How To Deal With Difficult People (Ask Maria)
How To Handle Uncomfortable Situations and People
“Lately I’m experiencing a lot of anxiety regarding work.
How do you know when Life is asking you to move on, or does one stick with something that scares them even if it’s uncomfortable?
I work with the public and have dealt with many angry people.
However a recent incident with a very angry and reactive person has left me feeling very anxious about a possible future interaction with them.
I’ve only had 3 interactions with them and each time they are very angry and accusatory and it takes almost nothing to set them off.
As with most public service jobs the expectation is that you don’t confront inappropriate behavior and to be honest it makes me uncomfortable to remain silent and uncomfortable to speak up.
So is this Life telling me to get the hell out of there or is this Life giving me an opportunity to learn not to be intimidated by angry confrontation?
If I leave, I’m giving this person an awful lot of power.
However I’m not attached to this job other than financially which is important too.
I’m not sure if you’re talking about a client or if it’s someone you work with (co-worker), but let’s look at it from both perspectives.
From a clients perspective, let’s say you work with social security, welfare and such, just to make an example that I can personally relate to.
I’ve been in the system so I know how it feels to have to deal with those types of situations.
With this said, of course I have no clue what your job is about but I hope you can relate to this anyway.
From a clients perspective the anger and reactiveness (lashing out etc) comes from fear and frustration of having to answer to authority (you) and feeling restricted.
I was on welfare at times when I was a drug addict and I hated meeting with the social security/welfare people, but I had to do it for obvious reasons.
There Can Be So Much Fear In Human Interactions
At that time I lived in Stockholm and as a drug addict my mindset was a bit different than what a normal person would have, so when I met with them and didn’t get my way there were times when I was angry and my ego threw a fit.
Now that I think back on it I can only imagine the fear and anxiety some of the workers there must have felt on a daily basis.
In fact, I remember they installed bars that would protect the social worker from angry clients. Some people (welfare clients) even threw chairs at them in frustration and anger!
With this said, I do understand the frustration because I’ve been there.
I’ve been there as a drug addict and I’ve been there as a sober, cleaned up person who only wanted to become independent and free.
It was still frustrating to meet with them when I was older (this is from when I lived in Norway only a few years ago) but obviously I could handle it differently then.
The frustration came from having to follow rules and regulations and for always having to defend my rights to not have my integrity and personal values trampled on.
For example they tried to force me to go on mindless courses that I had no interest whatsoever to go on, and the reason was only ‘because the rules says you have to’.
There were many times I came up with ideas that could help me move forward towards what I wanted for my life but when I presented them to the social worker she turned them down.
Not because she wanted to but because she had to (due to rules and regulations) and she told me this.
We had an okay relationship in regards to her understanding of my situation being different from others.
She knew that I was on my own path and that those courses she had to present to me (which I got away from thanks to me standing up for myself) was not for me but her ‘hands were tied’, she did what she “had to” (or thought she ‘had to’).
I could see that this was frustrating for her too because I’m sure there are many people in the social security department who genuinely want to help their clients but can’t because the rules don’t let them to.
It can be a very frustrating situation seen from both point of views and I believe when we can see this there’s an opening to broader understanding of each others situations.
Fear Comes From Both Sides; see your fear as well as theirs
This lashing out, anger and accusatory behavior comes from fear.
See if you can try to see it from their perspective, put yourself in their shoes and feel what they feel.
Do a little role-playing with this.
Close your eyes and imagine you sit there in your office, but instead of seeing you in your own chair, see yourself in your clients chair, as the client.
Do this now.
Feel what they are feeling as they look at you sitting there before them on the opposite side of the table, see through their eyes looking at you.
Can you connect with their emotions and thoughts?
What is the voice (of fear) within them saying?
When you can connect with their inner world, then you will be able to see that they don’t hate you or want to harm you, their ego is just trying to protect them (sometimes viciously so).
In this imaginative experience, see yourself speak to the fearful one and share with them your point of view, tell them where you’re coming from etc (with respect and openness) and end the imagination in a positive way.
Next time you see them, try to hold the feeling you had when you ended the visualization and see if they have not changed by you doing this.
We Can Connect With People In Consciousness
It may sound strange but this actually works.
We can talk to other people in our consciousness and even if the other person is not changed, they will definitely respond differently to you the next time you see them because of your deeper understanding of how they are feeling.
They will unconsciously feel more understood, seen, and heard even before you have uttered a word towards them and this will then also reflect back to you in the way they treat you back.
Now, I understand there are people who might not respond to this if they are filled with fear, if they are addicts or have some other imbalance or illness that blocks love from coming in.
In those cases I would say that standing up for yourself would be the right approach.
But instead of being defensive, be confrontational in a confident way.
Communicate With Confidence
The key is to stay calm (breathe deeply), emotionless (don’t show any emotion) and ask them:
“Why would you speak to me in that way?”
And say nothing more.
Other variations might be: “Why would you ask that?”, “Why would you say something like that?”, and so on, all depending on situation but always begin with “why would you..” because that requires an explanation of why someone is behaving in a bad or disrespectful way.
If they ask “what did you say?”, don’t say anything (believe me, they heard you the first time), just look them in the eyes as if you’re expecting an answer.
Suddenly they will start to speak and the whole situation will become less tense.
If you can just wait for a few moments (in the tense energy), they will soon start to speak and when they do it will be with a more respectful tone.
This is a great way to show someone that you will call them on their disrespectful behavior.
So in essence, all you do (which can be challenging, so do it in front of the mirror a few times beforehand when you’re alone until you get the feel of it), is this:
- After they have spoken to you disrespectfully, ask “Why would you speak to me in that way?”.
- Don’t respond if they ask you a question back, but keep looking them in the eyes without saying anything (not staring, but completely emotionless as if you expect an answer and are waiting for it).
- Wait for them to answer and keep cool and calm while you wait (breathe), it might take a few moments (their ego might try to get into a power battle with you so don’t give in).
- And soon enough they’ll start to talk because it gets uncomfortable for them not to.
Then from there on you can take it as you feel intuitively guided to, but this communication skill helps you set a boundary that makes it clear to their ego that you’re not afraid of confronting them.
It’s About Setting Boundaries From The Get Go
After you have done this they will treat you with more respect.
The first time is the most difficult one because you don’t actually know if it will “work” but once you see that it does it gets easier.
Practice in front of the mirror first (or practice/role-play with a friend) to empower yourself and build confidence.
Another thing I want to mention here is to remember not to get into any explanations.
Don’t explain yourself, whatever you do.
Just state within yourself that “people speak to me in a respectful way or not at all” and leave it at that.
You don’t have to explain why to anyone.
If you feel pressured or something to explain yourself then simply say something like “if we are going to have this conversation you will have to speak to me in normal tone of voice” and then ignore the urge to explain further.
After that you can redirect the conversation by saying something like “now, if you’re ready to discuss this matter with me in a calm way then I’m open to hear what you have to say. Let’s keep it respectful from now on”.
Do all this with an emotionless tone of voice (but not ‘dead’ and apathetic, simply in a matter-of-fact kind of way) and an emotionless expression on your face, it’s a very important component.
Their ego wants an emotional response from you that they in turn can respond/react to (and thus create drama) so don’t give into it.
And then when you feel the boundary has been set and understood, then you can give a (friendly) smile, but not before (and after the smile, don’t explain yourself, simply move on).
The urge to explain yourself can come when the situation is more relaxed (notice this within yourself) but don’t go there. Simply move on.
And sometimes it’s not even appropriate to smile at all, in fact that could trigger a new attack on you so be intuitive about it.
If none of the things I’ve mentioned resonates then maybe it is time to move on from the situation all together.
Maybe It Is Time To Move On
Sometimes it’s not worth it to confront people.
We have to feel intuitively and choose into which battles are worth going into.
If a situation is very tense for example and we know it’s only for a little while then maybe it’s better to stay centered in yourself without speaking much at all, and then when you’re released from the situation, you can promise yourself to never get into a similar one again.
Because sometimes a tense situation can become even worse if we try to solve it when we kind of know within ourselves that it probably can’t be solved or done anything with.
Feel what feels most appropriate for you.
I don’t personally believe that everything should or has to be vented and talked about all the time.
But in any case where we are in a situation that comes up regularly (like meeting a difficult co-worker on a daily basis for example) then keeping quiet obviously is not the best solution.
Then the solution is to confront the situation head-on. Face your fears and just do it.
And also, see if this is a pattern that is recurring in different ways for you in your life.
Look within you and see if you can see a thread or pattern of these same types of challenges (and people coming and going into your life) and how you have dealt with them up until now.
Is It a Cycle, Do You See a Pattern?
The people and situations will keep coming up until you have learned how to deal with them in ways that shows self-love and self-respect.
If you see a pattern of having other people too behaving in inappropriate ways towards you then you definitely have to do the thing that scares you the most.
The circle can only be broken by doing something different than you have done before.
This time you have to handle it differently, otherwise it keeps coming up and each time it’s going to be more eruptive, or even violent.
Moving on, ..
Right now close your eyes and ask within what Life wants with this, why are you in this situation, why did this person show up in your life; see if you can get to the essence of it.
“What is the teaching here/what am I to learn here/how am I to grow from this?”
“What am I asked to do in this situation (by Life)?”
“What is the best way to handle this situation?”
“What does Life want with this?”
“See” the situation as if you were in the room with this difficult person and ask the questions above.
Really feel into the question and take them in deeply in your consciousness and then listen to what comes up.
“What does Life want with this?”
It might be something that scares you that comes up, like for example that you should stand up for yourself.
If that comes up then do it without delay; start practicing in front of the mirror the “why would you..”-question and then use it the next time you see them.
If the inner voice of wisdom tells you that this situation is put in front of you in order for you to realize that it’s time to move on, then do something today that supports that nudge from within.
Sometimes Life shows us that it’s time to move on from something by putting pressure on us and if we have outgrown a place (job, relationship etc), then we will be pushed until we make a choice.
At one point in life we might have accepted a certain disrespect from others and then at some other point we have simply grown beyond that former state and put our values and standards a bit higher.
This could be Life’s way of telling you that it’s time to stay true to the new level of consciousness that you are growing into.
Even if it’s uncomfortable.
Life always wants to take us Higher
It’s only uncomfortable because we are now responding according to a new level of consciousness in which we are not yet fully established (so it feels a bit unfamiliar and wobbly in the beginning).
But it’s higher, so we need to get ourselves released from the lower by making a new choice or decision for ourselves that allows the higher to be expressed.
Maybe for you it’s about standing up for yourself and by that gaining more respect from others (because you now respect yourself more).
Or maybe it’s Life nudging you towards leaving your job because something better suited for your new level of consciousness is waiting for you around the corner.
And somehow the disrespectful person was the scary messenger of change that you had to meet in order for you to make the choice or decision that you are now about to make.
What is your gut-feeling telling you?
Ask that now.
“What is my gut telling me?”
“What is my fear telling me?”
Obviously never listen to the fear 🙂
Hope this was helpful to you and let me know if you have any additional questions or comments you’d like to add.
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