Humanizing Difficult People for Self Improvement
Being difficult is up to our interpretation. But the fact is we are surrounded with difficult people throughout our lives. The ugly truth is difficult people will never go away from our lives. When we get rid of one, a bunch of old and new difficult ones come right up. I must add here that how I define “difficult people” are not those clinically psychopaths or those with ill-intentions. Difficult people here are those who act and behave just the way they are.
I am very happy to declare that I no longer want to get rid of them. This is one of my biggest achievements in self-improvement. They have taught me the most important value of life: Being difficult is human and the only way to deal with them is to humanize them.
Discover their positive sides
We already label a person as being difficult, it is all we can see from the person. To humanize them, I would force myself to discover their positive sides. This process usually leads me to talk to them more and find out more about them. Ask them their favorite places. Discuss their passions and hobbies. Ask their ideal holidays. Let them tell me about their best memories. It takes time, but a lot of small hills can build a mountain.
Understand their struggles
Everyone is struggling with something. Difficult people may struggle even more than us. Some of the difficult people I have met struggle with serious life issues, from lifetime physical pain to abusive parents. Being aware of their struggles has helped me to understand some of their behaviors. I can even sympathize and empathize with them. Most of the time, people are being difficult because they have not learned another way to deal with their struggles. Maybe you can share your struggles, too, and how you have overcome some of them. Be their inspiration.
Acknowledge their needs
Everyone has basic human needs that drive them. Someone can be driven by the need for recognition, healing the wound, avoiding guilt and shame, or pursuing peace and harmony. Whatever it is, our difficult people are driven by some strong needs. Find out what they are. Observe what makes them happy and unhappy. For example, I would give appreciation to those in need for recognition. Comfort those afraid of shame. Give assurance to those feeling insecure.
Remind them their good sides
A person is made of ugly and beautiful characteristics. I have learned that difficult people need to be reminded that they have beautiful characteristics as well. They may receive negative feedback more often than positive feedback. We all like the fact that others remind us that we are beautiful people. It helps us to want to show more of our beautiful characteristics. It is no different for difficult people. They may even appreciate more that someone notices this side of them.
There are days more challenging to deal with difficult people. These are the days that you need to be exceptionally kind to yourself. Digest the anger, disappointment or sadness as long as it takes. Multiply abundant love that you have for others for yourself. Curl yourself among those who love and care for you. Do things that remind you of your good sides. The most important part of the journey of accepting difficult people is to maintain self-love and self-compassion.
Based on my experiences, difficult people can give surprises. It is when I do not have any more expectations towards them, they suddenly give me what I need the most at that specific time. Appreciation. Friendships. Apologies. Networks. Opening new doors. Comfort. It is not uncommon that difficult people are the ones who remind me of my beautiful characteristics. So, take as many rests as you need, and may be try again tomorrow.
Take the path less traveled
I am asked from time to time why it is us who need to make ’sacrifices’ to deal with difficult people. My only answer is because the whole process of accepting difficult people in my life has only been rewarding. Difficult people can see genuine efforts of others to awaken their good sides. Because they are human, they can feel others’ empathy.
I have tried to be their enemy where I became as difficult as they were. But then I became unhappy, full of hatred, and lost the focus of life. Hurting them became an obsession. So, I try another way to deal with difficult people. This other path, probably less traveled, so far leads me to discovering new friends, new inspiration, and a major change in my and their lives. I have witnessed some difficult people transformed their lives and, eventually, mine and others’, too. If I am perceived as a difficult person by others, I would like to be directed this way to be less difficult to others. What about you?
Tita Alissa Listyowardojo is an Indonesian living in Norway. She is a writer, wife, researcher, and traveler. She has a background in Psychology and believes that everyone has something to offer.