Difficult people have been trained and taught to act the way they do since they were children. In fact, they have been rewarded for their negative behaviour throughout their entire lives. Difficult behaviour worked for them as children and more important, it continues to work for them as adults. We have three choices each time we respond to another person:
1. Be positive
2. Be negative
3. Avoid or ignore them.
Difficult people see avoidance as a positive response. When we ignore unacceptable, inappropriate behaviour, it will usually happen again because our avoidance tells the difficult person that we are willing to accept them…
What do they really want?
Difficult people want to do their own thing, in their own time, in their own way, without interference. In addition, they expect everyone around them to cooperate, even work extra hard to ensure that this happens and they do not see anything unreasonable about these expectations. There is little in their experience to signal them that their actions are inappropriate. They also have little (if any) desire or motivation to change their habits.
What can I do about it?
We learn a lot from difficult people. We tolerate their behaviour and attitudes as ‘part of life.’ We hold back our feelings and swallow our words. We make concessions even when we do not receive anything in return. We compromise even when it is 90/10 instead of 50/50. We may even question our own ability to relate and communicate with others, reasoning that “maybe it’s me.”
Since we cannot change difficult people, we can only change ourselves and our reactions to their behaviour. They need our co-operation and our permission to intimidate, control and repeatedly manipulate us to get their way. In most relationships we are treated exactly the way we allow ourselves to be treated.