No one enjoys dealing with difficult people or acknowledging that we may be that person. Difficult people are unavoidable, like taxes. Understanding difficult people and factors that perpetuate their behaviors can be the first step in managing these relationships. Difficult people may have underlying insecurity, fear, anger or mistrust, which may manifest itself in a need for control and stubbornness. Their critical and judgmental nature may have less to do with your actions and more to do with their own personal issues.
Often being difficult is a form of manipulation and our knee-jerk response is to freeze, fight, or flee, none of which are all that effective. Resisting an emotional reaction can be quite difficult and therefore a slight delay gives us time to gain perspective. Recognize that underneath a difficult personality there is often an unhealthy and emotionally underdeveloped individual who is acting out their need for acceptance, love, and approval. Learning to accept people where they are and providing a little empathy can go a long way.
Difficult behaviors and attitudes can directly impact morale and productivity in the workplace or produce drama at home. Negativity and cynicism will obviously harmfully impact work and family environments. These behaviors can alienate others and negatively impact the ability to work as a team, unless you learn ways to diffuse the negative energy.
Next week I will discuss practical and straightforward ways to respond rather than react to difficult people. There is a big difference between these two. For now, remember that most difficult people are looking to be heard and not judged even though their approach is often abrasive. And difficult people come in many different shapes and sizes so no one approach fits all individuals. Lastly, remember that the only person you have the possibility of changing is yourself.