Question : There are some people I meet who somehow always pick up little things I might say and make it a big deal. It is always so much of stress to be in their presence. I never know when that person would pounce on me, when he/she would misunderstand me and ‘put words in my mouth’. How do I deal with such people?
Answer : Don’t take other people’s negative reactions personally. Most difficult people behave negatively not just to you, but to everyone they interact with. What they say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own attitude towards life.
We have seen that people with so called ‘bad attitudes’ often have a lot of hidden pain and rejection coming from their past. This pain and trauma reflects in very subconscious patterns.
(Read this post on “The Blame Game” that people play to understand an interesting perspective on why people get stuck with blaming others.)
Somebody who is ever-ready to retort and ‘get even’ at the drop of a hat is often someone who has felt grossly violated and taken advantage of in the past. It is only to ensure that they are not treated like a doormat again that subconsciously, they are always on the guard. When they ‘pounce’ on you, deep inside they believe they are protecting themselves from pain and violation yet again! When they create a big ruckus over a little remark, they believe they are in some way undoing what has already happened in the past.
Unfortunately, for these people, unless they work with their past, bring up all those suppressed emotions of pain, anger, hurt, and ultimately forgive those who have originally hurt them, there really is never much peace.
And people who are targets of such ‘difficult people’ need to know that the only solution while dealing with such people is a lot of gentle love and sensitivity to their needs. Love alone can heal them. The more difficult they seem, the more they have been deprived of love and the more desperate they are for it.
Even when a situation seems personal, even if someone insults you directly, it oftentimes has nothing to do with you. Remember, what these people say and do, and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection and their understanding of people/the world based on their past. Their sense of reality is clouded by their emotions.
Talk to them without judgement. Talk to them with a lot of sensitivity. Talk to them with clarity and love. You will most likely see a different person in front of you.
NOTE : The questions and answers in this series are compilations of discussions during therapeutic sessions with my clients. These are not generic pieces of advice. I am deeply aware that these answers can seem way too simplistic for people actually going through similar situations. Please comment or connect with me if you find yourself grappling with something I have expressed.