- Controlling Stress
- Begin Exercise With Breathing
- Body Types
- Health and Weight Control
- Safety, The Right of All, How To Protect It
- Summertime Heat, How To Keep Your Cool
- Pets, Fuzzy Love That Heals
- Health Care: We Have The Power
- Difficult People, How to Deal With Them: Stress Management
- Saving Hope For Deeper Insight Into Tomorrow
- Con Artists, Magicians And Online Trickery
- Josh Burns Needs Your Help
It’s been a discussion several times recently, how to deal with difficult people. For me, the discussion has come up in different ways and times. When we have an illness worsened by stress, learning skills to manage these problems is much more valuable and very necessary.
Letting the problems roll off us, or in other words ignoring them, is one way to deal with stress and for some things the best approach. Don’t sweat the small stuff. But when it comes to people, especially because we can’t avoid people, it’s not really an answer. It’s counter productive to always let another person get away with being difficult and come away without what we need.
On the other hand, we don’t have the physical capacity to put up a “hairy cat fight” and if we did would probably pay for it by getting sicker. Because we can’t avoid all conflict, I find meditation, relaxation, and bio-feedback helpful in keeping my stress levels down when I can’t avoid unpleasant encounters with people. Some of my tricks listed here: Controlling Stress.
Unpleasant people are like great walls sometimes. You can’t go around them, or through them, you can’t yell at them and get results. You can’t dig under them, beat them up or threaten them with your brother’s huge scary dog. They stand un-phased and triumphant. Don’t let that fool you into thinking they are unaware. What lives inside that wall is an angry person who’s learned to use the little power of their small position to get for themselves a tiny measure of comfort against what they consider a cruel world. They are actually the wizard standing behind the curtain pulling levers and pushing buttons all to frighten and distract you from who and what they are.
You will know them when you see them. They are in positions that shouldn’t command a lot of power and yet they are causing you more grief than is tolerable. There are two ways to deal with these people. Look at their workspace for clues. Find a family picture, memento of golfing, fishing or something you can relate to and get them talking about that. They become human then, enough for you and your business with them to get done.
They are hoping you will fight back. Yell, demand, get angry. When you do, they win. They smile inside, they got what they wanted which was to make you act the way they wanted. Don’t ever give them that. In their minds you have proved what they believe. They were right. You’re a red-eyed demon, they are innocently trying to do their jobs.
Or you can find someone else to speak with. You can come back on a day they aren’t there, go to another desk, go to their supervisor. First, always try to open up the human side of the wizard. Pull back the wizard’s curtains and talk to the person. Both you and they will have a better day and the next wizard you come across isn’t so frightening or stressful. Now, you have managed not just your stress, but theirs.
Practice using a soft tone of voice. If anything they should have to lean a bit to hear you. Now you are non-threatening and the person in front of you has to make an effort to listen. Loud voices don’t get heard as well as soft ones. People back away from loud voices. They turn their heads, they focus somewhere else. Practice a soft voice.
Next there are dictators. Some are dictators in the sense of ruling with an iron hand but most are giving dictation. In other words, directing and organizing with an agenda for efficiency, not realizing their organizational plans are not serving you. Some only need for you to point this out. You can say, “I know you are busy but I’m not getting what I need from you.” Some will stop and correct the problem, ask why has happened and will re-direct the flow to accommodate.
There was an article on Dr. Pho’s blog yesterday, Why are so many doctors complete jerks? talking about some of the reasons of these thing happen and why we perceive it so. It’s a good article, and points out that no one sets out thinking “I’m going to be a jerk” and most are unaware of it.
Dealing with doctors is a good example of how our stress levels increase. We go to the doctor, never feel we are given the time to have our concerns addressed and come away with the feeling that nothing got accomplished except someone got to bill insurance. Of course I’m talking about only some doctors. The difficult people we don’t know how to manage. You can tell the doctor, as before, you’re not getting what you need. Good doctors will work to change that but probably they asked you the question first.
Difficult doctors hard sell their patients. They don’t ask, they tell. If you say, I’m not getting what I need some will simply tell you the options for finding another doctor. At that point, my suggestion is to do exactly that.
Others will change hard sell to soft sell. It look something like this: Oh well what would you like for me to do then? They know after all the six-syllable words they threw into the ten paragraph explanation they just gave you, there is little likelihood you will do anything at this point except concede to what they want. What you should say is “I would like for you to listen to what’s really going on, explain it to me so I can understand, and help me find relief for the problems you haven’t talked to me about.”
What happens next is either they will do exactly that or they will continue to throw around big words and tell you it’s your fault, you’re not understanding. I’ve had doctors say, “Oh now, that’s for me to worry about”. That translates to: I have no intention of taking my time to do any teaching, I’ve made up my mind and you need to sit and be quiet now.
You can either decide this isn’t the doctor (or other professional or whatever person) for you or you can make one last attempt. Say to them, “I get the feeling you have already made up your mind and there’s nothing I can do to change that”. Again, either they will take the time and quit the game playing or confirm your suspicions and now you are free to have a clear idea of how to go ahead. Find someone else.
This doesn’t only apply to workers in your local aid office or doctor’s office but to people in your personal life. Of course learning to manage stress and the stress of relationships is so much more complicated than this but many times we are under huge amounts of pressure without realizing where it’s coming from. The first step to management is recognition.
When you think of a situation, personal or professional and dread facing it, you need to start looking more closely into why. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they have done for us in the past. When people become toxic, making our lives worse and making us sicker than we need be, we have a right to look at that relationship and change it. Changes don’t have to mean getting rid of relationships but should mean setting boundaries that limit behaviors causing more stress.
Let’s say you have an aunt that likes to visit but always wants to get you “out of the house in the sunshine”. She brings you pretty gauzy blouses for summer that flow in a breeze for temptation. She arranges day trips on an open air boat. Maybe you have lupus and have tried to tell this aunt but she doesn’t believe some fresh air and sunshine could hurt anyone. You begin to dread her visits. You love her but it’s becoming toxic and too stressful.
You don’t have to cut all ties with your aunt but you would have to tell her firmly, I love you but you are wrong. I don’t want to lose your visits, I know you care about me but your making me worse. Of course your words don’t have to look like mine but you get the idea. Difficult people are sometimes the ones we love the most and those who seriously have our best interests at heart. In this case it make them more difficult to deal with than a doctor who won’t listen.
Those of us with chronic illness that’s worsened by stress may have better lives and could be healthier by taking this first step. Recognizing the difficult people in our lives is the first step to knowing how to manage the stress that affects our health.