At some point in our life, we all encounter an unreasonable person. Maybe you’re stuck with this difficult individual at work or, even worse, at home. Maybe you used to be in love with this person but now that you have broken up, their pain and anger is resulting in unreasonable behaviour (this is often amplified when children are involved). It’s easy to let this challenging person affect you and your enjoyment of life but if you have some effective strategies, it can make the situation much more bearable.
How to Communicate with Difficult People
1. Keep your cool: Don’t escalate problems and maintain your self-control. In the heat of disagreements, pause, breathe, collect your thoughts and calm your emotions.
2. Reduce interactions: Unless it is really important, minimise your interactions. It’s very hard to convince a person with an entrenched mindset so don’t waste your valuable time. Be diplomatic and polite when you interact but for the rest of the time, keep a healthy distance. And on no account resort to name calling or insults.
3. Don’t personalise other people’s behaviours: The way someone acts says a lot about them and very little about you. A person’s behaviour is often out of their own awareness.
4. Be assertive and proactive rather than reactive: Use “I” statements instead of “you” accusations and state your needs clearly. Don’t be drawn in and dragged down by other people’s problems. Focus your energy on problem-solving.
5. Pick your battles: Not every difficult behaviour requires confrontation. Decide when it is worth the effort to discuss the problem.
6. Separate the person from the issue: When communicating, there are two main elements – the issue being discussed and your relationship with the person. Be soft on the person and firm on the issue.
7. Accept them for who they are: Stop hoping they will one day act how you would like them to. Instead, consider setting clear boundaries for the relationship.
8. Don’t try to convert them to your point of view: Some people won’t change. Don’t try to explain yourself or get them to understand your perspective.
9. Shine the spotlight on them: Difficult people often have strong opinions and like to make you feel uncomfortable by pointing out what they perceive as being wrong with you. Being defensive will just intensify the situation. Change the dynamics by asking constructive questions – focus on them and their experience.
10. Use humour if you can: Humour can diffuse anger and help make people aware of their behaviour. Try to help the person focus on something positive.
11. Focus on facts: Don’t get caught by exaggerated views and absolutes like “always” or “never”. Counter these ideas with rational opinions, keep it short and clear and don’t get too emotional.
12. Avoid certain topics: Stay away from topics that invite attack and get you into trouble or cause disagreements.
13. If safe, seek to assert yourself: Bullies pick on people they perceive as weaker so avoid being passive and compliant. In the face of escalating tensions aim to shut down confrontation sooner rather than later. If someone is shouting, end the conversation and if necessary, walk away.
14. Don’t drink with them: It might be tempting to use alcohol to cope with difficult interactions but it will only make you emotionally susceptible and more prone to say something that will either make you a target or make you feel lousy.
15. Change your mindset: Accept that there will always be difficult people. Increase your frustration tolerance, be aware of your perceptions of others and practise empathy rather than judgement.
How to co-parent peacefully after divorce
Co-parenting after divorce can be a midfield. You are dealing with the unreasonable behaviour of your ex, often caused by pain, resentment and anger. However, it is vital for children (and yourself) that you deal with this interaction effectively.
This is a long-term scenario so the quicker you can neutralise the situation, the better it will be for everyone involved.
• Practise mindfulness: Focus on the present interaction rather than reacting to past arguments.
• Avoid judgement: Judging is easy but it doesn’t help. Empathy brings about change rather than dwelling on past bad behaviour.
• Find ways to manage your anger: Anger interferes with your ability to think clearly and act appropriately
• Understand trigger points: Couples have predictable patterns. You know each other’s triggers and weaknesses so you can avoid them or use them to your benefit.
• Be efficient and concise: Stick to short sentences and firm boundaries and avoid emotionally charged conversations. Remain calm and rational. Don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
• Stay strong and keep at it: It only takes one person to change their behaviour and thus the course of the conflict – be that person.
• Take care of yourself: Conflict takes a toll on your physical and mental health. Nourish your mind and body. Focus on what you are doing right.
If you would need help coping with unreasonable behaviour at home or at work, call Wellbeing Therapy Space on 1300 208 680 or contact us online.