Are you helping difficult people to be difficult ? Peter G. Vajda, PhD

Herewith an interesting article in management-issues from Peter G. Vajda, PhD, founder of SpiritHeart: http://www.management-issues.com/2008/6/2/opinion/are-you-helping-difficult-people-to-be-difficult.asp

No relationship is exclusively one-way. When any two people interact, the influences flow in both directions.

So if there’s someone at work (at home or at play) who consistently irritates you, peeves you, and just generally gets under your skin, know this: you are almost certainly part of your problem.

There’s no question that in most every organizations (or home or playground), we come face-to-face with folks who push our buttons, antagonize, frustrate, or otherwise annoy us, and behave in ways that make us want to scream.

These are commonly referred to as “difficult people. Some we label simply irritating; some we label rude and others we label as impossible to work or be with.

In my experience, however, the question is not so much what makes them difficult, but what we tell ourselves about them that makes them difficult. Because underlying and triggering our reactions are the stories we tell ourselves about such folks that categorizes them in our minds as being difficult.

When we drill down to the truth of the difficulty matter, experience suggests that it’s not so much that another’s behavior really is all that egregious, but that we have created a story about that person which we assume is true.

So the next time you feel the urge to label another as being difficult, a first step is to check out the facts. But how? Try asking yourself these three questions.

1. What is that person doing that is problematical for me?
First, ask yourself exactly what the what the behaviors are point to “difficulty”. Often, when caught up in reactivity, or flooded by emotions, we lose sight of observable facts and simply respond with a knee-jerk judgment along the lines of, “well, it’s nothing specific; he’s just being an “a–hole”.

Because we are so attached to our story, we often fail to grasp the details that indicate the person is, in fact, difficult. So, ask yourself, “If someone gave me the same feedback I am directing to another person, would I know exactly how to do, or be, differently?”

If not, you’re telling yourself a story and you’ll need to be clear on the facts.

2. Do you allow your story to cloud your view of that person?
When we create stories, we create a way we choose to view that person. For example, if I choose to believe that someone is lazy, then I turn the radio dial in my head to the station that features only “laziness” tunes. Which means I’m always on the lookout for behaviors which I think prove that person is Lazy.

QUESTIONS FOR SELF-REFLECTION

  • How do you generally react at work (at home and at play) when you come across a “difficult” person?
  • Do you ever give a “difficult” person the benefit of the doubt? If not, why not?
  • If you ever labeled someone as “difficult”, what did labeling them as “difficult” get you?
  • Do you ever make judgments about folks assuming you know all about them (chapters one and two) and what makes them “tick”?
  • Have you ever been the “difficult” person? If so, how does acknowledging this make you feel?
  • Have you ever asked colleagues, bosses, friends, spouse/partner or child(ren) if you’re a difficult person? If not, would you? If not, why not?
  • Have you even been judged harshly or unfairly? How did you feel?
  • Have you ever been told you were quick to judge?
  • Do you ever make up stories about people? How do your stories make you feel?
  • Do you ever feel compassionate towards “difficult” people?
  • Do you ever defend “difficult” people?
  • Do you ever justify your own being “difficult” while admonishing others for their being “difficult?” What’s the difference?
  • When the choice is between seeing another as a human being or a villain (“difficult”), which do you normally choose? Why?
  • What one or two baby steps might you take this week and next to discern the facts about someone you might have labeled as “difficult” to see if your “story” is, really, really, the “truth