“You do not need to be the designated driver of someone’s intoxicated ego.” ~Dodinsky
Do you get frustrated by people and events that thwart your progress by getting you side tracked and distracted from what you really want to be doing?
Do you feel like whenever you put out your work out there, you always end up with the opinions of destructive criticizers and people who do not really understand where you are coming from?
Have you experienced a day when everything was going great and you were relatively happy and then someone does something selfish or cuts you off in traffic?
We have all had these experiences before where someone is unnecessarily impolite or rude to us and it leaves us speechless. Then there are the haters who just simply do not seen to like you or anything much to that matter and leave you feeling upset and angry.
What do difficult people do in your life?
They criticize you.
They complain incessantly.
They can be passive aggressive.
They can be snarky and sarcastic.
They can emotionally hijack you.
They can suck your energy right off.
They do not maintain boundaries that you have set.
They can play mind games with you.
They can treat you with disrespect or can be just plain rude.
They can use their anger to control or manipulate you.
They make it all about you and refuse to take responsibility.
And so on…
How can you come back to your center after experiencing difficult people and events that upset, demean or embarrass you?
Here are 12 ways that might be of benefit for you:
1. It Is About The Difficult People And Not About You: A Change Of Perspective And Reframing
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”- Wayne Dyer
When I experience difficult people and events, I go through a mental checklist of things that give me some perspective on them. The very first thing that I think about is that it is not about me but about them.
If someone insults you, it is not you but their inadequacy that they are demonstrating. They are essentially telling you and the world that they are unable to communicate in a respectful and a constructive manner.
What does this show about you? Not that much unless you decide to make it so and take it personally.
Of course, when someone is rude to you, it is difficult to not take things personally but if you remind yourself that they are expressing their inadequacies and inabilities, the focus shifts from you to them.
It is very likely that they might be experiencing grief, overwhelm, worry, stress and anger at something that is unrelated to you. The interaction with you may just have triggered them to act this way.
The result from their actions is that they end up feeling bad even if they do not admit it.
The person who cut you off in traffic might just be having an emergency and going to a hospital or perhaps they are late for a meeting. Instead of criticizing and judging people, give them the benefit of doubt.
Reframing involves talking a negative situation and changing the filters that you look at it with and changing the thoughts and feelings that you have about it.
Deflecting difficult people’s negativity is another great way to reframe your perspective of them. Change the topic by asking about something else that is going well in their situation or in their life.
Try not to take everything too personally and get a blast of relief when you think of other possibilities than just the knee jerk thought that they are arrogant.
Shift your perspective from a “you focus” to “them.”
Tell yourself that not everything that people lash out at is about you.
Shift your perspective from one of confrontation and conflict to one of understanding and empathy.
Empathy will make you feel great and empowered instead of feeling bad about the person or the event.
2. Do Not Give Difficult People The Benefit Of Time Or Engagement
“Most haters are stuck in a poisonous mental prison of jealousy and self-doubt that blinds them to their own potentiality.” ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
When you face an excessively critical or judgmental person, it is best to not engage with them for longer than what is necessary.
The longer you argue with them and defend yourself, the more you get distracted from your objectives and plans.
I have found that hearing critical people out, politely taking your stand and then retreating is the best strategy in my life.
Sometimes I do get pulled into the stories of criticizers and haters and engage my attention on them and end up arguing why they are wrong and defending my position.
While this feels good on the short run, I have always ended up coming out feeling much worse, distracted and angry than I was before.
Remember that you cannot change people or their opinions without stress and conflict. Moreover they have a right to maintain their position. It is only that they are not giving it to you in a form that is palatable to you.
You have a choice to react and then regret your reaction or to respond by giving yourself a few moments to think.
The choice to react or respond is within your realm. While this may not always be possible but choosing a better response is a learned habit. The more you practice responding instead of reacting, the better you get at it.
If you value your work or plans for the day, become aware that people and events will suck you into their stories and move you off-center.
Refuse to interact and get caught up in other people’s stories or criticism.
Choose to respond instead of reacting immediately. Look at the bigger picture and what you want happening for that moment and day.
Do not linger with negativity and get your entire day ruined.
Limit the time that you are in contact with difficult people and events.
“Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. raise the rent and kick them out!”- by Robert Tew
3. Recognize And Resolve Emotional Fusion
“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.”― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
Emotional states are highly contagious. When you are around happy people, you may be feeling greater levels of happiness.
You may have experienced feeling angry and frustrated when you are around angry and critical people because you may be assuming their emotional state.
This lack of differentiation between emotional states of the self and those of others and the fusion and induction of emotions is called emotional fusion.
If you are especially sensitive to other people’s energies and states of mind and emotions, you may be acting as a conduit or a sponge to pull in some of their negativity towards yourself and not even know it.
I think that the popular term for people who sap you of your energy is “energy vampires.”
Here is a way to find out if you are getting emotionally fused:
Do you assume the dominant emotions of the room that you are in?
Do you feel worse in the presence of negative and judgmental people and find it difficult to snap out of it?
Does your energy get sapped away and you feel drained and exhausted in the presence of certain people and events?
Do you find it hard to maintain your own emotional state and depend on others to set the tone of your mood and emotions?
Refuse to emotionally fuse into states that others put out.
Become aware of energy vampires and people that make you emotionally drained.
Make a conscious effort to maintain your own emotional state and not automatically assume the state of others by snapping consciously out of their state and realizing that you have a choice to choose.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”― Thích Nhất Hạnh
4. Beware of Non-Verbal communication And Watch Body Language
“I don’t have time, energy, or interest in hating the haters; I’m too busy loving the lovers.”― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
There is a whole science of non-verbal communication that has been emerging and has made great advances over the last few decades.
Sometime people do not overtly criticize or judge you but they display non-verbal communication to communicate their point across either unknowingly or even deliberately.
Roll their eyes.
Appear strained and tense with you.
Have their arms crossed while not listening to you completely.
Ignore you while you are communicating.
Be distracted that makes you think that something that you are saying is faulty.
Display a lack of enthusiasm and interest for your work.
Give an expression that means “oh not you again.”
The problem with all the scenarios is that your body and sub-conscious are highly sensitive to non-verbal communication. Counter unfavorable body language with power poses of your own instead of shrinking up.
Whenever I see a person or a group of people sending non-favorable body language, I straighten, unfold my arms and assume open and power postures to relax into my own self-assured image.
Instead of constricting, shrinking, folding my arms and legs and finding a corner to escape to, I stand where I am and feel powerful and even smile. The negative person usually gets the idea and they stop looking at me.
Block any non-verbal signals that are coming your way that you are not good enough or that you do not matter.
Assume open postures, stand straight and feel your own power and confidence. Do not allow yourself to shrink when you face unfavorable non-verbal cues.
Remember that you cannot appear competent and awesome in the eyes of everyone.
5. What They Are Thinking About You Is None Of Your Business
“My philosophy is: It’s none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.”― Anthony Hopkins
People might be thinking all sorts of things about you or they might not be thinking of you at all. Either way, do not make it your mission in life to find out if that is true.
Usually, we think that people are thinking about us all the time but in reality they are more concerned with the events of their own life. This gives you the freedom to think that people are not overly focused on your faults and shortcomings.
Sometimes when I receive a look, a roll of the eyes and irritation from difficult people, I do not stop to think what they are thinking about me.
I let them go hoping that they can let go of their unfavorable judgments and ideas if they can. In any case, their ideas and thoughts are for them to keep or let go and not for me to analyze.
There is a short story about someone insulting the Buddha. It is said that the Buddha replied calmly and thanked the person for the insult but he also said that unfortunately he could not keep it because it did not belong to him.
I Love this story because it clearly indicates that someone else’s insults and criticisms belong to them and not to you.
Become unconcerned about what criticizers and judgmental people are thinking about you.
Make sure that their burden of thought is theirs to keep and not yours to internalize.
When you truly unhook your personal value and worth with what people are supposedly thinking about you, you experience great freedom.
6. What Can I Learn From Difficult People?
“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Difficult events and people in your life may be showing up to give you some additional insights on your behavior and your life.
When someone points something out to you in less than a favorable way, ask what is it they are trying to convey and does it have any merit at all?
When you rephrase their question or statement in language that is palatable to you, you may just be able to see the silver lining.
Buddhist nun Pema Chodron calls difficulties and difficult people as “Rinpoches in disguise” who have appeared in her life to make her learn a life lesson.
Instead of getting offended as your primary response, ask what can you learn from that experience.
Ask if there is anything of value to learn from the difficult person or the event.
If there is nothing to learn, they will at least teach you a different way to be or how not to behave in a situation.
7. Change Of Environment: Change The Topic And Take A Time Out
If you find negativity coming your way and you are unable to block it through reframing, it is best to take a few minutes to take a break and change the environment.
Have you ever noticed how you may be engaged in an argument with someone and then the phone rings and one of you gets on the phone while the other goes to get some coffee.
When you come back, both of you have cooled off and the situation is now very different. Since you have had a change in scenario, you are able to have a different perspective on the matter.
When you experience an event or a person or a place that makes you feel bad and you feel criticized or a loss of energy, change the environment and take a deliberate break to reframe.
Take a few moments to have a time out to process your thoughts and feelings before getting onto it and ruining your moment and possibly your day.
Change the environment and allow yourself to refocus and reframe.
Remember that you cannot fix someone or something but you can modify and change your environment and take a break.
8. Set Up a Solid Center Or Core of Positivity and Hope By Taking Radical Self-Care
Imagine having a solid core of positivity and enthusiasm and personal power that you can access at will. Having a well-defined center and coming back to it is especially helpful when you face negative events and difficult people.
After getting unsettled by negativity, you can choose to come back to your own positive and enthusiastic response and core.
This allows you to move on with your day instead of ruminating and incubating others’ toxic ideas and memes.
It also allows you to deal toxicity with positivity and understanding.
I used to get unsettled by rude people or by events that I had no control over. Then I decided that I had to set up a strategy to deal with these situations or risk being carried away by their stories.
My core or center consists of:
Positivity and positive stories of love and hope.
Enthusiasm and feeling great about myself and my work.
Gratitude and appreciation practices.
Feeling hope and great expectations.
Coming and responding from love and service instead of mirroring what I receive from others.
Good humor and laughter.
Develop enough “me time to relax.”
Make a pact with yourself that you will not get off-center or even if you get off-center, you will attempt to come back to your core.
9. Having Empathy, Being Assertive And Using Effective Communication
Behind every difficult person may be a person who has unmet needs and may be frustrated and depressed with their life and their outcomes.
When you develop some empathy for their behavior, you are able to react to them in a non-angry and compassionate way.
One of the things that difficult people need sometimes is just someone who does not avoid them but communicates with them in a frank and assertive manner.
When you gently communicate and be assertive with your position, they see their folly and back off.
I was in line at a grocery store and I was checking out some videos. I was waiting my turn when someone cut me off and stood in line before me oblivious of my presence.
I communicated in an assertive but gentle manner with them and reminded them that I was next in line. When they heard that, they realized their mistake and willingly let me go ahead. The trick is to not get angry and frustrated with them and communicate in an honest and non-threatening way.
Make your voice heard in an assertive but non-threatening way.
When you do not display anger and frustration, others are able to respond better to your request. If you get angry and complain, it shuts the other person off and you set yourself up for a needless confrontation.
10. Setting Boundaries
Many difficult people have a hard time following and maintaining boundaries and it is upon you to enforce them.
Decide beforehand what is respectful and all right with you and where you want to draw the line in the sand.
Indicate clearly to people who do not respect your boundaries that your wishes are not being fulfilled and you will refuse to be treated that way.
Often, people do not understand and are unclear about your boundaries. You will need to mention it to them. If they do not follow them even after that, it is best to not be in their presence.
Set very clear boundaries.
Do not go back and forth on the boundaries that you set. It confuses others and makes it easy for difficult people to overstep your boundaries.
Indicate that you need to be respected and politely refuse to get walked all over.
11. Input in, Input Out
Sometimes the best strategy to deal with difficult people and situations is to let them through in one ear and let them out through the other ear.
Avoid internalizing the message that difficult people and events attempt to feed you and refuse to get caught up in their stories.
Another way that we deal with input is to let it out through our mouth and argue or complain about it. This is not very productive since arguing with difficult people will only add to more negativity and toxicity.
The best thing to do sometimes is to simple ignore difficult people and let their message out through the other ear.
Do not internalize the message of people trying their best to give you a hard time. Allow it to drift in through the ear and out through the other ear.
12. The Greatest Gift: A New Way
“If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The greatest gift that you can give yourself and to others is to embrace a new way to look at conflict and at negative people.
One of the best techniques that I have found to develop a new way of dealing with difficult people is to just allow them to be themselves without trying to change them.
Give them the space to change themselves if they would like by being a positive example of empowerment and choosing optimism and compassion over pessimism and being toxic.
One question that has helped me is asking “how can I manage this situation with out adding to more negativity, pessimist, blame, criticism and judgment. When I ask this question, an answer always shows up!
A few ideas that have also helped me is to remind myself to:
Let go of the situation and difficult people involved.
Support others get past their negative events and people by being supportive and not always offering quick fixes.
Uplift others by being a beacon of hope for them.
“You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.”― Shannon L. Alder
Now over to you! Please let me know in the comments below if this post resonated with you. What strategies do you use to deal with difficult people in your life?
If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider sharing it and signing up for free-updates below!