I’ve had conversations lately with some people about interpersonal relationships, especially with regards to dealing with difficult people. Sometimes you have to deal with these people because they’re coworkers or people in leadership at your job, others you can avoid or mostly avoid by not going to the same parties or events or just not being with them at the events. But before we get into dealing with these people I thought it would be important to talk about the ‘what if’ of what if you’re that difficult person?
For some people accepting or understanding that they’re the problem is difficult. Maybe they don’t realize how their words and behaviors affect others (which is usually easier to talk through) or maybe they believe they’re entitled and should be given special treatment and can treat people however they want (which means they may not care that you’re unhappy). It’s also never an easy conversation to have with someone, to tell them that they’re mean or disrespectful or inconsiderate. These types of conversations can go really poorly, they can go well and things can improve, and the conversation can go well but not lead to any real results or make any difference.
While I think everyone has room for improvement in their life, I don’t think we always have to point out to someone that there’s an issue. If it’s an issue that you can just vent to friends or family and you can just deal with it or you don’t really plan to stick around for long, you don’t really need to address it unless you really feel strongly about it.
Most people who deal with a difficult person can’t really lay down the law and be bluntly honest. If you do it that way it’s a great way to get yourself in a lot of trouble or ruin a lot of relationships, unless that’s something you’re allowed to do, like a tough-love coach or consultant (think of Bar Rescue or some of the other TV shows with hosts who do company renovations). In those cases they don’t have to be delicate about telling the difficult person how difficult they are. Sometimes they are completely aggressive about it, but typically they have the experience to be able to have a constructive but eye opening conversation with the difficult person about exactly how their behaviors are negatively impacting the people in their lives.
So for the rest of us, you want to address it, you’ve got a couple of options. If you think they’re receptive or they give you the opening (“I can’t understand why no one sticks around at this job?!”), you can start to bring it up and see how it goes. If you can’t wait for the potential opening and really feel that you have to say something, I would start with why you’re bothering to bring it up (for example that you’re really committed to the relationship you have with them or to the company you’re working for), tell them you’re not sure if they’re aware of it or not and politely explain how you feel, and then share some specific situations which have impacted you negatively, and what would be helpful to improving the situation.
In all honesty everyone has their difficult moments, but some people choose to make a lifestyle out of them, and some people fall into the bad habit of being difficult frequently. I encourage you to take a moment this weekend and apologize to some people who you’re hurt recently when you were difficult, or consider if you’re one of those frequently difficult people who needs to make some changes.