Difficult People 101: The DP Challenge

Part 1 of a series!

Posted Jun 27, 2012

Difficult People 101:  Part 1 - The DP Challenge

June 27, 2012

Part of a multi-part series on difficult people and situations.

Difficult People part 1:  The DP Challenge 
Difficult People part 2:  The Eightfold Path of Dealing with Difficult People
DP part 3:  21 practical tips for dealing with difficult people
DP part 4:  Coping with difficult people
DP part 5:  Road Rage to Road Sage

When you recognize you are having difficult emotions (usually anger, fear, tears, anxiety or distress) regularly in relations with a particular person – tada, you’ve spotted your difficult person! Suddenly, you don’t feel like yourself anymore. You feel tense, inflexible, uptight. Bingo, you’ve won the difficult person lottery! Congratulations! Ring a bell, raise a toast, shout a cheer – come on down, you’re the next contestant on The Price is Blight!

I jest – but if you’ve studied up in Dealing with Difficult People 101, you can actually cope with this situation, and even learn and grow from it.

Everyone encounters difficult people: Angry, bossy, entitled, know-it-all, jealous, complaining, demanding, abusive, abrasive, controlling, rude, lying, tactless, intolerant, emotional or the opposite – insensitive, demeaning and disrespectful, or even cruel. Sometimes your difficult person is just plain emotionally absent.

Contrast that with someone who’s “easy”. Easygoing, friendly, empathic, humble – they respect you, listen to you. In short, they value you.

The difficult person, on the other hand, seems to go out of their way to devalue, humiliate or even abuse you. Some difficult people become so task-focused they become devoid of kindness. What’s more, they can’t seem to help themselves from poking you with derision, mockery, sarcasm and the like when you don’t “measure up”. Their behavior, their words – get right under your skin and stay there.

Sometimes, the difficult person is not hard to deal with because of the way they treat you, but how they approach the world. You’re simply a bystander, collateral damage to their rants, worldviews, opinions and general way of being. They’re often miserable and angry (justifiably so – anger is always justifiable to the person who’s angry), and that leaves you feeling frustrated and helpless, and possibly with a reason to be angry yourself. Or perhaps they are blithely ignorant of what seems obvious to you, and leave a trail of destruction in their wake.

Luckily, there’s a solution – you can become THEIR difficult person! Congratulations! Ring a bell and come on down – you can both be winners on The Wheel of Torsion! As you inflame and incite each other, you can each confirm that yes, indeed, the world is rotten. You can rest on your laurels of vindication, victimization and victimhood as you move on to that lovely pastime, “The Blame Game”. Not to mention “Poke Me and I’ll Poke You Twice!” After all, even porcupines mate somehow – they’re even attracted to each other! Maybe you can make this work for you!

Again, I jest – but this kind of back and forth is exactly what happens when the difficult person shows up in your life. You are stuck with difficult emotions, and are forced to up the ante – either improve your coping mechanisms (including getting support and protection), get out of Dodge, or fight fire with fire. If you choose the latter, you will, of course, get burned. When the DP pushes your buttons, you are more likely to become a DP yourself. The negative, regressed behavior of others can trigger our own worst defenses. But if you didn’t get triggered – how would you know your negative defenses existed?

Almost every relationship, at some point or another, requires that you take care of yourself more. A seeming contradiction, but a fact of life. So all relationships are potentially difficult. Even of friendship, it’s been said that “there is no rose without thorns.”

Encountering a difficult person makes us realize that very often, the most difficult person of all, the one you can’t get away from, is right in the mirror. Your difficult emotions and thoughts are seemingly inescapable.

See how easy it is to spot a difficult person? They’re everywhere!

But when faced with a DP: Don’t Panic! There’s hope. You can cope with that inevitable game of life, the DP Challenge. I’ve found that the DP challenge is well worth the effort. The payoff is a healthier, happier and wiser you.

You can’t win if you don’t play! And guess what – you pretty much can’t avoid playing.

Stay tuned for more lessons from Difficult People 101.  Part 2 will be published tomorrow, and three more parts in the second week of July.  Stay tuned to The Pacific Heart, or get the whole e-book today here!

©  2012 Ravi Chandra, M.D. All rights reserved.

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