How to Handle Difficult People
5 Strategies: Choose the Right One
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Who Are Difficult People?
"He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace."--Proverbs 11:12
"A sinful man disquieteth friends, and maketh debate among them that be at peace."--Ecclesiasticus 28:9
Difficult people give you unsolicited advice, openly criticize you, practice emotional blackmail, or seek a fight.
If the person is out of line and you can just skip over what they say, then go ahead.
But the person may be someone you cannot easily ignore such as a boss, spouse, parent, child, friend, lover, authority figure, etc.
For ignoring to work with difficult people you must use technique number 5 with full determination.
Here are 5 good choices when you cannot simply ignore it.
Pick the one that is right for the time, place, and person.
1) CHANGE THE SUBJECT
This means that you choose not to respond to what they said in any way. Instead, you start to talk about something else as if they had not said anything. You will be surprised how often this works.
2) TRIPLE THE ATTACK
This means that you insult yourself worse. For example, if they say, "You are slow," then you say, "Yeah, I'm so slow that the snails are passing me by." By exaggerating the attack you defuse it. So make a joke of it by tripling it!
3) THANK THEM
This technique often works well. What you do is to thank them for their input and say that you will consider it. This lets you off the hook and promises nothing but what you would do anyway. For instance, "Thanks for sharing that, I'll consider it." Yes, I'll consider just how nutty or rude it was!
4) CONFESS QUICKLY
This means that you readily admit your mistake, apologize, and move on. Do not dwell on it. Keep it short, direct, and simple. Then talk about something else. Confess then redirect.
5) IGNORE PINK ELEPHANT
This technique only works if taken to the absolute extreme. If you use this technique and quit under pressure, then you will have an even worse situation. Again, do not use this technique unless you are committed to it 100% and are willing to ride it out until the bitter end.
The idea here is to totally ignore the unwanted attacks, double binds, emotional blackmail, and conversation that you do not want to engage in. Do not recognize it. Do not respond to it. Do not argue, defend, protest, comment, or in any way acknowledge the place the other person is coming from.
Keep on your subject and talking about nothing related and nothing of any importance: unrelated small talk. It is like having a pink elephant in your living room that you pretend is not there. Naturally, the other person will escalate and become angry that they are no longer hooking you or "pushing your buttons". Take their complaints as encouragement that the technique is working.
This is similar to how politicians handle the press. The politician says whatever they have on their agenda no matter what questions they are asked. The politician wisely ignores the questions or agenda of the newscaster or reporter, because their questions are basically traps or attempts to create conflict.
For information on styles of communicating see: 25 Relational Styles.
QUOTATIONS VARIOUS SOURCES
"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger."--Proverbs 15:1
"Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."--Matthew 5:25-26
"Be the change you seek."--Mahatma Gandhi
"There is nothing that so much gratifies an ill tongue as when it finds an angry heart."--Thomas Fuller
"To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it."--Tacitus
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."--Dr. Seuss
"Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him."--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
"For if you give a person love and kindness when he does not by his actions merit it, he will see that you probably really love him." --Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper, A Guide to Rational Living, Third Edition, p. 142.
"Some man holdeth his tongue, because he hath not to answer: and some keepeth silence, knowing his time."--Ecclesiasticus 20:6
"Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be."--Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The most precious things in speech are pauses."--Ralph Richardson
"Don't speak unless you can improve on the silence."--Spanish proverb
"Foolishness always results when the tongue outraces the brain."--Unknown
"Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken."--Orson Card
"Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones."--Proverbs 16:24
"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."--Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts."--Psalms 28:3
"Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."--Proverbs 17:28
"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."--Romans 12:18
"But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;"--I Peter 1:15
"I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to."--Anonymous
"The first duty of love is to listen."--Paul Tillich, 1886-1965
A link for more information on the value of listening: