Dealing with Difficult People #2

The following material is gives a good perspective to dealing with difficult people. It was written by Doug Dickerson.

While the person you are irritated with may never change, understanding a few basic concepts will at least ease your frustration. Allow me to share a few simple guidelines when dealing with difficult people.

First, treat the difficult person the way you want to be treated. It’s a timeless principle, but timeless for a reason. It’s effective. You may never change the behavior patterns of the difficult people in your organization, but when you model courteous, professional behavior, hopefully somewhere down the line they will get a clue.

A difficult person, more times than not, is that way by choice. An advisor to President Lincoln suggested a certain candidate for Lincoln’s cabinet. But Lincoln refused, saying, “I don’t like the man’s face.” “But sir, he can’t be responsible for his face,” insisted the advisor. “Every man over forty is responsible for his face,” replied Lincoln, and the subject was dropped. Just as you are responsible for your face, so is that difficult person. It’s not your responsibility to change him, just treat him the way you want to be treated.

Second, take the high road. Lowering yourself to the level of that difficult person is never the answer. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn in to another’s bad behavior by behaving bad yourself. Keep your emotions and attitude in check. Don’t be like the man who was told by his physician, “Yes indeed, you do have rabies.” Upon hearing this, the patient immediately pulled out a pad and pencil and began to write. Thinking the man was making out his will, the doctor said, “Listen, this doesn’t mean you’re going to die. There is a cure for rabies.” “Oh, I know that,” the man said. “I’m just making a list of all the people I’m going to bite.”

John Maxwell said, “The disposition of a leader is important because it will influence the way the followers think and feel. Great leaders understand that the right attitude will set the right atmosphere, which enables the right responses from others.” When difficult people surround you, take the high road, perhaps others will follow you. But if not, then heed to advice of my next point.

Third, protect the morale and productivity of your organization. As a leader, it’s your duty to protect your team’s integrity and morale. Allowing a difficult person to continue on in his or her job, in the end, may cause more harm than good. As someone once said, “What you tolerate, you promote.”

Treating the difficult person the way you want to be treated, taking the high road, and protecting morale are key components of your leadership. When people in your office are walking on egg shells around a difficult person, it can be a messy situation. Do your team a favor- act with compassion, act with conviction, and act quickly.

Dealing with Difficult People

A lot of people are unreasonable—even Christians. We will run into people who will just not get it; they will not listen, deal, resolve, or handle things God’s way. They only want their way or the highway. Some people have hard hearts and are unwilling or unable, due to personality defects or chemical imbalances, to see another as God’s child. They only see it for themselves. This is very sad and there is not much you can do with them. They are the ones who will be lonely and bitter because that is what they want. We are still called to pray and minister to them, but it is best not to take their attacks personally.

We have to remember that we all are difficult at times and we all have sinned and fallen way short of God standards. That is what the cross is about! That is why it is so important to prepare yourself spiritually and keep your focus on God-not people or situations-so His fruit can work in you.

Prayer is the most important act for us in any manner. Also, remember, your obedience is what counts, not how others respond to you. We are even called to bless these unreasonable people, and we do that by remaining true to His Lordship in our maturity. You cannot be responsible for how others respond and treat you when you are acting in godly character (Romans 12:14-21). Do not let the situation or the bad people get you down, or cause you to compromise biblical precepts or your character! Never close the Bible or neglect prayer; your spiritual journey and your trust and growth in Him will be your anchor to weather the storms. Do not allow yourself to suffer in your spiritual pilgrimage because of someone else. You are still God’s special child (Colossians 3:1-4)! Do not let yourself fall to the world’s way, regardless of what the other person does. Give them over to God; He is the one who dispenses justice and revenge, not you (Hebrews 12:6)!

These are the times you need to especially control your tongue and attitude. Focus on the Lord, not the situation. Do not allow yourself to get into a pity party so it is all about you; it is not; it is all about Him. You may not be able to do anything to resolve the problem in a relationship, but that does not mean you are to give up—especially in marriage. Your purpose is to take the focus off yourself and onto Christ as Lord. That way, the bitterness and resentment you got from others will not become a virus that affects you! Repentance and reconciliation may still come. Remember His timing; I have seen miracles of reconciliation long after I had given up hope. God is still at work, even when we do not see Him. God may use your character to speak to them down the road; no relationship or attempt at reconciliation is ever wasted in His Kingdom!

This article was written by Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development .