In last week’s post, in discussing how to deal with difficult people, I explained the following:
When a human being wakes up, a conversation boots up that determines how the human being operates and what it can do. For the vast majority of people, the conversation is that of the ego and, as Deepak Chopra says, the ego mind believes you are an isolated individual trying to survive in a hostile world. Wow. Said another way, when we listen to the voice of the ego, it has us believe that you are over there, I am over here, we are separate and you are the enemy.
There are many other things you want to know about the ego’s conversation, all of which further explains the behavior of many people. Everyone has a conversation about themselves. That conversation is formed mostly from the early childhood messages we receive which, unfortunately, are mostly negative and critical. The ego latches on to these messages and generates a conversation that has three themes: I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy, and I’m not loved.
If you are a human being, you have that conversation playing in the background. The ONLY question is: how loud is it and how much do you listen to it. What you can generally conclude about “difficult people” is that this conversation is loud and they listen to it.
So what does a reasonably intelligent person do when they think they are not good enough? They adapt and a very common adaptation is to become very aggressive, so you don’t see what’s going on with them, and to put others down and be critical of them to somehow make themselves feel better by comparison.
Here too there is a solution, but it’s often not very obvious. What these people really need is a lot of appreciation and understanding. After all, they spend so much time beating themselves up, they surely don’t need you to do that too. Treat them like a wounded bird. Be gracious and compassionate. Go out of your way to look for the good in them and find every opportunity you can to acknowledge them. You’ll be amazed at how well this can work.
I’m reminded of a story told to me by Robin Duncan, my former coach, who I dedicated my book to. She worked for a company where one of the managers had a horrible reputation, treated people really poorly, and nobody wanted to work for him. And then, Robin was transferred to his department. Understanding what I have written here (I probably learned it from her), she treated him like gold. She didn’t buy into his negativity but treated him like a wonderful human being. The result: while he continued to treat others poorly, he treated her like a queen.