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The Riddle of the Difficult Person

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Run Away Vs. Run Towardtumblr_mm09xaIFRw1qczwklo1_1280-04292013

My instinct says run. Or at least avoid. Either way, get out of the line of fire.

And my instinctual response to the difficult client/boss/colleague/family member is completely wrong. Entirely and utterly misguided. That is because avoiding the difficult person gives them a kind of power over you that will come to no good. Not only is avoiding the difficult person impossible (for such people will always and forever show up in your life), it is not smart. There is something you are to learn from this difficult person. Some hard life-lesson.

One of the ancients spoke of iron sharpening iron and his words describe precisely the mechanism of action with the difficult person. Something about this person grates on us: she is too bossy. He is too passive. He only thinks of himself. Everyone knows she is mentally unstable.

To be present with the difficult person we must step out of our usual ways and do something different. Perhaps we start by biting back the caustic retort. Maybe we stand up and against the sudden wrath which is our difficult person’s typical communication pattern. Perhaps we need to force a clear “Yes” or “No” from the mouth of our difficult person. Perhaps we offer the solution to them in the form of a question so they can take credit for the idea.

394px-Goethe,_Farbenkreis_zur_Symbolisierung_des_menschlichen_Geistes-_und_Seelenlebens,_1809-04292013We all have these people in our lives and there are as many different types as shades on the color wheel. That’s because our interactions are dynamic and each of us constantly responds to a bevy of moment-by-moment inputs and impulses.

So take heart: there is some opportunity to move forward in the difficult encounters that hang like a cloud around this person. Learning to say no. Learning to clarify. Learning to probe for what is bothering this person. Learning to probe and learn from our own responses. These are all life lessons that sometimes come at a dear price.

And there is more: there may be something deeper going on. When you choose to show up with the difficult person, it’s with your physical and mental presence. And your emotional presence—all these can help inform your response to the difficult person. And one more: your spiritual presence. No, I’m getting all religious here, but wouldn’t you agree that some of the people you meet during the day need far more than you could ever provide?

Sometimes running toward the difficult person looks like an internal prayer offered to God on behalf of a conversation that is about to happen.


Image credit: red-lipstick via 2headedsnake, Wikipedia

Written by kirkistan

April 29, 2013 at 9:02 am

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