Every time I am around him, he seems to hit my buttons. Often, I think he does it on purpose. Who am I talking about?
Well… I’m not telling.
But I think you know whom I am talking about. It’s that person who just seems to make life difficult for me. You have people like that in your life too, don’t you?
Maybe they have all the answers and feel the need to correct you. Or they look for you so that they can tell you how bad everything is. And how stupid you are.
Sometimes the difficult person just doesn’t like you and they are very open to talking about how incompetent you are.
I could go on and on describing the attribute of people who might be difficult for you to deal with. But actually, if you are a leader, you already know what I am talking about. We all have people in our lives that make it difficult for us to lead and to have fun while we are doing it. And in my most self-aware moments I realize that I am probably someone else’s difficult person. (Nah… that can’t be true. Who doesn’t like me?)
There are books, seminars and classes devoted to leading and dealing with difficult people. As a matter of fact, I just filmed a video addressing how leaders can most effectively deal with difficult people. Skills are desperately needed.
Here is my realization: For years I have made two huge mistakes in dealing with people that are difficult for me to lead.
The first mistake that I made was allowing others to emotionally control me.
See if this is familiar: I am in a meeting, trying to move an initiative forward. The whole group around the table is committed to change and to serving others. But every time we get close to designing action that will take us forward, there is one problem. His name is “Bob” (or “Ann”, or “Frank”, or “Jane” – you get the picture).
“Bob” always finds ways to undermine what I am doing. He seems to be on board, yet at the last minute tells everyone how what we are doing will never work.
The meeting comes to an end and we seem to have made very little progress. I get in my car and as I leave, my emotions seem to take over my body. I am angry, frustrated, and filled with nasty thoughts and words for this thorn in my side. When my emotions settle a bit I daydream of him getting a job transfer to Siberia. Then my emotions start over again. Anger. Frustration. Borderline hatred. I go home and my family walks in big circles around me. I go to bed filled with anxiety. I wake up emotionally drained and with an edge that is virally toxic. I have allowed someone else’s actions to control my emotions.
Have you ever allowed someone else to get into your head – to the point where you are filled with all kinds of emotions that you don’t seem to be able to get rid of?
What I have learned (the hard way), is that there is barely enough room for me in my head, much less someone else. I have to stop giving others power to control me. In learning this lesson, I have begun to implement different disciplines – writing down what I know to be true about me and about God. And, I am learning to not just surrender situations to God but actually let go of emotions. Yes, a big mistake I have made is to let others actions control my emotions.
A second mistake that I am repenting of is in the area of being a judgmental person. Nothing makes me judge others more than dealing with a difficult person. After all, they are bothering me so they must be wrong, right?
You may never struggle with this, but I am more and more aware of how I judge others. Being non-judgmental is a high value to me. So much so that I judge people who are judgmental. Whoops.
Hugh Halter, in his book Brimstone says, “I actually want less judgment than I used to. Not less justice – just more love, more help, more understanding, more mercy.”
“Jane” was so hard for me to be around. She was arrogant and combative. Jane would create chaos everywhere… every time. To me she was a poster child for high maintenance. You know how I dealt with her? I avoided her. I’m not proud of it and in some ways my evasion techniques were so ingrained in how I treated people that I wasn’t even aware of them. She made everything so difficult. Until one day when I got trapped into a conversation with her that took an unexpected turn. The monologue that she was unloading on me was in full force when she suddenly paused and said, “I’m sorry. I know you have other things on your plate and I know you don’t like me very much but I really need your help.”
My first reaction was to lie. “What? Of course I like you.”
But as we started talking more honestly I realized that this person, this brilliant, (albeit insecure) woman was trying hard to connect with me and in return all she felt was judgment. And to my surprise it had been going on for a long time. As if I was right on everything and she was wrong. How did judgment become a part of my leadership style?
I don’t have all the answers to dealing with difficult people. What I do know is that any time my dealings with people start to control my emotions – and I become judgmental – it’s wrong.
And with God’s help it will change
I need more love, more help, more understanding, more mercy. When those increase, I may actually be able to lead people, even difficult people.
I’d love to hear about your experiences dealing with difficult people in the COMMENTS Section, below.