Dealing with ‘difficult’ people and cultivating better relationships

People are only as difficult as we make them

By George

We have all come across so-called difficult people in our lives. People who annoy us, people whose presence makes us feel uncomfortable, or simply those we get a ‘bad vibe’ from. Dealing with these kind of people is a part of life, yet to a large extent it’s up to us just how much influence we want to give such people and for how long they continue to be a ‘problem.’

Even the name of this post is slightly contentious, for the idea of a bothersome person is hard to quantify. One person’s problematic person could be another’s best friend, and it is often down to us – and our own triggers and reflexes – that leads us to define one person as being troublesome whilst another we may deem in a more positive light. There is no such thing as a difficult person per se – this is a just a label that we might give someone. That isn’t to say that there aren’t certain character traits that are almost universally disliked; lying and manipulation, for example, will probably win you few friends, but even these don’t justify having a perpetual label as being difficult.

It is highly likely that we all know at least one person in our lives who we may define as being challenging to deal with. The first thing to do with such people is to ask yourself, what exactly about this person makes you define them as such? Oftentimes we can have a negative perception of somebody in our heads without even being present to why. The first step to cultivating better, more positive relationships in your life, even with people you are already close to, is to be aware of yourself and your triggers. Being aware of your values and likewise what irritates you personally gives you more power and freedom when dealing with people who don’t match or come into conflict with those values. It also gives us the freedom to choose who we want to have in our lives and who we don’t, depending on whether these people are a match for us or not. It’s OK to powerfully choose not to have someone in your life, especially considering that we can’t be universally liked or like everyone we come into contact with.

With this comes the idea of taking personal responsibility for all of our relationships, even those we don’t like. Ordinarily when faced with a person we deem to be hard to handle, human tendency is to play the blame game, pointing the finger at the other person for being so challenging and fundamentally not doing things the way you’d like them to be done. We may also engage in gossip about such people, talking and moaning about them with others behind their backs and doing them down when they’re not there to hear. Yet none of this behaviour serves or empowers us in any way; if anything, it only lessens our overall sense of power as we end up giving away more of our precious mental and emotional energy to the person in question.

So-called ‘difficult’ people can appear in our lives as obstacles; challenges to learn and grow from

Another tactic that we tend to employ when dealing with people we dislike is to try and avoid them. This strategy might seem like it’s working for us on a personal level, as we spend less time having to deal with the person in question. It can seriously backfire however, particularly if you normally see the person often and they catch on to the fact that you’re trying to avoid them. Avoidance also means that we don’t get to learn the lesson that so-called difficult people often present – the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and our values, as well as grow stronger and more resilient. We would serve ourselves and the person in question much more by letting them know exactly what about their behaviour upsets us and attempting to reach a compromise. This allows both parties to be listened to and feel appreciated and diminishes resentment.

It’s generally true that the less you value and approve of yourself, the more so-called troublesome people you’ll encounter. This is because other people are like a mirror – they reflect back everything we see in ourselves. If we don’t like a particular aspect of our own personality, whether it be consciously or unconsciously, we will also dislike it when seen in another person. The opposite is true for aspects of our personality that we like or admire. Concurrently, if there’s an aspect of our personality that we feel is lacking, we may feel irritated when we see others displaying such a trait; this possibly stems from jealousy or resentment. Either way, the more we know and are aware of ourselves, and the more we can love and support ourselves for who we are, the less ‘difficult’ people we will notice and more and more we will become aware of the good that lies in every person.

To summarise, the main key to better relationships all round stems from an understanding and awareness of ourselves, followed by an increased level of self-esteem and self-respect. We must give up the tendency to blame others for their perceived faults, as well as moaning and gossiping about them with others if we ever want to feel truly powerful in our relationships. Finally, we then have to set healthy, appropriate boundaries with the people in our lives, both so that we continue to have a healthy sense of self-respect and so that others respect us. It is not always easy to do this, especially if the idea of asserting yourself occurs as scary, but it will serve you in the long term and make your relationships much more authentic and harmonious.

We’d love to hear what your thoughts are on cultivating healthier relationships with others and any other useful tips you’ve discovered for dealing with so-called difficult people. If you feel that this article could be of use to someone in your life, please share it with them.

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