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  • Writer's pictureLouise Carnachan

Difficult People—Why Do They Behave That Way?

Ah, the holidays 2021. You’ve got obligations, work, family, and the decisions whether to socialize as Covid continues. Welcome to a stressful time of year when any irritation can become monumental. Ironic that it’s during the season of peace on earth and good will to all.

If you’re already on the ragged edge, that difficult person in your life can become unbearable. “Why do they have to be like that?” you might complain. Well, here’s a primer:

  • You may find them unbearable, but others don’t. They probably have friends and people who love them. I know, it’s a shock.

  • Everyone’s the hero of their own journey. They feel justified in behaving the way they do.

  • This is the best they can offer given the resources they have. You may be more socially skilled or kinder, but this is what’s in their repertoire.

What’s a person on their last nerve to do? You have a number of options—all of which involve you.

  • You can tell them their behavior is egregious and they have to change. Warning, that’s not going to go well, so don’t do that unless you’re itching to fight. And if that’s what you want, take a long walk to clear your head.

  • Change your thinking about the situation. If you’ve been running a tape about how awful they are, eject it and replace with, “She’s doing the best she can,” “This is time limited, I can handle it,” “It’s sort of cute/funny/silly/sad if you think about it,” “That’s just Joey.” Then distract your mind with something else and stop ruminating.

  • Don’t gossip; it just adds to your negative mood and poisons others.

  • Pave the way for a more successful interaction by finding something good about the person and commenting on it. You have to be sincere, though, snarky won’t work.

  • Plan in advance if this person has a habit of acting out at the holidays. Shake up the tradition by doing activities, eliminate or reduce the triggers (alcohol is a big one), swap seating arrangements, or make the celebration shorter.

  • Make sure you’re in your best frame of mind by getting enough sleep, eating something besides sugar, monitoring your own intake of mood-altering substances, and not being so rushed or busy that you’re irritable.

  • Set intentions for a great day/meeting/lunch/celebration by writing them down in advance. Start your sentence with, “I intend to have a great/wonderful/satisfying/enjoyable (fill in the blank)”. Repeat your intention to yourself as necessary.

You’ve got this! Have a wonderful holiday season and winter solstice. Literally, brighter days are ahead.

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