Duchess Digest: Five Ways to Defuse Difficulty

By Jill Brown

deal with difficult people and situationsThere are times in life when you are going to have to be handling difficult people and dealing with difficult situations, regardless of whether or not you want to. Maybe it’s your in-laws, maybe it’s a co-worker, or maybe it’s a neighbor – but for those situations where you can limit but can’t simply end your contact with a difficult person you may need some help. You can get worked up, you can yell and have arguments and match hostility for hostility, but the problem I’ve found with matching pressure is often that an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. Because the truth for me is that I have a pretty wicked temper and a very ornery stubborn streak that can cause me to react to others actions with a blow-up or worse and in the end, the person who usually suffers the most for my behavior is me.

Think of the people you most admire and respect and chances are they’re the ones who handle conflict, arguments, difficult people and situations with a clear head and a calm tongue – so what can we learn from them?

Here are a five things I’m working toward that may help you out too when you have to deal with difficulty in your life:

  1. Don’t React. It is ALWAYS better to initiate rational action then to react to others aggression toward you. When you react you take a knee-jerk look often with little to no long-term perspective, at another. It’s hard in the heat of the moment to calculate the rationality of your emotional response. I’ve always found it’s better to try to collect your thoughts, usually sleep on it, and then initiate the kind of calm conversation you’d like to have versus an explosion of reaction to someone else’s initiated conversation.
  2. When in Doubt, Pause. So lets say you have to react because there isn’t another option. Just because you have to react, and maybe can’t be the initiating party, doesn’t mean you have to react instantly. I’ve found that pausing is a VERY good idea. Whether it’s just a count of ten, a few minutes, or a couple days, it’s always a good idea to pause and consider your response and the other person.
  3. Put your Ego on the shelf. Often times we don’t tell people what we should when it’s nice because we’re scared of getting hurt. But we all seem very keen to point out their character defaults and flaws at the drop of a hat to protect our egos. What’s that? You’re breaking up with me? Really I’m upset and don’t want you to but since you’re rejecting ME, I’m going to tell you that I think you suck and you were bad in bed. Not nice ladies. Better to exit with grace and kindness because at the end of the day, there’s a reason you spent so much time with this person. Odds are good you loved your odd goods and your ego is talking when you go on the defense with cutting comments that often leave unseen scars on the other person. Try to hold your tongue and table your ego. Unless it’s to say something nice and give the person the freedom to move on or take whatever action they need. People can be great people alone who don’t do well together (relationships, neighbors, in-laws or otherwise). If you break this rule, an apology is always a good idea to acknowledge you screwed up. Don’t do it expecting anything back or the situation to change – do it because it’s the right thing to do and you acted poorly.
  4. Ask Questions. Remember that pause thing I was talking about earlier? One thing I HIGHLY recommend is asking questions in the pause. Not from the other person but from yourself. Questions like “What is my big goal here?” If you’re in a disagreement with a co-worker is your blow up and pressure matching pissing contest going to breed an environment of hostility and uncooperative partnership for the time ahead? Is that really what you want? Better to calm down, shelf your ego about the person’s attack and respond in a way that diffuses the difficulty as opposed to increasing it. Same thing with relationships? I’ve found I react and get angry, not taking the pause and not asking the questions, like “What is my goal here? Is it more important for me to be right or to be with my partner, who I love? Am I willing to lose this relationship because of this argument?” That one question could save a lot of arguments and break-ups right there. If you can put into perspective the argument at hand it will help you from being single a month later wondering what the hell happened and why you didn’t just take a moment to be nice instead of blow up and end things. Think about it!
  5. Finally, consider the meaning of life . . .. LOVE and RESPONSIBILITY. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I think the point and meaning of life is love, and I think with that comes great responsibility. Life is about love. Love for your career, love for your hobbies, love for where you live, your family, your self, your spouse and every other aspect of the life you’re creating. I think we’re all put here to figure our how to stop getting in our own damn way, creating our own drama and then blaming it for our own unhappiness. You’re supposed to love your life and everything in it. That’s the point of this life experience. But with that comes the responsibility of taking accountability for where you are. If you hate your job it’s your own damn fault. Focus on the things you love about it or get a new one but do something! If you have relationship drama then knock it off! Stop fighting and start telling your boyfriend or spouse why you love them, what you appreciate about them and stop focusing on what they can do for you. It’s your job to be happy. It is not their job to make you happy. Same thing with work, family, your mother, your bank account, etc. Take accountability and be responsible for where you are, wherever that is, because ultimately you’re the one that got you there. Learn to love; learn to be grateful – that’s the best responsibility in the world (and this comes from a woman still learning her own lesson).

Life is a splendid thing if you let it be. Don’t let difficult people stand in the way of your happiness. You can choose to be happy, kind and loving in every situation if you can develop that skill and set your ego aside. It takes practice, it takes work, I’m still learning every day. But I think it’s a practice worth doing because a life well lived is the meaning of life.

Jill Brown is a Los Angeles, California-based coach and writer. She earned her Bachelors in Humanities and Sociology from USU and is a member of the National Association for Conflict Resolution and the Ladies Who Launch Network. She is the founder of “The Duchess Guide” a website dedicated to helping women become their most fabulous selves for dating success.  For more on The Duchess Guide or Jill visit: http://theduchessguide.com/

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