How To 'Deal With' People
Dealing with friends, family, or strangers who lash out, or shut down, or flake?
Unsure of how to act around the Know-It-All's, the Sensitive Sally's, the Overly-Positive Patti's, or the A**holes-Who-Seem-Impossible-To-Reason-With?
(Too enthusiastically) Boy, I sure am.
Well I have some interesting news about those people.
Nothing is permanent
Not success, not failure. Not anger. Not grudges. Not the heart of the most hateful person in America. Not even the unbelievably uplifting feeling you get from listening to your current favorite song. What this really means is: no person can be permanently defined by a single personality trait, choice, or failure. Everybody is, at all times, just trying to figure out the same things as you, with the template they were given. What created that template? Their parents, the environment they grew up in, their peers and adult influences, the love and care they received, societal/cultural norms, even genetics. But our templates aren't permanent. They're still evolving no matter how old we grow or how 'stuck in our ways' we seem. When you interact with another human being, you have an effect, however small, on their template, on their worldview, and on the choices they make in the future. Often, not letting a person rattle you requires simply zooming out of the moment to see its impermanence. Take the opportunity to add something new to someone's template, like patience, honesty, or belief in their worth. It can be a win for everyone involved, including neutral witnesses. Have you ever witnessed a grocery clerk or an office employee get exploded on by some angry douchebag, and just hold steady...? They don't snap back. They summon a calm, practiced empathy and point the, douchebag-turned-human-being in the direction of a resolution. And not only did they help that person, they helped themselves, and they helped you... and all you had to do was witness some empathy in action.
We Are The People Who Annoy Us
I hope this isn't too awkward... but we all kind of suck sometimes.
Remember the 'types of people' I described at the beginning of this post? Well they are all, technically, me. I am a Know-It-All, a Sensitive Sally, a Much-Too-Positive-Patti (there's a point where it just isn't helpful), and I am, sometimes, an a**hole who will not be reasoned with... just ask anyone I've dated! Hah. I have lashed out. I have shut down. I have flaked out. And... no offense, but you probably have too.
The point is, people tend to bother us the most because they reflect traits we haven't unpacked or acknowledged in ourselves. Riffs and ruffled feathers happen when you're not prepared for someone to trigger your deep insecurity or that anger you've been ignoring.
On the flip side, we are also the people we love, who inspire us to no end. We contain all the ingredients to be the hero of our story, and the empathy we cultivate for the humans around us makes everyday heroism a little easier. With that said...
A Little Self Reflection Paves The Way For Empathy
We can't always aikido the people who trigger the sh*t out of us. But in the moments we have to ourselves, when we're steaming and pacing the floor, just trying to wrap our minds around how anyone could possibly suck so much, we have the option to reflect inward, instead of outward. Look, nothing is permanent, but people who appear to suck at first have started to bother me less, because instead of focusing on how their behavior affects me, I try to zoom out to all the things they're dealing with, and how I would want to be spoken to if I was in their shoes. I'm not always successful at it but choosing a moment of quiet reflection, over a swift retaliation, tends to pay off.
We are conditioned to place the people around us into archetypes--Hero and Villain. Nice kid and douchebag. But everyone is typically doing the best they can with the life template they've been given, and no 'type of person' is actually a permanent state. When you give other people a little empathy, you gift them permission to make mistakes and grow, something you also deserve. As indulgent as it sometimes feels to complain and retaliate in anger, it's not helpful to you or the original offender. Hold steady. Know your worth and believe in theirs. You'll be doing both of you a favor.
*Versions of me, all trying to deal with 'that guy'.