the past few years, I’ve really focused on building on my coaching skills and taking as much professional development as possible. I look for courses that can help build on personal skills that I can apply in daily life and at work. I’ll be going through some of my notes from my courses and sharing them with you. I also really hope next year when things are more settled – to take more professional courses like this.

Every time that I am faced with a challenging person or difficult scenario, I am reminded of some advice that a boss gave me to a few years ago. The advice was LIFE changing and I often apply it in my personal world. I hear her voice inside my head every day. It’s something that I will never forget.

How does this apply to mental health and general health you might be asking yourself? There is a method to my madness.

Dealing with stressful people and situations at the office can take its toll on your mental health. Dealing with other people’s quirks and unrealistic expectations can stress you out. I speak from real life experience. A lot of it.

While I’ve learned that this approach doesn’t necessarily work in all situations – I can’t tell how you much it has helped me when dealing with difficult people at work or in general. It has helped reduced some stresses in life that you just don’t need.

You can’t change who people are – but you can change how you REACT to them.

Image result for pulled in all directions

How is an employee expected to meet expectations when the employer can’t make up their mind on what those expectations are? 

There was one particular afternoon  a few years back – I was having a really bad day at work. I sat down in my director’s office. And I broke the cardinal sin. The one rule that everyone tries to avoid breaking.

I cried.

And it wasn’t just “sniffle sniffle” – I ugly cried.

I had reached my breaking point and I knew that I couldn’t carry on anymore. Not at that pace. Not at that level. Not with three very different personalities demanding 100% of my attention. (I can talk about this now – I no longer work with these people).

My #1 boss, still one of my favorite people to this day, did exactly what I needed her to do. She listened to me. She listened to everything I had to say – she really, truly, listened to me. 

At the end of it, she stood up and gave me a hug.

“Look, I know you’re having a difficult time. But I’ve got your back,” she said.

“You can’t change who people are. You can’t change how she is. But you can change how you react to her.” 

Image result for aha gif

We chatted a bit more and she offered some more sage advice. It was probably one of the most rewarding discussions I had ever had. I sat back in my chair and looked pretty much like Chandler does above. I was stunned. If only I had been given this gift before.

Life could have been so much simpler.

Here are some tips she offered to me. So this is really, second hand advice you’re receiving today. But it’s pure gold.

  • When asked to do a simple task, “No problem” or “Right away”
  • When given vague instructions that require clarification rather than send multiple emails back and forth – just pick up the phone and call. Or ask if they can call you.
  • Just don’t email back and forth. Short, simple answers, yes or no. Or call her.

Still confused? Don’t worry. It took me awhile to get the hang of it. And trust me – when I did – well, dealing with the impossible suddenly became – enjoyable. Her opinion of me changed.

Remember – the only thing that I changed was the way I responded to her. By the end of that quarter – the exec was actually supportive of me. She would actually come to me in times of stress for assistance. My, how times had changed.

It took some trial and error to finally figure out how to respond to her. But once I got the hang of it – things fell into place naturally. I also learned that giving her options made her feel like she was a little in control. Even though she wasn’t in complete control, she felt like she was.

Image result for you can't change who people are but you can change how you react

Giving her that little bit of false control back – changed everything for us. I wish I had only known how to do this when early on. Now – I know better and I have adopted these simple principles into my daily life.

I can tell you that most of the stress in my life disappeared once I learned these tricks. Sure, there is still work stress and financial stress – but stress caused by people in my life? I’ve figured out how to deal with that. And I’m a happier person for it.

Personal life and dealing with difficult people

I’ve learned to handle messages and emails from abusive people as well in my personal life. We all have those people in life who think they are the most important thing. They expect you to drop everything you’re doing and focus only on them. And the one time you actually stand up for yourself – you’re suddenly an asshole or bitch.

I have someone in my life like this. And I’ve learned NOT to respond to her when she gets like this.

You can also choose NOT to respond. That’s right. You have every right to not to respond to someone who is rude or belligerent. We all deserve to be treated with respect. And if someone can’t extend you the same decency – you have every right to deny that person your time and attention.

What I’ve learned through my professional work has helped me so much in my own personal life in responding to negative people. Sometimes – there isn’t much you can do except to avoid them all together. 

End the conversation.

Don’t even bother with a response. I find that after waiting a few days that person will either forget what they said to you – or will have realized that they were in the wrong. This used to happen all the time with someone in my life. I actually can’t remember the last time we had a blow because I stopped responding to her when she became abusive.  I would just drop the conversation because I knew she was looking for a reaction.

Sometimes – people want you to respond. They know that what they say will get a reaction out of you. And they know what triggers those reactions. They know that they can push certain buttons to get you going. It’s a game to them. And they thrive off it.

Deny them the pleasure. Just choose not to react. Don’t give them that control or power over you. 

Don’t expect apologies

Don’t expect these people to apologize. They almost never do. They may know that they’re in the wrong with the way they treat you but they will never admit it. They will not admit that they are at fault. They will not own up to their behaviour. In some cases, they might even turn things around on you, so you are apologizing to them.

It’s their issue – not yours

Remember – that when dealing with difficult people, the issue is mostly theirs and not yours. People who are generally unhappy in life, are more likely to deflect what they are feeling onto others.  It may seem like no matter what you do – you never have the right answer. Or the work you produce is never good enough. Even if you are doing a great job. And you’re good at your job. Even if you’re following all the proper procedures and protocols. People like this will always find fault.

So, whether you are struggling in your professional career or personal career – it’s okay to look after you. Follow your company’s protocol. But know that you have every right to stand up for yourself. It’s always a little easier to stand up to people in your life – the ones who aren’t cutting your paycheck every month.

But in the end, the only one looking out for you – is YOU. Be your own advocate. Stand up for yourself. Use your voice and make sure you are heard.

3 comments

  1. I think the key is about changing your reaction to difficult conversations with people and seeing them as human beings with needs. It’s tough, but you can’t control others, you can only attempt to become a more skillful communicator. Thanks for your insight!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.