Tuesday, May 1, 2012

5 Ways to Deal with Difficult People

Maybe you have someone in your life like this: That "friend" who always has to "outdo" you or put you down; The co-worker who always takes credit for your work; That cousin who calls and you feel exhausted when you get off the phone; or that parent who constantly makes comments about your spouse, your life choices, or your home. Research shows that we all need relationships and that good ones are good for our mental health. But what about those other people, the ones who, after a long conversation or day at work, leave you feeling depressed, depleted and drained?

We all have difficult people we encounter every day in our lives. Today's Counseling Corner will hopefully give you some tips and ideas to deal with these people and minimize their negative impact on your life.  There are many more than these 5, but it's a great start.

1. The first, most important thing to do when dealing with a difficult person, is to accept them for who they are.  Easier said than done, right? For sure. But if you can do this one simple, but extremely difficult step, it will improve your happiness, and decrease your frustration SIGNIFICANTLY.  Understanding that we cannot change people, and we can only be responsible for our own behavior, can change your life - for the better. Trying to change others into what you want them to be, will only make YOU a more difficult person to deal with.

2. See the best in others. If you focus on the negative, you will only see the negative in people. It's like the old saying "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail". When you only see the negative, all of your interactions become focused on this aspect of the person. If you can see the positive, the person will be more appreciated, your relationship will become deeper and more meaningful, and the level of conflict will decrease.

3. Keep it simple, silly (KISS them!).  Keep conversations simple and neutral in topic. If you have that one uncle who always tries to bait you into a debate about politics or that friend who always talks about her personal problems and won't take any advice, change the subject to something more immediate, such as what they are doing for the weekend, or how their family is doing. Changing the pattern of communication can go a long way to making improvements in relationships.

4. Own your part of the negativity. Most relationships are created through a "dynamic" between two people. There's an old saying "It takes two" could not be more true. But don't beat yourself up, nobody is perfect and we can all find room for growth and improvement. Just be aware that when you own, and consequently change, your end of the dynamic, the other person may respond with increased negativity and try to push your limits.

5.  There is a Zen proverb that says "Let go or be dragged". There occasionally comes a time that you need some space, time or distance when relationships become too intense, draining or negative. If you can't be around the person without them baiting your or bullying you, it may be time to move on. It's perfectly fine to cut ties, and to let them know why without any expectation of understanding or change on their part. If this is your co-worker or supervisor, you may actually need to switch jobs. It's OK to move on and it's not a sign of any failure. 

These are just give quick tips for handing difficult relationships. Couples or family therapy can be a great way to gain assistance in changing relationships for the better. If you are having difficulty in your relationships, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!


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