Difficult People – Engage Them Without Being Absorbed by Them.

Frustrated Casual young man closing his ears with his handsThere are people in this world who are just difficult people.  Maybe they…

          • Love to stir up gossip.
          • Get others to do their work.
          • Are argumentative or negative.
          • Repeat the same careless mistakes.
          • Make the same old excuses.
          • Demand their own way.

Whatever the reason, difficult people make life difficult.  So what can you do about them…without getting thrown in jail?

The typical responses to difficult people is to either avoid them or to let them eat you alive.  Avoidance doesn’t help them and being eaten alive doesn’t help you.  The key to dealing with difficult people is to engage them without being absorbed by them.  To do that, you need to:

  • Speak the truth in love.  Sometimes we don’t want to upset them by speaking the truth.  Sometimes we’re so frustrated with them we just blast them with the truth.  You need both truth and love when dealing with difficult people.
  • Offer help without expectation.  A difficult person will either shun your attempts to help, or expect you to do everything, or be critical and ungrateful of your help.  If you’re going to extend help to a difficult person, you need to do it without expecting or needing them to response positively.
  • Set your own priorities and agendas.  Difficult people will often set your priorities and agendas for you…either because you succumb to their manipulation or you get caught up in their chaos.  Set your own priorities and agendas apart from the difficult person and it will keep you from getting sidetracked by them.
  • Be gracious, but don’t condone or enable bad behavior.  This is perhaps the most difficult thing of all.  In an effort to smooth things over and help a difficult person, we often make make it easier for them to be difficult.  Be clear with them.  Let them know that though you care for them, you won’t condone their bad behavior.

There have always been difficult people.  There will always be difficult people.  You can’t avoid them.  So, when it comes to difficult people, learn to engage them without being absorbed by them.

Oh, and to keep things in perspective, always remember that some people may feel that you’re the difficult person.

On another level…

Because difficult people have been around for a very long time, the Bible has much to say about difficult people.  Prov. 26  speaks specifically about difficult people, but then it gives some confusing and seemingly contradictory advice.  Verse 4 says, “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.”  But then the very next verse says, “Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.”  Though it sounds confusing, here’s what those verses are telling us.  Don’t disengage from a difficult person, but don’t get too lost in a difficult person.  In other words…engage without getting absorbed.

Leave a comment and tell us how you deal with difficult people, and how you try to engage them without getting absorbed by them.  

Copyright © 2014 Bret Legg

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