One of the true keys to “Understanding and Working with Difficult People” is Self-Awareness* and I have probably written at least a book’s worth on this singular topic. Ultimately it is an area of self-discovery that we can all work on more AND it is something we should continue to work on our entire lives.
For this brief essay, I want to simply discuss perhaps its most fundamental, and therefore most important, ‘application’.
If we work on Self-Awareness, particularly when we are in difficult situations, something very important happens as a result – we change the foundation from which we are observing and ‘being in’ that situation. We move from reacting to observing and having the potential, because of this shift, of making choices. In essence, just making the effort to be more self-aware, has already changed what we are doing and that DOES impact the situation.
‘Difficult people,’ consciously or sub-consciously, often (most often!) do what they do to get us to react. When we create the space or opportunity to do something different than what they want and expect, we have significantly changed where we start from. We may ultimately still choose reactions that don’t do us much good, but at least we have stepped back a mote and placed ourselves in a position to do something else. [The next step(s) — making wiser decisions relevant to difficult people — is the focus of many pages of many of my books!]
If you really want to be successful in your interactions with others, start with self-awareness. Practice ‘knowing yourself.’
P.S. If you think your know yourself really well already – think back on all those times when you previously felt this way and on where you are today. Yup! I didn’t know myself that well back then either – Knowing yourself IS your life’s work.
*The first of my “Seven Keys to Understanding and Working with People” (or Difficult People)