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Are You Learning from the Difficult People Around You? (3 min read)


No matter how conscientious a communicator you are, you can still come across people who leave you feeling like your day has been ruined. Before you start huffing and puffing about the latest encounter with a difficult person, read this! Lately, I have been out and about quite often and I ran into a couple of difficult people who genuinely know exactly how to push my buttons. However, neither did I nor my difficult counterpart exploded because I realize that we can all learn a lot from these so-called difficult people and resorted to doing some of the following things.

Of course you will never enjoy any conversations with these people but just remember this good rule of thumb:

Challenging people and situations present the best opportunities for learning and growth

Are you making optimal use of the difficult people in your life? I will spare you the gory details of my difficult encounters and go straight into the things we can all learn!

To realize that this is a learning opportunity, one should appreciate how it can be so. What about re-framing the whole scenario? Instead of feeling awful and getting upset about how unlucky you are or that they should not have treated you this way with their bad attitude, consider how you would perceive this experience if the people you enjoyed the least can actually enhanced your life? How powerful do you feel when you consider this possibility? Now how would you make the best out this new awareness?

Let’s examine the many things you can learn from interacting with the difficult people:

1. Patience. Whenever you feel stuck dealing with someone you’d rather avoid at all cost, take the opportunity to practice being patient.

2. Manage your emotions better. Do you likely find that your mood and emotions take a turn for the worse when dealing with certain people at work or in your family? It is a great time to work on maintaining your composure in a stressful situation. Take advantage of your enemy’s presence and use it to master your EQ.

3. Learn about YOU. Why does a particular person drive you crazy? In many cases, you may find that the people you dislike possess characteristics that you also have, but dislike OR that their personality is the exact opposite of yours (for example, you pride yourself as kind and gentle and yet this person you dislike is rude and abrupt in her manners). Think about those characteristics that you may or may not have and learn how they can be applied in a different situation where they are useful yet not offensive.

4. Enhance your ability to focus. It is not always easy to be patient under a situation where you feel attacked. One effective way to achieve this and to successfully manage your emotions is to focus on finding a resolution. If your thoughts stay centered on solving the challenge of the situation, your emotions will find it hard to get the best of you.

5. Practice relaxation techniques. There’s no better time to practice relaxation techniques than when you’re under the gun with someone. However difficult it may be when you first try this, bringing your stress level down just a notch or two will ultimately benefit you. It’s better for your health and the situation!

6. Influence others. It’s not very challenging to influence your friends. However, can you influence someone you dislike? That’s the ultimate test of your people-skills. Try ways that you know to bridge the other person to your side. Keep practicing and your abilities will quickly improve.

7. Let go. Do you tend to allow a negative interaction ruin your day, week or month? Suffering for someone else’s flaws is silly. Learn how to let things go and enjoy the rest of your day. The interaction can continue to haunt you only if you allow it. Bring your attention back to the present.

8. Be compassionate and forgiving. Difficult people may have a painful past or reasons that could explain their behaviour. You can never be certain of what’s going on in someone else’s life or why she snapped at you for no good reason.

  • Someone might be going through a death/sickness in the family, a divorce, physical abuse, or serious financial problems. Try to avoid taking the words and behaviour of others personally.

  • Learn to forgive because even the kindest of people can have a bad day or even a bad decade.

Once you see that those who challenge our thoughts and emotions can be a gift in disguise, then you can start to use these challenging people and situations to your benefit. Avoiding difficult people at all cost means you could be ignoring an excellent opportunity for growth. The more you learn from them, the better you are equipped for tougher situations in the future.

What do you think of the above? I encourage you look out for the opportunities for personal growth next time you deal with a difficult person! If you like this, share it with the people who may need this, follow me and leave your comments below or email them to: nikitta@centricquest.com

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