D EALING WITH DIFFICULT OR TOXIC PEOPLE Many times in life, and often in Military circles, we encounter people who have difficult and/or toxic personalities. These people can be overly aggressive and blatantly negative, often without realizing it. Dealing with difficult people and maintaining ongoing negative relationships is actually detrimental to our health. Other people’s negative energy can often be draining on our own. Daily conflict with these individuals can be physically exhausting and make it difficult to stay positive during trying times. It’s a good idea to diminish or eliminate relationships that are filled with conflict and/or drama. But, what do you do if the person in question is a family member, co-worker, neighbor or someone you otherwise can’t easily eliminate from your life? Accept who they are. Don’t try to change the person in question, you will most likely only make the situation worse and they may become more aggressive. It could cause the person to perceive you as a difficult person and put further strain on the relationship. Keep chats middle-of-the road. Try to avoid divisive conversation about personal issues, especially about religion, politics, or deployment rumors or gossip. If they try to hold a conversation that you know will turn into an argument, attempt the change the subject or leave the room if needed. Stop the insanity. Most relationship difficulties are due to a dynamic between two people; a pattern of behavior has developed through your interactions with each other. Only you have the power to change your response to a situation and get yourself out of a relationship rut. Don’t feel obligated to accept abusive behavior. Use assertive communication techniques to establish boundaries when the other person is treating you in an unacceptable manner. Look for the positive, avoid the negative. Try to see the best in the other person. Despite the persons’ bad behavior they surely possess positive characteristics; try to focus on these. Remaining optimistic and setting a positive mood in your interactions may help to keep conversations more positive. Be sure not to encourage bad behavior by engaging in it yourself. If you are bothered by rumors and gossip, don’t participate in it. Let others know you don’t entertain gossip when it comes up and don’t pass on any gossip you may have heard; let it stop at you. Don’t forget who you’re dealing with. We all need someone we can talk to, but if you know that the other person is a gossip or a flake, don’t pour your heart out or tell personal secrets to this person. They most likely will not keep this information to themselves. If you need to talk or vent, confide in someone who has proven they can be trusted, such as a close Family member, counselor, or Military & Family Life Consultant. You could also put your feelings down in a journal where it can be kept private. Know yourself and when to let go. Know when it is time to give yourself space and do so. If you have tried these techniques and the person is still antagonizing you, minimizing time spent with this person may help. If this still doesn’t help, it may be time to accept that this person doesn’t contribute anything positive to your life and it is time to move on. If this is the case, cut ties and be sure to let them know why. Explain what needs to happen if they wish to maintain a relationship and let it go.
T IPS AND TRICKS TO
AVOID CONFLICT KEEP DRAMA TO A MINIMUM
Watch your Non-Verbal Communication -
90% of communication is non-verbal. It’s not always what you say but how you say it. Body language and facial expressions are important, the other person may perceive arm folding, fidgeting, leaning forward, pursed lips, or eye rolling to be signs of aggression, disrespect, or disinterest. Tone of Voice and inflection can tell a lot about how you really feel. Do you speak loudly, curse often, or use a sarcastic tone? We don’t often realize we do these things because we do not pay attention to how we are speaking.
Use good Communication Skills -
Use “I” statements to express your feelings and perceptions. “I am feeling uncomfortable with this topic.” Avoid generalizations like always, never, and everyone. Be specific and speak only for yourself. Inform instead of order. Don’t assume people can read your mind, take responsibility for your feelings and let others know how you feel. Listen with your full attention. Avoid blaming, lecturing, name-calling, analyzing and sarcasm.
Be an Active Listener -
Pay attention, and be patient. Think about how the speaker feels and respond without judgment. Don’t interrupt. Use non-verbal cues to show you are listening such as head nodding and maintaining eye contact. Repeat what you think is being said and ask for clarification if you don’t understand. Ask open-ended questions.
Be careful with email Communications Tone can be difficult to determine in email communications. What you intended to say and the message that is received may be two different things. If you have an important, complicated, or delicate matter to discuss with someone, email may not be the way to go. If it is easier to pick up the phone or have the conversation in person that may be best. If you must email, watch your punctuation and use of capitals. All caps or the use of multiple exclamation points usually translates as yelling. Re-read your email prior to sending to make sure you are sending exactly what you are trying to say.
References http://managementhelp.org/interpersonal/difficult-people.htm http://humanresources.about.com/od/workrelationships/a/difficultpeople.htm http://www.helpguide.org/mental/effective_communication_skills.htm http://www.ehow.com/info_7980555_techniques-improve-communication-skills.html http://www.csusm.edu/caps/assertiveness