Good morning, Learners. Today is the first post of a 3 part post on how to de-stress in working with difficult people. The first, and really only, question to ask when you are upset by someone is WHY? Why are they upsetting you so? Why are they pushing your buttons but seemingly no one else’s? The good news is that you have total control on fixing the stress you feel, and it all begins with you. While you’ll hear lots of advice to keep the past in the past, the reality is that you can only keep the past behind you until you learn the lesson. What is it about the difficult person in your life that reminds you of your childhood? What qualities does that person exhibit that resemble other difficult people in your life now and in the past? Does that person talk to you in that sarcastic tone that your father used to use?
The best lesson I learned in my Masters program was that if you didn’t learn the lesson the first time around, the bus will be around again. If you didn’t learn to take care of yourself in the past and set boundaries for others, you’ll be given opportunity after opportunity to learn how to take care of yourself. You’ll keep getting the lesson until it is learned. If patience is your issue, you’ll be continuously tested for your reaction to people being late, to disruptions to your schedule, to slow drivers in front of you, etc. Once you learn the lesson, those situations and people will not negatively affect you anymore. Think of taking a class where you are really struggling. You can’t advance to the next class until you pass it. If you continuously don’t do the homework and study, you’ll be in that class for a long time. Learn the lesson, and advance to the next stage of life.
The first of the 3 difficult people I’d like to discuss is the “Yes, butters.” I love to create funny names to help me picture ideas in my mind. Your Yes, butters are people where you offer advice, and their response to your helpful offer is, “Yes, but…” Or, you may hear, “I tried that, I’ve already done that, yes, I did that, BUT. The words may be slightly different, but the message of “this is so not helping me” is the same.
In analyzing what makes me happy, I realized that feeling I really helped someone makes me very happy. I’m not trying to be a goody-two-shoes; I’m saying that I get personal fulfillment when I know my work has really contributed to someone else’s well being. What stresses me out is when I am trying to help someone, and my work makes zero impact. When I hear Yes, but…, I know that I am trying to help but am not able to properly help that person.
Am I suggesting to just never talk to Yes, butters. No, even if that was feasible, I have found the best tool for Yes, butters is to listen. Just listening to them explain the problem WITHOUT YOU SOLVING IT is the best way to create a win/win. You can hear more about finding what the real problem is, and you won’t get frustrated that they aren’t taking your suggestions. Women have the reputation for wanting to vent without someone just trying to cut to the chase to solve the problem.
OK, here is the key to this idea of difficult people. People in general are rarely ONLY Yes, butters. There are many people who have a “default” personality type where they use this defense mechanism (because that is truly what it is) as a default, but we all can use this defense from time to time. Many times we don’t understand the REAL problem until we talk it out. Sometimes all you need is someone to just stand there and be a wall while you think out loud. Coming from the Yes, butters’ point of view, it can be very distracting to have someone trying to solve the problem before you know what the problem really is. Plus, the problem is most likely very complex, and offering a simple solution can be seen as kind of insulting.
To summarize, knowing yourself is the best way to understand your stress. Efforts to answer the WHY’s in your life will help you to know why certain people and certain behaviors are stressful to you. If you find people giving you “Yes, but” responses, that is your signal to stop and listen.