Blog Archives

What I’ve Learned from “Difficult” People

A thankfulfew years ago, I would have complained that I had to deal almost daily with people who irritated me.

I had no concept of all the mean and completely self-centered people I would someday not only deal with on a regular basis but also come to accept. I would have thought I was too strong-willed and strong-minded to tolerate such people.

But a few years ago, I wouldn’t have recognized that, sometimes, being tolerant is not only the best way to deal with most difficult people, it is also a great learning experience.

That’s not to say I’ll ever accept bad or abusive behavior, but it does mean that one of the benefits of getting older is gaining perspective. And perspective has taught me that difficult people have done more to teach me about how to live my life than many of the kind and giving people I also encounter on a daily basis.

Difficult people have taught me that paying attention and listening to others is much more important than ensuring others listen to me.

Difficult people have taught me that a rude word will always being louder than a compliment that is shouted to the world.

Difficult people have taught me that being concerned with who gets credit for good deeds or successes tarnishes all that has been accomplished.

Difficult people have taught me that spreading lies and half-truths may garner immediate attention but will ultimately lead to a lack of credibility.

Difficult people have taught me that belittling, attempting to control or asserting power over others actually renders a person weak in the eyes of others.

And difficult people have taught me that refusal to adopt others’ ideas or accept constructive criticism stunts growth and limits possibilities.

I would be lying if I said difficult people no longer bother me or manage to get under skin. They do.

But I do find that the older I get, the less time and emotional energy I waste wishing I could change difficult people and the more time and energy I spend contemplating how to best apply their lessons to my own life.

Nellie Oleson and Other Monsters

Nellie OlesonThere is nothing worse than realizing your childhood nightmare is actually a reality.

As a child, my monsters were people who thought they were better than others because they were attractive or had money.

As an adult, I’ve discovered that I actually live among such monsters.

Growing up, these monsters were portrayed as fictional characters like Nellie Oleson from the television show Little House on the Prairie.

To most people, that show was about family.

To me, it was an epic battle of good and evil.

Good was represented by the hard-working Ingalls family, and evil was represented by Nellie Oleson and her mother. The ambivalence of society was represented by Nellie’s father who rarely stood up to his wife and his manipulative and self-centered  daughter, Nellie.

Nellie thought she was better than others because her family had money and other families didn’t. Not only that, but she actually looked down at people who didn’t have the same resources.

As a child, I never understood how anyone could actually like Nellie, who never did anything to earn her pretty dresses and easy lifestyle.

As an adult, I am amazed that I still have to battle such monsters.

These monsters rear their ugly heads in the form of  women who have never had to work to support their family. They have married men with good jobs and depended on their husbands for money. (And for the record, living on a budget in college or in early adulthood isn’t poverty). At the same time, they belittle the working poor and call them lazy. Here’s my advice: If you have never had to support a family on your income alone, you have no right to judge others.

These monsters bear their teeth when their beliefs about social status are challenged. Here’s my advice: Don’t open your mouth about poverty unless you have either experienced it yourself or have spent time with those who have.

Finally, these monsters avoid people who struggle as though they carry some type of disease. Here’s my advice: Surround yourself with people who are different than you. Not only will you become a more well-rounded and educated person, you might discover others have a great deal to offer.

This week, I had a realization that I can never slay the monsters I feel as though I am always battling.

But I did realize I have every right to walk around these monsters and keep going.

And if enough people join me, we can show the monsters how we really feel.

 

A Simple Guide to Driving Me Crazy

 

Before I get to simple strategies for driving me crazy, I need to make a disclaimer:  I don’t think I’m perfect. Not even close. In fact, I know I’m far, far from it.

If  you know me at all, you know that I am the first person to call myself out and recognize my own flaws.  And there are a lot of them:

I talk too much, which means I interrupt too much. I have to let everyone know exactly how I feel, whether they care or not. I’m too opinionated, and I don’t even try to hide my true feelings. I constantly compare myself to others and obsess about how I fall short. I have a temper that I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to keep hidden but, at times, still rears its ugly head.

The list goes on and on., and I haven’t even touched on all my physical flaws. But no one except me cares about those anyway, so there’s no reason to list them.

But this week, other people have driven me absolutely CRAZY.

CRAZY to the point that I really just want to avoid all people.

 CRAZY to the point that I feel the need to share the insanity with everyone else.

 CRAZY to the point that if I don’t write about it, my condition may become permanent.

And so, I’m writing down the characteristics and behaviors that drive … or maybe have already driven… me crazy.  Obviously, I’m not naming names. No point in that. But I do feel the need to vent.

And, if you have any interest in making me completely insane, here’s the check list:

1.      Live your life as though you are the center of the universe. After all, every political, economic, or social issue is about how it affects you…not how it affects people who might not have the family support, intelligence or other resources that make life easier for the more fortunate.

2.      Throw your money around to get what you want. And, if you give money to an organization, make sure everyone knows you are now entitled to drive the direction of a project or a program based on the fact that you gave money. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have the slightest clue how to effectively address the issue. 

3.      When you are in a meeting or engaged in a conversation, be more intent on what you want to say next rather than on listening to what others are saying.

4.      Take credit for work that you never did. After all, if you follow principle number 2 as listed above, you deserve to get the glory whether you did the work or not.

5.      If you are working on a project or program with others, your top priority is letting everyone else know how smart, well-read or experienced you are… or at least think you are. 

6.      Don’t make any attempt to learn about and understand the people you are working with (whether it’s in the workplace or on a volunteer team.)  After all, you already know it all anyway.

7.      Make promises you don’t keep. Instead of following through on you commitment, spend all your energy ensuring everyone thinks you did something.  It IS all about your image.

8.      Don’t follow the rules. You are allowed to do this since you are special, more important or just in a bigger hurry than everyone else. Therefore, you don’t need to wait in line with people who are less important.

9.      Make sure you employ devious ways to tear down the people who are actually doing good work.  After all, their hard work and success might make you look bad for not following through on your commitments or playing nice with others.

10.   After you have engaged in any or all of the above behaviors? Pretend to be nice to my face while trying to undermine me behind my back.

So there you have it, a guide to drive me insane.

You might think I’m a bit crazy for even sharing this list. If so, you are probably be right. But if I am? You now know the reason why.