Who is the most difficult person you’ve ever had to deal with?
A family member or Friend? A coworker or maybe a boss? What about a neighbor, a teacher or even a classmate?
Whoever it is I want you to pull up a picture of that person in your mind right now. This is the person who has given you more fits than anyone! They have walked all over you, disregarded every good thing you’ve done for them and only reminded you of your failures.
Have you got that person in mind? Does their presence in your imagination make you feel uncomfortable right now?
Now I want you to close your eyes and I want you to give that person a message from you. “Today is the day that we get this resolved. Starting today I’m going to let you know where I stand with you and you with me. I respect you as a person and I expect the same respect from you. Your’s truly (say your name)
Now open your eyes and congratulate yourself for resolving to deal decisively with the most difficult person in your life.
That was the easy part. Now, are you ready to get down to work?
Now I may be going to go out on a limb here, I just want to take a guess that when you’ve had tension with certain people, two things are really happening:
- You’ve probably had very similar issues with other people as well. So much so that you get the feeling, usually right in your gut, “Oh no here we go again.” Does that sound familiar?
- And you may even feel trapped in your response to this person as if there is no way to move forward, no possible win-win resolution
And usually the thinking goes like this, you may feel that your only two options with this person are:
- To just tolerate their bad behavior or
- To retaliate in some way
But I’d like to offer a third option, that if you’ll do this, will help you smooth out every relational road bump and recover every broken relationship.
The third option is this, learn To relate with this person who is giving you your biggest headaches. I say learn to relate because this will require a different skill set than what’s required to just Tolerate or Retaliate.
Why do I keep putting up with this nonsense?
For instance, how much forethought, would you say, just tolerating bad behavior requires? None right? It’s more like an afterthought, isn’t it? It’s reactive.
“Why do I keep putting up with this nonsense? I feel so violated. I don’t know if I can stand much more of this kind of disrespect coming from this person.”
Now think of how much forethought is required to retaliate? Some for sure. Usually, our forethought goes like this, “I’m just biding my time. Just wait, payback will be so sweet.” Yet all the while the relationship deteriorates drawing innocent people into its destruction. We can do better.
Now, when I say that these first two methods don’t require any real forethought, what I mean is that we can actually do them on autopilot – without really thinking.
Learning to relate requires thinking along with intentionality. That is intentionally thinking and processing those thoughts into what I call:
The Five Skills Of Making Better Connections With Difficult people
1. Give the difficult person the benefit of the doubt.
Scottish author and theologian, Ian Maclaren wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I think we’d all agree with that statement. Some days your battles are intense and you’d welcome a little kindness from others. The thing here is, don’t be quick to judge difficult people.
If you think difficult people can’t change, listen to what German writer Goethe said, “When we treat man as he is we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he already was what he potentially could be We make him what he should be.”
2. Let go of your right to always be right.
You know you want to! Just do it! Have you ever have a helium balloon? It’s pretty, you can walk around and kind of show it off or tie it to something and enjoy it. But what’s going to happen in a day or two? It deflates and that’s no fun. But what would you really like to do with a helium balloon? Take it outside and let it go, watch it soar and somehow just watching that balloon drift away, you feel a little freer yourself. And that’s what you really want to do with your right to always be right…it’s a whole lot more fun to let it go and watch it soar than hang on to it, keep it pumped up or just watch it deflate. And, unless you believe you’re perfect, you have to at some point come to the conclusion, like all intelligent people, the other person just might be right.
3. Create a culture of teamwork around yourself
You may or may not be on a team. You might be a team leader or a team member, but whether you are already on a team or not, do this in your own imagination. Create your own team and appoint yourself as the leader. Now let your nemesis know you need them on your team. That’s right, ask for your opponent’s help
A wise person once said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. “The most successful people admit that they can learn from even people they dislike. And you will display your wisdom beyond your years for genuinely wanting to understand life from another person’s perspective
4. Catch your most problematic person doing something right and acknowledge it.
We usually catch people doing something wrong don’t we and let them know it. But, instead, if you’ll catch them doing something right, or even partially right, and give them kudos, you will do two things:
- You’ll throw them off their blame game in finding fault with you and
- Strategically, you’ve just taken the high ground positioning yourself to move the relationship forward toward a win/win solution.
5. Let difficult people know when they’ve crossed a line
As challenging as this may sound, especially if the situation involves highly charged emotions, there are two things you need to do first:
- Shake off your emotional baggage. Take a deep breath or two, walk around and literally shake your hands or dance around – whatever you have to do, and tell yourself, “I can do this – I must do this!
- Practice saying what you’re going to say next. Since we are thinking intentionally, take time to craft your speech. Practice it in the mirror, talk to a tree, whatever it takes. Your confidence will grow the surer you are of what you want to say.
Now, here are the steps you want to take:
- Go to the person immediately
- Go Alone
- Get to the point – tell them
- Here’s how what you just did made an impact on me
- Listen to their response
- Apologize for your part (if you had a part) in the misunderstanding – or
- Agree to disagree if need be
This way you know where you stand with them and they with you. You don’t have to be friends with everybody, but the more you can let people know what you stand for and where they stand with you, the more respect you’ll foster, even in difficult relationships.
When you learn to deal directly and decisively with difficult people, all of a sudden you have a skill most people only wished they had. All of a sudden your net worth is off the charts in your relationships and, in time, your finances. For you – the sky’s the limit