We all have difficult people in our lives.  Right now, for some of us, things are worse.  Since March of this year, most of us have had our regular lives turned upside down.  Dealing with difficult people in regular times is hard enough.  And now we have to deal with all this change and still we have those difficult people!?

Here are a few ideas for you, that just might help:

  1. Realize that almost everyone is MORE on edge that they were before March of this year.  Why? It is the double threat of Covid-19 along with all the unhappy changes it has brought to us.  Many of us feel the economic threat and the health threat.  These are two of the most important areas of our lives.  And some of the people we love most, our parents, friends who are not in good health, are extra vulnerable.   So, it is the perfect time to grow your emotional intelligence, especially your capacity for empathy.
  2. Consider that you may be one.   A difficult person.  I know that was not what you expected me to say, but I firmly believe that all of us have at least one person in our work or home lives that thinks we are difficult, at least part of the time.  And think about it:  you are either stubborn, or selfish, or you talk too much, or you don’t talk enough.  Maybe you are a part-time narcissist like me.  Whose hot buttons do you sometimes push?   Want to be more skillful with them?  Start with yourself.  Take a good, long look in the mirror.  And since you are probably at home a lot, and your home has a mirror, you have no real excuse.
  3. How to deal?  Do not deal them anything.  This is not a card game.  Relate with them as people, love them, even though they seem to be acting like four-legged animals.  Match their energy (unless they have a gun and are shouting at you).  Find a part of them inside of you.  Are they aggressive?  Find a place where you have been aggressive.  Are they passive to the point of looking like a victim?  Where do you, or have you looked or acted like a victim?  Are they passive aggressive?…I think you have the idea.
  4. Find out what they need.  And then see if you can help them get it.  Right now, some of us have very high needs for safety and to avoid all human touch.   Others have needs for touch and social connection and are hugging, touching or kissing family and friends.  These are challenging areas for our families and also at work.   And also shopping, as we are now hearing the stories of people shooting and body-slamming those who are not compliant, or who are aggressively helping us be compliant.   Brutal!
  5. All of us are attempting to live, some say, to thrive.  We thrive when our needs are met.  Some of us are not good at knowing our needs or getting them met.  As babies the adults in our world met most of our needs (hopefully).  As adults it is our job to know and meet our own needs (most of them, most of the time).  Right?
  6. Are they a bully?  Stand up to them.  This is a hard thing for most Minnesotans to do. But I am Minnesotan, and I have done it.  You can too.

My dad has been perhaps the most difficult person in my life. And he has been my best teacher! Thanks dad. He is a wildly creative, intelligent and persistent person. And can, at times, appear to me like a bully. Many years ago, he used to call my home at 7 am on Saturdays, to talk. He did this several weeks in a row. I was up, but my wife was not.Until he called. She was not at all happy with the timing of his calls.I didn’t want to say anything to him, because I was afraid of his reaction, but I also did not want him upsetting my wife. This was a conflict. Finally, I decided to get firm with him and ask him to not call our home at 7 am. We had a courageous conversation. It worked. He never called again at that hour. It was a simple but powerful moment (story used with permission).

Would you like some help relating to difficult people? I’m giving a webinar today at noon CST. Here is the link to register:  $209.

Please be in touch and let me know how things are going.  I want you to know I am “here for you” during Covid-19.  Not quite like Walmart and Centurylink and Verizon.  But here nonetheless.

I am praying for all of you.  “May God keep you safe, until the word of your life is fully spoken.”   Margaret Fuller

About Tom Esch

Tom Esch works with health care companies, counties, cities, construction companies, business analysts, attorneys, executives, owners, managers and non-profit executives to grow interpersonal awareness and foster effective communication.