Dealing with difficult people is all about gaining the necessary skills to help them, according to Steven Eastmond, a therapist specializing in individual, couple and family counseling.
In Eastmond’s session during Education Week, he surprised the class by telling them there is no such thing as a difficult person.
“If you’re here, my guess is you know someone who is difficult,” said Eastmond as an introduction to the class. “We are talking about behaviors, not the person.”
Why, then, do we know so many people who seem difficult?
“People are only difficult to the extent that you and I have not developed the skills or tried the interventions needed to deal with the behaviors they bring to the table,” Eastmond said.
The skills needed to help the difficult person in mind often depend on the circumstance and experience of the person in question. Eastmond said there are very few people who don’t want help.
One of the skills suggested by Eastmond in dealing with those we deem “difficult” is meeting people where they are. Eastmond suggested getting on the same level as the person. Attempting to understand where they are coming from can go a long way.
Eastmond used many examples from the life of Jesus Christ to show how people should go about, “meeting people where they are.”
Some of the examples given of Christ were in Luke 19:1-10. Christ got up into the tree with Zacchaeus and reached out to him there.
Another example came from John 8:3-11, in the story of the woman taken in adultery.
“Instead of judging and rejecting the woman for the the sin that she committed to hurt herself, she went away feeling loved, accepted and accountable,” Eastmond said.
Judging is another common problem when dealing with difficult people.
“We tend to judge people by stereotypes,” Eastmond said. “Gather more information before you judge, perspective is everything.”
Learning the skill of validation is an important lesson to learn in dealing with difficult people.
“Validation is allowing the other person to have their opinion and their emotions about the situation,” Eastmond said.
Using the example of a teenage daughter coming to her mother and claiming she was “never there for her.” Eastmond showed that the mother’s initial reaction would be to point out examples of all the times she was there for her child, while instead all the child would want to hear is validation for her feelings.
“Do not be intimidated or defensive about things people may say to you,” Eastmond said. “Try and understand the person’s perspective or just say something like, ‘I understand you feel that way. How can I make you feel my love more?'”