To Deal With Difficult People, Take This First Step

Dec 3, 2019 | Difficult Situations

In November, I was privileged to speak during Day 1 of the Texas Counseling Association 63rd Annual Conference. The experience was great! I enjoyed speaking to a wonderful audience of counselors from all over the state during my session “Effectively Working with High Conflict Clients, Colleagues or Family Members.”

One of the strategies I shared during the presentation and teach my clients is to have a plan for dealing with the high conflict person in your life. In the counseling world, many of our clients come to us upset, afraid and in crisis. In the average workplace, everyone knows at least one coworker who seems to invite conflict. In our personal lives, we all know someone who is always looking for a fight. Having a plan in place helps you to manage those people. Decide before you are around them how you will respond.

Dealing with challenging people requires a new state of mind

Additionally, my best bit of advice I can offer is to “Stop Being Surprised” by people, especially the ones you know who have high conflict traits or qualities. Stop being surprised that they keep getting upset about things.

I first realized how important the whole concept is when I found myself getting hurt and angry by people in my own life. I kept getting “gut-punched” and it was making me crazy. I started examining why I was not prepared for the behaviors of someone who I knew might be making decisions or acting in ways I didn’t like.

Expectations set us up for pain

I realized it was because I had an “expectation” that a person would behave a certain way. So I quit. I quit expecting people to act the way I wanted. Initially, it’s hard to do because when we give up the false notion that things will play out the way we want, it is sad, in a way. We must accept a loss of what we want but will not have. I was sad.

After the sadness dissipated, however, I became empowered. Because once I was no longer tied to my expectation (which just kept letting me down anyway), I was able to prepare for not getting my way. I was able to change my expectations to no expectations and then, my experiences with other people, especially challenging people, was so much better.

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