Life is always a series of connections of relationships. Naturally, we want relationships of meaning, of happiness, and of growth. Not all relationships are like that. Most of the time, my team and I deal with folks who have difficult relationships with loved ones. Navigating these relationships often results in stress, tension, and anxiety that negatively impact your mood and expose you to unpleasant emotional toxicity.
Family Coaching Program
The S.T.O.P. Model
When dealing with challenging difficult people, I try to remember everyone is doing the best they can and try not to judge their behavior no matter how impaired they are. I see them as simply making choices at that moment that try to preserve them without thinking of the mayhem that it causes others. Such is the case of Jack who experiences anxiety and depression along with abusing prescription drugs adrenal, Xanax, etc and mixing them with alcohol and other drugs. He is resistant to treatment and locked in his own world not listening but rather continuing to go in a circular motion.
While I may not be able to change the other person, how I and their families respond to their interactions can have a profound effect. Often I share with families
“The S.T.O.P, Model “ to Avoid Reactivity
- Stop Whatever you are doing or getting ready to say.
- Take 3 Deep Breaths.
- Observe how your Body Feels.
- Proceed with Kindness and Compassion No matter how challenging or difficult a relationship hitting Pause and reflecting before you talk will derail the heat of the moment.
Control dramas are frequently learned in childhood as a strategy of survival to get what you want. sometimes we never outgrow those childhood strategies we continue to throw temper tantrums so to speak and receive negative attention as that is the only way to get attention. When we realize that these are childhood patterns that we must work with we can give compassion as the person has never learned another way of relating.
If you’re dealing with a Workplace relationship, here is a resource from Forbes that outlines some techniques to be less emotionally reactive with difficult professional relationships.
Don’t Take it Personally
When you’re involved with a difficult person, it can feel like their words are a deliberate personal attack. This is not the case. Their reaction and behavior is not about you; it’s about them. Everyone is experiencing reality through personalized filters and perceptions of the world and your behavior is a direct result of those interpretations. When you realize the venom they are spewing is about them not whether you are a good or bad person, you are just a bit player in their drama. It becomes easier to navigate and you can affirm their feelings through reflective listening.
This is at times hard for me to do. Being defenseless doesn’t mean you’re passive — you still maintain your personal opinion and perspective in a difficult situation — but rather than engaging with the intention of making the other person wrong, you consciously choose not to be an adversary of their negative. Being defenseless means you give up the need to be the smartest person in the room. You ask your ego and intellect to sit this one out and proceed with an open acceptance of the other person’s position. You don’t have to agree with their perspective (or even like it). The point of this process is to compassionately suspend your need to defend a particular point of view. An interaction with a difficult person doesn’t have to turn into a heated debate. Oftentimes, the other person simply needs to be heard. By allowing them to express themselves without resistance, they can fulfill that need and perhaps become more amicable. Establishing defenselessness creates space that allows for a more compassionate and peaceful interaction.
Walk Away if Necessary
Difficult people can often draw you into a field of negativity. If you feel like you can’t maintain your awareness and objectivity, there’s nothing wrong with removing yourself from the situation. A toxic exchange can leave you feeling physically depleted and emotionally exhausted; if the above options aren’t helping you deal with the difficult person, walk away. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone; there’s no need to martyr yourself on the relationship battleground. You may have the best intentions for the exchange, but sometimes the most evolutionary option is to set boundaries and consciously withdraw from the interaction. This isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about stepping away from a toxic environment that’s dampening your spirit. Detach from the difficult situation and trust the universe to work out the resolution.
Seize the Experience was an opportunity
As challenging as it is, dealing with a difficult person can be a learning experience. Embrace Curiosity and make sure you have a chance to process relationships mirror your inner world back to you, and help open your eyes to those things you may not want to see. The qualities in another that upset you are often those aspects of yourself that you possess.
Practice Compassion and Set Healthy Boundaries
Understand that we all must experience the consequences of our behavior. Sometimes that is rough.