Ruth Friedman is an ICF Accredited Coach and a Certified Transformational Coach. She coaches high-level and high potential executives to develop their leadership presence and to build resilience. Her professional background is in Corporate IT, Project Management and Training as well as in Coaching.
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I can be a difficult person. For some people. Some of the time. Probably, you can be too.
Sometimes my energy is strong, or out of proportion. Sometimes I don’t respond in the way that the other person wants or needs. And sometimes people get upset, irritated or annoyed, with me.
Sometimes I get annoyed and irritated when I don’t get what I want or need from the other person. When they don’t listen to me in the way that I want them to, or when they don’t understand what I am talking about because its outside their experience. I guess that makes me a difficult person, for that person, in that moment.
I have my difficult people too. Sometimes it makes perfect sense why I find that person or situation difficult. And there are other people that I simply find difficult, for reasons I don’t yet understand.
Normally we don’t talk about such things. It’s easier to judge or blame the other, so that we don’t need to look at our part in it. In any case it’s easier to ignore them or avoid them. After all, who wants to be around a difficult person?
I looked at some of the considered wisdom on the subject, some of the better advice I saw was over here on Forbes. I am sure some of it can be useful. The problem is that a lot of the advice is all about the other person: how you can protect yourself from these difficult people, and avoid them, and therefore continue to judge them. Ultimately that doesn’t solve very much.
I have found a different approach more helpful. I started using this mantra whenever I feel challenged by one of my difficult people:
Here is a person, just like me:
- This person is just like me, they are seeking some happiness for his/her life.
- This person is just like me, they are trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.
- Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.
- Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill his/her needs.
This person in many ways is just like me.
(with huge thanks to Anita Sheehan for introducing me to this practice)
Take a look at this image and see who you identify with – the one in blue or the one in orange? You probably know how the blue one is feeling, but what might it be like to be behaving like the orange one? Is it possible that you can behave like him sometimes? Just a little bit?
So instead of falling into negative thoughts, or blame or judgement – see if you can recognize that this other person suffers just like you do. From my perspective, I find this approach brings me more peace and calm than I can find otherwise.
I am not running away from the difficult situation between us.
I am not pretending thing are OK when they are not.
Sometimes that other person really did do something that was not good for me, or they judged me, or they did something that I felt was wrong. And maybe sometimes I just got triggered, and over-reacted. It probably happens to all of us.
AND at the same time, whatever they did or didn’t do they are also a human being with fears and hopes and longings, just like I am.
Of course, depending on the situation, it can take a while to get to this place and to really mean it.
I invite you to play with it.
I gave this exercise recently in a two-day training I was giving for a client. Much to my surprise at the end of the training they asked to do this exercise again because they felt it would be a great way for them to go back out in to the everyday world.
I invite you to check out, who, in your circle, you find most difficult or annoying. I invite you to try out this mantra for that person and see what happens. And if you don’t have anyone you can always try it with a politician?!
Please let me know how you get on in the comments below.