In the words of founding father Benjamin Franklin,
“…in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
With all due respect to the man who pioneered our understanding of electricity, opened the first public lending library, designed the U.S. Postal Service, made the first lightning rod, and invented bifocal reading glasses, he left something off his short list of certainties.
People are life’s greatest conundrum. They bring us happiness and drive us insane. They help us in times of need and hinder us at exactly the wrong moments. And one more thing is certain: at some point in life, we all interact with difficult personalities. Whether at work, play, or at home, some people push our buttons and bring out the worst in us.
We react instinctively. Our lowest self takes over. We get angry, snappy, passive aggressive, or vindictive. Whatever the case, we respond in ways we’re not proud of and certainly don’t want to be known for.
In an ideal world, we want to have civil, honest, and productive conversations about delicate, unavoidable subjects. Things come up. That’s life. Most of us can do it—with people we love and respect.
Challenging, yes. Impossible? No.
What’s tough is when have these conversations with people who get under our skin just by walking in the room. Too often, we cop out. We avoid the conversation, we let them have their way because caving is easier than taking a stand, we sacrifice our needs to keep the peace, or we get emotional and overreact.
None of these strategies work. At best, we kick the can down the road. At worst, we create an unresolved conflict.
Forewarned is Forearmed
In these situations, knowledge is your best friend. If you know you’re going to have a tough talk with someone who makes you crazy, take the following steps beforehand:
- Vow not to react to the person.
- Listen objectively.
- Respond objectively.
- Be the person you want to be.
When you focus on substance and not subtext, you break the chains of pre-programmed reactions that don’t serve you. When you value principles over personalities, you find solutions and move forward. When you trust in and act from your higher self, you maintain dignity and retain credibility.
You have the power to guide the situation in any direction you choose.
My advice? Always take the high road.