I was having a great Sunday. Morning meditation, spring cleaning (throwing junk away is so therapeutic!) and having lunch with a friend. Then the phone rung. It was a family member who, in my view, is a difficult person. I got off the phone, seething with frustration and disappointment that this person could be so self-centred and cold.
Do you have difficult people in your life? Friends, family and/or work colleagues who drive you up the wall? Then this post is for you, my friend.
Last weekend I attended a day’s meditation retreat on the Art of Acceptance. It was hosted at a local Meditation Centre, facilitated by the most kind, compassionate, calm person I’ve ever met. She is a (Modern) Buddhist Nun whose ability to translate classical Buddhist concepts into modern day plain English makes my heart glow and my blood pressure drop in a flash.
To help get past this difficult person and the phone call, I am actively trying to apply some of the concepts I learned from last weekend’s workshop. I have also mashed in some of my own perspectives, to help me make sense of it all.
Please take this list if it serves you, and if it helps, you might like to have a go at applying it to the difficult people in your life. It might be a parent, mother in law, sister or neighbour. I respect that every situation is different and these might not work for you. But let’s give it a try… what’s the worst that could happen. 😊
- Practice acceptance. Accept that people are who they are… for our own wellbeing – not because we are condoning their conduct.
- Don’t resort to alcohol!! Let’s be honest, we tried this approach for years and IT DOES NOT WORK.
- Accept that we can rarely change people. If we get fired up/angry/bitter towards them, I’m doubtful this will it change them to become better people. Rather, comming to the table with a negative mindset only upsets ourselves and typically inflammes things. Moreover, the person might be clueless about the angst they are causing in your mind!
- Recognise that retaliating to their negative comments is merely stooping to their level and will seldom have a positive effect. Be the bigger person, don’t react to them. It would be tragic to think that they might be trying to upset us intentionally, so let’s not go there. We need to look after ourselves and keep a positive outlook. Even if deliberately upsetting us (e.g. out of jealousy, or due to their control issues) might be what they are trying to do; don’t give them the satisfaction of retaliating.
- Realise that we won’t be the first people to encounter their toxic behaviour, nor will we be the last. Recognise that the awkward conversation isn’t about us, it may be a symptom of a bigger issue that had been going on in this person’s life for decades. We are possibly one person in a long line of many that have been hurt by this person’s behaviour before. And we won’t be the last, so don’t take it personally.
- Set realistic expectations. If the person has exhibited difficult traits such as aggression, narcissism, etc for the last xx years, there’s a 99% chance that our future encounters with them will be the same. Unless a highly unlikely intervention takes place that fundamentally intercepts things, let’s ensure our expectations are realistic. As much as we’d like them to come to the table with kindness, warmth and open kindness, this is highly unlikely and will only disappoint us if our expectations are misplaced.
- Put ourselves in their shoes. Why are they so difficult? What are they so toxic? What might have happened during their life / childhood that has caused them to be in such a dark place? It could be a sad, dark world they live in with undercurrents that we no nothing about. So let’s not assume we know where they are comming from.
- Feel compassion. It must be a lonely existence, living in a ‘glass half full’ world. Let’s come to the table with a sense of compassion rather than aggression – choosing a compassionate mindset can help diffuse tension considerably and protects us from more angst and upset.
Writing this list makes it seem easy – but it’s so much easier said than done. Our wonderful Buddhist Nun shared many anecdotes and methods for being able to be more accepting of arkward situations we encounter. So let me go home tonight and check my notes – if there is anything I think I’ve forgotten I’ll add it into this post tonight.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you accept difficult people and difficult situations in your life. I’m a firm believer that the more we practice mindfulnesss, daily gratitude and meditation, negativity slowly diminishes in our lives. My ability to cope and move past drama has improved in leaps and bounds this year… adopting a positive mindset is paying dividends.
Take care friends, go well and take care of yourselves. xoxo