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How to Empower Yourself and Develop Better Relationships With Difficult People

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Your colleague calls you to complain about the new sales quotas. Your teenage daughter refuses to clean her room. Your CEO explodes because your team didn’t make their numbers this quarter. Your neighbor lectures you on the need for organic weed removal.

Difficult people trigger an emotional response in everyone. From your child to your CEO, people you perceive as difficult can affect your energy, ability to communicate, and reasoning skills. The dictionary definition of difficult, pertaining to a person, is “not easy to please or satisfy.”

Others define difficult people as people with certain personality traits or emotional characteristics that make it difficult for you to communicate with them. When you encounter a difficult person it is uncomfortable. They think, act, and behave differently than you. You perceive them as demanding, unmanageable, exasperating, and tiresome.

Coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult people have ranged from ignoring, blaming, or trying to transform them. Other people find it more manageable to place these difficult people into a box by labeling them as a narcissist, bully, gossip, whiner, or psychopath.

Avoiding, blaming or labeling is not an effective way to deal with difficult people. It creates a victim mindset where growth and possibilities are limited and even impossible. Therefore, it is essential and crucial for you to take another way.

Below are 4 empowered approaches you can take to develop better relationships with difficult people:

1. Have Compassion

People, even difficult people, generally want to do the right thing but often go about it the wrong way. This can be frustrating and lead to significant disconnection. Perceptions of difficult people are based on personal beliefs and reality.

Therefore, when you encounter a difficult person it’s important to access compassion by stepping out of your critical ego and observe the person from a place of understanding. When you have compassion for a difficult person you can understand them and their behavior from a different perspective.

“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” – Dalai Lama

2. Listen to Connect

Listening to connect is listening without judgment, bias, assumptions or rejection. This creates a space for connection and collaboration by focusing on the other person, and not you.

A chemical shift occurs in the brain when people show sincere concern for another. Therefore, when you listen to connect with a difficult person, they become calmer, regain composure, and begin to communicate in a constructive way. Listening to connect is more powerful than listening to understand because it creates a space for trust, mutual success, and discovery.

3. Reframe by Challenging Assumptions

Reframing is an amazing tool for dealing with difficult people, and difficult situations by putting a different spin on what is being said, turning it into an opportunity, and for finding trust and common ground.

Assumptions are part of our belief system and ingrained in our neural circuitry. Because of this, when you reframe situations with difficult people you are helping them, not only connect, but to get to the next level of greatness.

For example, if your co-worker complains about not making her quota challenge the perceived limitations by asking, “What are your assumptions about your territory, the organization, or your ability to make quota.”

“I believe that you can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

4. Align

Difficult people can be the best teachers. They are put into our life on purpose; to teach us about ourselves, if we are willing to listen. Look to align with difficult people by shifting the dynamics from opposition to aligned partner.

Reposition yourself mentally by asking the following questions:

  • What do we have in common?
  • What is their intent?
  • Who is this person outside of work/school?
  • What do they do well?
  • How do they contribute?

Relationships with difficult people can be challenging, frustrating, and draining, but they can also be empowering, inspiring, and life-changing.

How you navigate difficult people will determine your success in life. You can choose to blame them, ignore, or label them and remain a victim of their behaviors. On the other hand, you can empower yourself and create opportunities for both you and the difficult people in your life.

Which one of the above tips to develop better relationships with others resonated with you most? Share your thoughts below!

Tracy Martino is the founder of Executive Return, where she is a Wellness, Personal Development, and Leadership Consultant based in Boulder, CO. Tracy helps people increase their performance and resilience so they can decrease stress, increase communication, and make better decisions. She is a certified Conversational Intelligence® and HeartMath® consultant. Tracy is a Best-Selling Author of the book, “Cracking The Code To Success” with Brian Tracy. Her work also has appeared in Forbes, Huffington Post, Medium, Thrive, Positively Positive, The Master Shift, and Elephant Journal. Find Tracy on LinkedIn  www.linkedin.com/in/tracymartino.

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