Photo: Jeremiah Sullivan
There are times when you cannot handle difficult people and must distance yourself. But even this isn't black and white.
- Self-important people: Let them have their say. You can't shut them up. Mostly you can ignore their contribution, however. They tend to forget what they said very quickly. If they domineer to the point of suffocating you, stay away. The best strategy—the one used by those who actually love such types and marry them—is to sit back and enjoy the show.
- Chronic complainers: These people are bitter and angry but haven't dealt with the reality that the source of their anger is internal. Your only option is generally to put up with them and stay away when you can. Don't agree with their complaints or try to placate them. They have endless fuel for their bitterness and simmering rage.
- Victims: These people are passive-aggressive. They get away with doing wrong to you by hurting themselves in the bargain. If they arrive half an hour late at a restaurant, for example, they had something bad happen to hold them up. The fact that you are the target of the inconvenience is never acknowledged. The best tactic is to get as angry as you normally would, if called for. Don't take their victimization as an excuse. If the victim is a "poor me" type without the passive-aggressive side, offer realistic, practical help, rather than sympathy. (For example, if they announce that they might lose their job, say "I can loan you money and give you some job leads," instead of "That's awful. You must feel terrible.")
In the short run, most of the everyday difficult types want somebody to listen and not judge. If you can do that without getting involved, lending your ear for a while is also the decent thing to do. Being a good listener means not arguing, criticizing, offering your own opinion or interrupting. If the other person has a genuine interest in you—most difficult people don't—he or she will invite you to talk, not simply listen. Yet being a good listener has its limits. As soon as you feel taken advantage of, start exiting. The bottom line with practical psychology is that you know what to fix, what to put up with, and what to walk away from.
Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.
Keep Reading from Deepak Chopra:
When things go bump in the mind
The power of an open mind
When you help yourself, which self are you helping?