4 Reflection Questions for Dealing with Difficult People
I knew I was going to have to reply to this email but when I received it I was so triggered that my blood was boiling and my thoughts were not constructive! And so, I gave myself permission to step away in order to get my bearings instead of just reacting with what came to mind.
I’d been dealing with this incredibly difficult person for years but our conflicts had come to a head in the preceding months. It seemed like every interaction we had was fraught with tension, speckled with insincere niceties and punctuated by distrust. This is the very kind of situation I help clients manage, a role I am quite comfortable navigating as the guide not the seeker.
“It is good for me to get a taste of what my clients deal with.” I encouraged myself to lean in to my discomfort, especially since my emotions were worn thin and I was tiring of the situation.
I could be just as happy sweeping it under the rug and pretending it didn’t happen. After all, I’m skilled at appeasing people and this situation was going to change anyway, I had assurances. I could have taken the easy way out.
Instead, I leaned in. I leaned in, by stepping away. I had to step away from the situation at that moment because otherwise I would have reacted from my primitive brain instead of responding with intention and compassion (in other words, with my executive brain engaged).
Unfortunately, most people react out of anger (or frustration or shame or humiliation or fear…) simply because that’s their pattern to the trigger known as “difficult people”. Whatever it is that makes someone difficult for you to work with, whatever is driving you crazy is not just about them. It’s about you!
Everyone may concur that this person is difficult, but still how you’re reacting is your thing, not theirs. And the best way to take charge is to understand then change how you’re showing up in the conversation. You don’t want your primitive brain running the show. By their very nature a “difficult person” triggers your primitive brain, failing to re-engage your executive brain (or per-frontal cortex) usually makes things with a difficult person even more difficult….
So, back to my story. The next day I responded to the email with clear boundaries and compassion. I felt strong and grounded because I was being both empathetic and rational. I can’t change this person but I can change how I show up and I can choose use my voice to elevate the situation.
We all have difficult people in our lives. Here are a few reflection questions to help you deal with that particularly difficult person in your life right now.
Who’s particularly difficult for you to deal with right now?
What about dealing with them triggers you?
What happens when this person triggers you?
What if you responded to them with your executive brain instead of your primitive brain?
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