The Art of Acceptance: Dealing with Difficult People.

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

27 thoughts on “The Art of Acceptance: Dealing with Difficult People.

  1. That was wonderful! I love the notes from your retreat, would dearly love to meet the lady that ran it, she sounds amazing, I have taken your notes to heart, I have a horrendous relationship with my only sister, as I have written about in my blog, so the advice for me is superb, thank you so much for sharing xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lily, oh I’m sorry to hear about your sister. I’ll be sure to take time this weekend to read your blog. I too have struggled all my life with my sister. Hopefully little by little, you and I can move past the harshness of it.
      Thank you for sharing your insights, appreciated as always. Have a lovely weekend xoxo

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  2. Thankyou so much for this post and sharing the wisdom you learned!! It is tough dealing with difficult people and I struggle with it too. Especially when they lob snide comments at us from left field (#πŸ’©). I often say “the best response is no response” but that is sometimes easier said than done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure – oh yes, those snide comments! Aren’t they ugly! Love your approach, taking the mature stance. I think their snarky comments say more about them than it does about us… maybe they have a drinking problem but aren’t willing or able to admit it.
      Stay strong my friend, and thank you for popping by.❀️

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      • I agree 100% that people with their own unacknowledged drinking problems are often the ones dishing out those snarky comments! As for me taking the mature stance, I say “the best response is no response” often but instead find myself thinking up witty comebacks to imagined snide comments that haven’t even occurred! So I’m not really being very mature in my approach lol. I really do need to practice meditation daily like you!! That is truly the best way to deal with this stuff 😊

        Liked by 1 person

    • Nawwww thank you. It’s something I’ve struggled with hugely in the past. Still tough but dealing with difficult people with a clear head this year is improving things immensely. How are things with you? A Wellington friend is in Vegas this week on holiday, I’m soooooooo jealous!!!! ❀️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great list! I try to stop my judgement/irritation in it’s track and turn inside to find within myself the same behavior. Most times I see it and when I don’t, well- I still have my blindspots. I think we are all a bunch of eccentric and idiosyncratic creatures. You hit it with compassion being key. Sounds like a wonderful retreat! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Elizabeth, oh yes I think we all have our idiosyncrasies! I love your approach, trying to stop the irritation in its tracks.
      It was wonderful thanks, another one lined up next month.
      In the meantime, keep up the positive, can-do perspective – its contagious! xoox

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh.my.god… I can’t tell you how relevant this is to me. I have a situation that is eating me up at the moment. I’m sharing about it at meetings and asking for guidance and really trying to do the right thing but man do I want to tell them to feck right off(mild version) I know from previous experience that this would make me feel awful afterwards but I have had a real problem with not expressing my anger in the past( unless I was pissed) so even though I’m a good few years sober I’m STILL learning how to deal with emotions, thanks for another great post S x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh honey, I’m so sorry to hear someone’s ugly behaviour is affecting you at the moment. It’s sooooo tough! I’m right here alongside you.
      I’m not across the details of your situation but the fact that you are controlling your anger could actually be driving them up the wall! Kill them with kindness, I once heard. Because as soon as you and I flip out, THEY have won. They may be wanting this, wanting to see us crack. But by keeping calm, we have the upper hand and aren’t giving them an ounce of satisfaction.
      Good well my friend, always here if you’d like to chat. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

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