Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

May 2013

Dealing with Difficult People

It had been some time since we had last gotten together and within minutes I remembered why. My friend is self-centered, overconfident, and totally unaware of the impact she has on other people.

After a while, I gave up trying to share anything about my life. Each time I tried, she would divert the conversation back to her. Her bulletproof confidence bordered on arrogance,shooting holes in whatever likeability or credibility she might have.

As my frustration and anger escalated, I asked myself why was I wasting my time with this person? I caught myself. Every situation is an opportunity to learn. What could I learn here?

My strong reaction required a closer look. Could she be reflecting something that I didn’t like about myself?

I paused and took a deep breath. I had to admit that at times I can be self-centered, and I can get so focused on a goal that I often don’t see how other people are reacting. Additionally, I can appear hyper-confident, especially when I feel insecure.

Suddenly, instead of anger I felt compassion—for my friendandmyself. I saw our innocence.

 “There is no greater learning on the spiritual path than this. When we learn to respond to the fear of others in a loving way, we can be sure that our own fears rest in the most compassionate embrace. We are no longer emotionally reactive or ambivalent, but patient and steady, knowing that love is real. Everything else is illusion,” writes one of my favorite writers, Paul Ferrini, in his wonderful book Return to the Garden.

An hour later my friend and I separated. In our short time together I had learned an invaluable lesson on how to deal with people I find difficult.

I can:

  1. Focus on my words and actions, rather than theirs.
  2. Accept that I am they, they are me, and we are one. They are reflecting back a part of myself that I don’t like or accept.
  3. Realize that when we engage in less-than-stellar behaviors, we are coming from fear. I can then see theirvulnerability and innocence—and mine.
  4. Express true caring and love, knowing that when I do the energy will shift.

To be honest, it will probably be a long time before I seek this friend’s company again,but when I do, I’ll know how to give herthe acceptance and love we all deserve.

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