8 Ways to Deal With Difficult People
13 hours ago | Updated 12 hours ago
Elyse Santilli Writer and life coach at NotesOnBliss.com, your guidebook to happiness and creating a beautiful life
Teacher Ram Dass once said: “If you think you are so enlightened, go and spend a week with your parents.”
It’s great advice. Whether it’s your parent, lover, friend or colleague, we all have people who trigger us. Something about them touches our wounds and brings out the worst in us — our pain, irritation, impatience, anger or even hostility.
Sound familiar? If so, here are eight powerful ways you can deal with difficult people who push your buttons.
1. Set your intention.
Our intentions shape our day and our destiny. If you know you will be spending time with someone who triggers you, set an intention in advance of your encounter.
I intend to feel good. I intend to stay calm. I intend to embody love and kindness.
Your intention will help guide your thoughts and actions. You can also bring your intention to mind whenever you feel tempted to slip back into old patterns of reaction and negativity.
2. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the art of being present in the moment and observing your thoughts and feelings as they arise, rather than getting lost in them and confusing them with who you are.
When you are mindful, you have more control over your reactions to life. When someone triggers an emotional response in your body or a negative thought in your mind, you take a step back and observe what is happening inside of you.
Being the observer gives you the space and opportunity to take a few deep breaths, centre yourself, and consciously choose a new positive response — rather than mindlessly reacting out of habit and instinct.
3. Open your heart.
Negative emotional states usually provoke a noticeable physical response in your body — you may feel a knot in your throat or stomach, your muscles tense, or heat and heaviness around your heart area.
In that moment, you are closing off your heart centre and trapping the negative energy you feel inside of you. When you store this energy inside your being, you will continue to attract — and be triggered by — similar people and events in your future.
The next time you feel triggered and your body begins to tense up, make a conscious decision to take a few deep breaths, relax your shoulders, and imagine your heart opening — no matter how much it feels like closing. As you continue to breathe deeply, allow your feelings to rise and then fall away again, like a wave in the ocean.
4. See the gift.
Difficult people who push our buttons can be one of our greatest gifts in life. By bringing out the worst in us, they make us aware of where we need to grow. By touching our inner wounds, they bring them to the surface where they can be examined and healed.
Often we feel triggered now because of an incident in our past that we never fully healed from or released. Instead, we kept the memory, emotional pain or consequent self-limiting story buried deep within our heart and subconscious.
The poet Rumi once wrote: “Your task is not to see for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Thank the difficult people in your life, for they are showing you the barriers you may have constructed around your heart in the past to protect yourself that may now be limiting your experience and influencing what you can attract into your life.
Once you dissolve these barriers by forgiving the past and choosing to remain mindful and open-hearted in the present, you open yourself up to greater experiences of love, joy and inner peace.
5. Be wary of unexamined assumptions.
Sometimes we react negatively to people because we have conscious or unconscious beliefs and expectations about who they are and how they should act.
We may also have a hidden agenda to gain something from them to fill a void in ourselves — like love, praise or support. When they don’t provide what we seek in the form we are seeking it, we feel resentful and irritable.
In either case, there is an unexamined assumption running the show: that other people are in some way responsible for your happiness.
The truth is, your happiness is entirely up to you. No one can take it from you (unless you let them) and no one is responsible for making sure you are happy.
We are all responsible for filling ourselves up so that we feel loved and supported from within. And when we do, the people in our life will often naturally change their behaviour to become more loving and supportive towards us, because our outer world is always a reflection of our inner state of being.
Make it a habit to sit alone for five minutes each morning and imagine your heart and body filling up with love and light from above. Carry this feeling with you throughout the day.
We search the world for happiness in romantic partners, jobs, houses and bank balances, and yet we are so quick to throw it away at the slightest provocation. Start valuing your happiness like it is one of your most prized possessions — it is.
6. Practice forgiveness.
Everyone is doing their best from their level of consciousness and awareness.
Often, the people who trigger us are not even fully aware of the effect they are having on us. Even if they are aware, they may not be in a position to change their behaviour yet, simply because they are so deeply trapped in their own mind, patterns and emotional wounds.
Practice forgiveness whenever you are able to. Forgiveness does not mean condoning their behaviour. Forgiveness means seeing past their external behaviour to the light of their inner spirit, their soul, which is made of the same energy and love as your own soul – it’s just been temporarily obscured.
Don’t forget to forgive yourself too — have compassion for yourself and the challenging situation you are in, which is calling upon you to grow and be your best.
7. Be the lighthouse.
People can bring out the worst in each other, or bring out the best in each other.
The same way that a group of people meditating can have a positive ripple effect on the world, your own loving energy, peace and grace can have a positive effect on the difficult people in your life.
Many people are unable to see or change their own destructive patterns and behaviour. However, when you hold a positive space for them, staying calm, loving and present, this can allow them to subtly shift into these feelings too.
Picture yourself as the lighthouse, cultivating your inner light and love for those who need it.
8. Ask your Higher Self for help.
The book A Course In Miracles states: “Fear is a sure sign you are relying on your own strength.”
You are not in this alone. If you doubt your ability to remain calm, present and open-hearted around someone difficult in your life, call upon your Higher Self to step in and guide you through it.
You can establish the connection with a small pause and prayer: Higher Self, I desire to deal with this person in my life with compassion, patience and love. I’m not sure whether I can remain calm, so I step aside and let you lead the way. And so it will be.
Elyse is a writer, life coach and happiness teacher at NotesOnBliss.com and the creator of the Beautiful Life Bootcamp online course. She teaches people to align with their inner spirit, design a life they love, and expand their happiness and inner peace.
The Unreliable Narrator
The most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves, says BRENÉ BROWN. But beware—they’re usually fiction.
MY HUSBAND, Steve, and I were having one of those days. That morning, we’d overslept, Charlie couldn’t find his backpack, and Ellen had to drag herself out of bed because she’d been up late studying. Then at work I had five back-to-back meetings, and Steve, a pediatrician, was dealing with cold-and-flu season. By dinnertime, we were practically in tears.
Steve opened the refrigerator and sighed. “We have no groceries. Not even lunch meat.” I shot back, “I’m doing the best I can. You can shop, too!” “I know,” he said in a measured voice. “I do it every week. What’s going on?”
I knew exactly what was going on: I had turned his comment into a story about how I’m a disorganized, unreliable partner and mother. I apologized and started my next sentence with the phrase that’s become a lifesaver in my marriage, parenting, and professional life: “The story I’m making up is that you were blaming me for not having groceries, that I was screwing up.”
Steve said, “No, I was going to shop yesterday, but I didn’t have time. I’m not blaming you. I’m hungry.”
Storytelling helps us all impose order on chaos—including emotional chaos. When we’re in pain, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it. This story doesn’t have to be based on any real information: One dismissive glance from a coworker can instantly turn into I knew she didn’t like me. I responded to Steve so defensively because when I’m in doubt, the “I’m not enough” explanation is often the first thing I grab. It’s like my comfy jeans—maybe not flattering, but familiar.
Our stories are also about self-protection. I told myself Steve was blaming me so I could be mad instead of admitting that I was vulnerable or afraid of feeling inadequate. I could disengage from the tougher stuff. That’s what human beings tend to do: When we’re under threat, we run. If we feel exposed or hurt, we find someone to blame, or blame ourselves before anyone else can, or pretend we don’t care.
But this unconscious storytelling leaves us stuck. We keep tripping over the same issues, and after we fall, we find it hard to get back up again. But in my research on shame and vulnerability, I’ve also learned a lot about resilience. For my book Rising Strong, I spent time with many amazing people—from Fortune 500 leaders to long-married couples—who are skilled at recovering from setbacks, and they have one common characteristic: They can recognize their own confabulations and challenge them. The good news is that we can rewrite these stories. We just have to be brave enough to reckon with our deepest emotions.
In navigation, dead reckoning is how you calculate your location. It involves knowing where you’ve been and how you got there—speed, route, wind conditions. It’s the same with life: We can’t chart a new course until we find out where we are, how we came to that point, and where we want to go. Reckon comes from the Old English recenian, meaning “to narrate.” When you reckon with emotion, you can change your narrative. You have to acknowledge your feelings and get curious about the story behind them. Then you can challenge those confabulations and get to the truth.
I’ll walk you through it. The next time you’re in a situation that pushes your buttons—from a breakup to a setback at work—and you’re overwhelmed by anger, disappointment, or embarrassment, try this practice.
Engage with your feelings.
Your body may offer the first clue that you’re having an emotional reaction; for instance, your boss assigns the project you wanted to a colleague, and your face begins to feel hot. Or your response may involve racing thoughts or replaying the event in slow motion. You don’t need to know exactly where the feelings are coming from; you just have to acknowledge them.
My stomach is in knots.
I want to punch a wall.
I need Oreos. Lots of them.
Get curious about the story behind the feelings.
Now you’re going to ask yourself a few questions. Again, it’s not necessary to answer them right off the bat.
Why am I being so hard on everyone?
What happened right before this Oreo craving set in?
I’m obsessing over what my sister said. Why?
This step can be surprisingly difficult. You’re furious because Todd got the project, but it may feel easier to steamroll over your anger with contempt: Todd’s a brownnoser. This company’s a joke. Getting curious about your feelings may lead to some hard discoveries: What if you’re more hurt than you realized? Or whatif your attitude could have played a part? But pushing through discomfort is how we get to the truth.
Write it down.
The most effective way to become truly aware of our stories is to write them down, so get your thoughts on paper. Nothing fancy—you can just finish these sentences:
The story I’m making up…
For instance, you might write, I’m so peeved. I feel like I’m having a heatstroke. She thinks I’m incapable. I want to hurl a stapler.
You can be mad, self-righteous, confused. A story driven by emotion and self-protection probably doesn’t involve accuracy, logic, or civility. If your story contains those things, it’s likely that you’re not being fully honest.
Get ready to rumble.
It’s time to poke and prod at your findings, exploring the ins and outs. The first questions may be the simplest:
1. What are the facts, and what are my assumptions?
I really don’t know why my boss picked Todd. And I didn’t tell her I was interested in the project—I figured she knew.
2. What do I need to know about the others involved?
Maybe Todd has some special skill or she has me in mind for something else.
Now we get to the more difficult questions:
3. What am I really feeling? What part did I play?
I feel so worthless. I’m failing in my career. And I don’t want to ask for anything because someone might say no.
You may learn that you’ve been masking shame with cynicism, or that being vulnerable and asking for what you want is preferable to stewing in resentment. These truths may be uncomfortable, but they can be the basis of meaningful change.
Figuring out your own story could take 20 minutes or 20 years. And you may not make one big transformation; maybe it’s a series of incremental changes. You just have to feel your way through.
If you’re thinking this sounds too hard, I get it. The reckoning can feel dangerous because you’re confronting yourself—your fear, aggression, shame, and blame. Facing our stories takes courage. But owning our stories is the only way we get to write a brave new ending.
Brené Brown, PhD, is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and the author of Daring Greatly. This essay is adapted from her new book, Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution.
“What stories can do…is make things present.”
courtesy O Magazine
Martin Luther King Jr. Delivered His ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech 52 Years Ago Today
Watch and read the iconic address.
44 minutes ago
Mollie Reilly Deputy Politics Editor, The Huffington Post
Friday marks the 52nd anniversary of the March on Washington, during which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have A Dream” address.
On Aug. 28, 1963, more than 200,000 individuals converged on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to draw the country’s attention to the struggles faced by black Americans.
The civil rights demonstration culminated in King’s call to end racism, cementing the reverend’s place in history.
Watch King’s speech above, and read the full text of his remarks below:
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Yeah, okay, you’ve got a lot of things to say. What about people who’ve suffered from physical abuse? It’s all well and good to remain in your throne and judge people who committed it. But what if the person who did it was hung from the banisters and hit with a stick. And what if they still managed to maintain some innocence. Why do people judge people who perpetrated the physical abuse, so much?
It is easier for us to recognize the suffering in a victim than it is for us to recognize the suffering in the perpetrator that caused the act of violence. To heal the victim’s suffering is to help move on from such a crime. To heal the perpetrator’s suffering is to prevent such a crime from ever happening.
Here are several thing that can help to keep that in perspective.
1. If someone is happy and at peace, they cannot and will not consciously harm others. There is no interest in such things and nothing to be gained for them. Real happiness is imbued with contentment. All forms of violence be it physical or otherwise comes from a place of unrest, unhappiness, discontentment, and fear of lack.
2. In order to harm others, there is a certain degree of sanity that is forgotten. When Jesus was being murdered, he said “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” This isn’t about taking the moral high ground; it’s about insight into ignorance. Rather than seeing those murderers as inherently bad, which is the meaning of “judgement,” it is important to recognize ignorance as a kind of intoxicated state in which you really don’t fully understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, to whom you are doing it, and who you are as the doer.
3. Ignorance is temporary. It is not an identity or essential nature. Because ignorance is like a kind of intoxication, one can sober up. That is the whole ideal and purpose of rehabilitation, repentance, and forgiveness.
Think of the prison system here in the US. We are very judgmental without being very constructive. We tell people that they are bad, that they have done wrong, and then we punish them. Yet we do not heal them, the punishment rarely serves to connect cause to effect, and often it simply makes things worse by fostering resentment and hate. By not healing and helping those who have committed crimes and wrongful acts, we are not benefitting the wellbeing of our society at large.
It is obvious to most people that a victim needs healing. But the recognition that the perpetrator needs similar attention rather than scorn and hate is a very mature and subtle understanding. Tonglen meditation and Tibetan Buddhist compassion contemplations were instrumental in making me aware of this not just conceptually but in practice within my own life. The book Becoming Enlightened by the Dalai Lama is a wonderful introduction.
This is how we can learn to forgive others and also ourselves of things we still consider unforgivable and unthinkable. Forgiveness does not mean that whatever happened was “okay and all good” but that your mind non-violently accepts those happenings and attends to how best to move forward.
One of my favorite quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh sums this up well: “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
Namaste my friend.
“The sooner you stop trying to make the world appear according to your expectations, the sooner you will experience a little freedom from feeling helpless in the world.”