How to deal with difficult people and keep your cool
I think dealing with difficult people who want to criticize, spout anger, hate, and unkindness is one of the biggest challenges when you are trying to live a life of authenticity, peace, purpose, and power.
When dealing with difficult people or people who say unkind things, it is so easier to hurl words that are unkind and hurtful right back at them. This is called mirroring. This is our emotional brain on default. Remember our emotional brain is our primitive brain. This part of our brain is responsible for emotions and the fight or flight system. When someone says unkind things to us or does something we think is unkind or a fight or flight system takes notice and seeks to protect us. It tells us to fight - say mean things back or flee, go somewhere safe with our tail between our legs. This puts a little ding in our soul with either response.
If we fight, we may inevitably say things that we may regret later. Causing feelings of shame and deeper hurt. If we flee, we put ourselves in victim mode and twirl about all those mean things said and let them affect our self-esteem and self-worth. When you tell yourself the story of this person bullied me or was hurtful to me it makes you the victim. You get to choose though if you want to be the victim or not.
There is a better way. Stop, feel the feeling, and then use your rational brain to respond in a way that is in line with your values and goals.
There are some ideas your rational brain can use when dealing with individuals that say mean or hurtful things.
First off, ask yourself “are the things being said true?” Sometimes people that know us best try to hurt us by pointing out flaws or things we may not like about ourselves. This can be hurtful because part of our thoughts believe that what they are saying is true. You can believe what they say is true and that is why it is hurtful because it hits a nerve or scratches an already existing wound. If that is the case, admit it and choose what you want to do from there. Are you trying to be better or have you come to accept this attribute as part of who you are. Whether you are trying to be better or you have come to terms with this the choice is up to you.
For example, I am cranky when I am tired or hungry. I am working on this. If someone else points this out to me, I can choose to feel hurt or I can just know that yes, it is true and I am working on it and it is OK. Everyone has flaws and everyone has something they are working on to improve in their life. I can choose to NOT hurt myself more by what someone else says. I already got myself. I know this and I am working on it.
If what they say is absolutely not true. Why choose to believe them? If someone told you that red was the ugliest color in the universe and proceeded to tell you why they believed that but you loved the color of red and totally disagreed, you would think, mmm, they are wrong, oh mmm we just have different opinions, or maybe they just don’t get how awesome the color red is. But you wouldn’t feel hurt or shame or anger, you would just think they are wrong. And it is ok for other people to be wrong. You could think to yourself, they are just confused about me, they don’t get me and that is OK.
Then here are four strategies that can help in these type situations. Remember we use our rational brain to try on new thoughts. These thoughts keep in inline with our values and goals and help us show up in the world in a way that we choose. Here are some thoughts for you to try to help your rational brain train your primitive brain to not respond on default.
Give them the benefit of the doubt. You can think, we are all good loving souls who occasionally get lost. Maybe this other person is struggling. Maybe they are hurting themselves or living with feelings of anger and resentment. Recognizing that bad behavior is often due to what is going on with that person, not you. Remember the abominable snowman in Rudolph. He was mean and angry and scary because he had an enormous toothache. Instead of being afraid, shying away, or being mean back, Hermey, the dentist was kind and curious. Being kind and curious can help you show in a way that is more conducive to your values and goals and may show some kindness to someone who hasn’t seen any in a while.
Focus on gratitude. Remembering that happiness is an emotion that is created by our thoughts. Being grateful creates feelings of happiness. We don’t want to allow our mood to be at the mercy of unpredictable events and unreliable or unhappy people. Happiness and joy come from inside our own minds. Starting your day being purposeful and focused on gratitude will allow you to remain optimistic and give others the benefit of the doubt when they are unkind.
Buddhist consider huge difficulties to be a sign that you are an old soul and close to enlightenment. If you are being tested by difficult people in your life, ask yourself what you are supposed to be learning. What strengths are these situations helping you to develop? What brain pathway are you reinforcing when you choose not to respond in anger, but with love and compassion.
Stay Centered - Remember when you mirror hate, anger, bitterness, and spite, you are letting your emotional brain run on default. Control your emotional brain with your rational brain that chooses your values and goals over mirroring other people’s bad behavior.
I think dealing with difficult people who want to criticize, spout anger, hate, and unkindness is one of the biggest challenges when you are trying to live a life of authenticity, peace, purpose, and power. But we can do hard things.
We have chosen to live a life with peace, purpose, and power.
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