The extremity of situations in our world today, like a pandemic and an anti-racism movement, is bringing out the extreme in people: extreme emotions, extreme opinions, extreme judgments, extreme division.
The prolonged duration of universally stressful events also contributes to extreme feelings and reactions. Our brains have been in a prolonged state of fight-or-flight for months now.
But what about the outer world and the difficult people in it? The extremes are not going away anytime soon. It’s not getting any easier so here are strategies for dealing with difficult people in the middle of a messy, conflicted world.
Focus on Individuality Instead of Group Identity
When you are talking with someone, you are talking with an individual person. Instead of focusing on (or maybe demonizing based upon) stereotypes and prejudices associated with a particular group, try to see others as individuals.
Don’t assume traits, values or beliefs based on assumptions about group membership. Avoid labels and broad generalizations.
Individuals often times do not believe in ALL of the opinions or positions of a particular group.
Consider that every individual is influenced by factors beyond their control – as are you. Many life experiences and circumstances influence one’s traits, values and beliefs. That’s what makes us each unique individuals.
What does this acronym stand for? Quit Taking It Personally.
A client told me a story today about how she was walking down the street and a woman passed her and then shouted “Idiot!” My client was taken aback and felt hurt, wondering what she had done wrong to deserve that. She couldn’t imagine what it may have been.
Could the QTIP principle help her to reduce her own upset about what happened?
We concluded that the anger and negative energy that was part of “Idiot” had everything to do with the passing woman and nothing to do with my client.
If someone is upset, that is their own upset. It does not have to mean anything about you. It is your own mind that makes it about you – your challenge is to train your mind to not take it personally.
When you feel judged or you are in the presence of an opinion that you don’t agree with, try not to take it on. Be like Teflon and let it slide off of you and glide away.
If an opinion is lobbed at you, you do not have to let it stick. You are not obligated to take it on or respond at all. You do not have to try to convince (which likely is not the greatest use of your precious energy).
Another’s opinion is not yours and you do not have to accept it nor do you have to resist against it. Let it slide away easily.
With extremely divergent opinions, it can be wise to consider disengaging from the topic, or from the whole conversation.
Sometimes, disengaging from anxiety provoking conversations is a form of self-care and self-protection. Self-protection is a valid strategy right now. Disengaging is OK if you feel that’s way you need.
Keep in mind that there is a time for productive engagement with other viewpoints. But if engaging is not, or cannot be productive, then it just zaps your precious energy.
Practice – and Patience with Yourself
There is no easy fix for dealing with the stress and anxiety that comes with the extreme division that we are facing. All of these strategies require practice, practice, practice.
3 more resources to check out:
- I recently wrote about “How do I stop judging others, especially my friends and family?” Click HERE if you missed it.
- 7 Ways to Prevent Political Arguments with Family and Friends
- The Bridging Differences Playbook. With so much division in our communities… here are specific How-To strategies (backed by research too!) to bridge differences and put people before politics.