Where would we be without relationships in our life? And more to the point,where would we be without the difficult relationships? Although it seems counter intuitive, without these people, we would be emotionally poorer because we would have less opportunites to grow.
They say that our greatest teachers are the people who push our “hot buttons”. Many times these teachers are our children, but from time to time we encounter “difficult” people who make us feel angry and undervalued. But what they are actually showing us is that we still have some work to do, as every encounter is a reflection of what we are projecting ourselves.
One of our deepest needs is to feel valued, and when someone treats us in a way that undermines our self esteem, most of us automatically hit back and react negatively, often falling into the victim mode. But where does that lead us? The problem of adopting the role of victim is that by definition it’s disempowering.We need to get centred again, get our self esteem back.
One of the most effective ways of getting centred again is by asking yourself questions to change the perspective of the situation.
There are three ways we can do this:
The first is to adopt a stance of “realistic optimism”. We need to ask ourselves, “what are the facts in this situation?” and “what is the story I’m telling myself about these facts”? Realistic optimism is about looking for an alternative way of viewing the situation that would serve you better.
The second way is to use an approach called “the reverse lens“, thinking about the other person’s perspective. Ask yourself, “how is the other person feeling and how does their perspective make sense”? This is actually empathy. As soon as the other person feels you are making an effort to understand THEM, they will soften and be prepared to listen in return.
The third way to handle difficult people is to take a long term view. If it is the case that you are being treated unfairly and you are unable to do anything about it, the “long lens” gives you a way of looking past the present and imagining a better future. In this case, say to yourself ” regardless of what’s happening right now, how can I learn and grow from this experience?” When we look back from a point in the future, we often see that the negative situation served us, it helped us to move out of our comfort zone and initiate necessary changes in our life, such as changing jobs or gettting out of a romantic relationship that was no longer serving us.
There is no doubt that some people are more difficult to handle than others, but think about this – everyone doesn’t think the same about the same people. So…it’s about you! What are you projecting in your interactions with others? And even though what you project is to a large extent determined by your personality, adopting the three techniques described above will really help to diffuse a conflictive situation and feel better about yourself.