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How to Get Along With Difficult People Without Losing Your Mind

If someone were to ask you to mention a person that you do not get along with, you would likely be able to name this person very quickly. Generally speaking, we usually have a short list of individuals that thwart us in our daily lives. Sometimes, just thinking about them makes us angry even if they didn't say or do anything... this time. You know that person... They sit by you at work, they question your motives. They are seemingly more concerned about your work than their own.

Eventually what happens is thatwe hope this person will leave the company or retire. Then, one day... the clouds part, angels sing, and this person is no longer working with you. Maybe they left the company. Maybe you left the company. Bottom line is... you don't have to deal with them anymore. This is a great feeling. But be warned! Time and again I have experienced this... the problem individual is gone, but their replacement is ten times worse! How can this be? Did they leave notes? How did this happen?

This doesn't just happen at work. It happens in our personal lives as well. We date people with the same quirks or find friends with the same tendencies. Is there a conspiracy? Why does this keep happening?

The reason is quite simple. It is the behavior, not the person, that is undesirable. Just as you wouldn't (hopefully) tell a child they are a bad boy or a bad girl, it is poor practice to label adults in this manner. As adults, the things that we react to are often triggers from our youth that we have not dealt with.

A friend of mine, years ago told me that relationships are like records with a scratch in it. Yes, this is a dated analogy, but roll with me. What do you do with a record that has a scratch? You can put the needle back to the beginning and keep getting stuck in the same spot and repeat yourself, OR you can pick up the needle, put it over the scratch, and move on. It is human nature to do the former. As a result, we feel stuck.

The first step in dealing with difficult people is to pinpoint your own triggers. Once you do this, it is a matter of then recognizing these triggers as they are happening. By doing this, you gain personal power over the circumstance and you are less likely to react.

Next, take a balcony approach. Step back and take an aerial view of the problem. What would you tell a friend to do in your situation? Is it worth engaging in combat? Is a conversation needed? (Be sure to calm down before approaching the difficult person.)

Lastly, consider where this person is in your circle of influence. Think of the five people that you talk to most frequently. This is your "Table of Five." These are people whose input you value and seek. Around your table is circle that includes family, friends and other people you trust. This is your inner circle. There is also an outer circle that includes acquaintances and people that you need to have a cordial relationship with but they are not a friend or trusted adviser.  Time and again, our "difficult" person is in the outer circle or beyond. Yet, we give them a place at our table of five. We put weight on what they say and allow them to influence our next move.

The next time you are facing your difficult person, ask yourself, "Do I want to give up a seat at my table for them?" If the answer is, "No." then, walk onto the balcony.

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