I think most of us have dealt with difficult people in our lives. I certainly have. I've dealt with difficult people the right way, and I've dealt with difficult people the wrong way. I'd have to say I'm much better about it now than I was just a few years ago because I've made an effort not to fall into the trap. I've learned to avoid falling into situations that lead to unnecessary confrontations.
Notice I said "unnecessary confrontations." Sometimes we get the idea that we should avoid all confrontations. That's not necessarily true. There are times in our life when we're going to have to have an uncomfortable conversation somebody. There's going to be situations where we have a difference of opinion that must be worked out. With some people it's easy to work out a difference of opinion, but with others, even the smallest thing is going to lead to a knock-down drag-out fight. But the majority of the arguing and fussing and fighting we do is unnecessary because we wind up getting angry. And anger only escalates issues. It took me a long time to figure that out, and it took me a long time to admit I was being pretty dumb in how I dealt with people.
Because I let people bait me. Some people love conflict. They live for it. I let people like this goad me into conflicts. Sometimes the same person would try several different ways to get a reaction out of me, and eventually they would.
I stopped taking the bait. Once I saw what they were doing, I was able to focus on where we disagreed and on the solution. I took anger out of it. Oddly enough, that very often made the person trying to start the fight with me even madder.
Stay calm. Don't react. Stay on topic. Think before you speak.
Very often the people who know us the best know just exactly how to get a reaction out of us. Be aware of that. I had a co-worker that liked to try and drag me into debates by attempting to embarrass me in front of other people. She knew that bothered me, and it used to work just about every time. But not any more. I took her power away. I realized that if I didn't react to these attempts, instead of embarrassing me, she would wind up embarrassing herself.
When you get angry or get involved in a debate, look at how it happened. Be aware of the ways others try and push your buttons. Do they try to embarrass you? Do they accuse you of things you haven't done? Do they only tell part of the story in an attempt to make you look bad. Do they talk down to you? These are all ways difficult people use to be difficult. And there are many more. Once you become aware of your own weaknesses they can no longer be exploited.
And be honest with yourself. Sometimes it's us that's annoyed with somebody. Stop and think about it before you leap in. What's the issue? What do you need from that person, and what's the best way to get the situation resolved without getting angry about it?
We live in a very reactionary world right now. We need to work harder to remember how to be kind. How to show respect for each other. We can't make others do it, but we can certainly serve as an example. We can certainly bring the temperature down in our own little world. And once we've mastered our own skills in peacemaking, we can teach others to do the same thing.
Need help? There's a lot of great resources on this subject. I'd strongly recommend "The Peacemaker" by Ken Sande. That book really helped turn things around for me.
~Todd E. Creason