Every company has them and most teams have at least one. Families often have one as well. You know what I’m talking about; the employee or family member that makes you want to walk the other way when you see them coming. Instead of complaining about the difficult person in your midst, why not ask what they can teach you about–you? For example:
You have buttons they can push:
Who do you find it the most difficult to be around? Is it the narcissist who makes sure the conversation is always about them? Is it the complainer who finds fault with the resort the company chose for your team’s annual celebration? Or is it the passive-aggressive person who has perfected his or her tone while delivering the accusation, “That’s not what I meant—don’t be so sensitive!”? We all have buttons, areas of sensitivity that others can easily find and manipulate. Whatever yours is, the difficult person is there to remind you that it’s still there and that they “own” you as long as you have that button.
You have room to improve as well:
There is no doubt that the “difficult” person needs to overhaul their communication and interpersonal skills in the area or areas that make them difficult for many people. But what about you? Have you considered that the difficult person could be viewed as a reminder that you’re not as assertive as you need to be? That difficult person isn’t likely to change, are they? You can either keep letting that person push your button or you can decide it’s time for you to learn to be more assertive and set boundaries with them. The difficult person can teach you, “This isn’t just all about me—you have a part in this as well.”
You have blind spots too:
The difficult person has a behavior (or several) that is so unpleasant that everyone agrees there’s a problem—a serious problem. The bigger problem is they’re oblivious to what’s plain to everyone else! How can that be? The answer is that they’re just like you and me. We all have blind spots. We’re not blind to a horrendous behavior because our behaviors aren’t on that level. Yet, we’re not perfect either. Difficult people remind us that we all have blind spots. We can be like the difficult people and stay oblivious—or we can learn from them ask for some candid feed-back. Just because our behavior might not be a serious problem doesn’t mean we should ignore it.
– Alan Allard, Creator of Enlightened Happiness. For more from Alan, sign up for his newsletter at alanallard.com.