DISCLOSURE: Please understand that I am not an expert on anxiety. The opinions expressed in this blog are from my own and other’s experiences. If you need to seek help from a trained Mental Health Professional visit BETTERHELP (affiliate) to speak with a certified therapist at an affordable price.
Hello Again, Welcome Back
During a recent conversation with a friend, she pointed out that as a result of this unprecedented situation, many people are behaving in ways that they may not otherwise do. Many are wonderfully supportive and kind.
But, some are more aggressive, angry, and just plain difficult and while it may be understandable…it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.
So in this post, I want to suggest 7 Steps To Deal With Difficult People without making your own anxiety worse, and why you shouldn’t let their issues become yours.
Who Am I To Discuss Anxiety With You?
This year has been one of the most challenging of our lives…and I mean Every. Single. One of us.
That’s because it’s incredibly unusual for every person in the world to be affected by the same anxiety, frustration, and fear for the future.
Let’s start with… why should you listen to me talking about anxiety issues. Who am I to discuss something so intimate with you?
I understand what you’re going through…I really do.
If you have anxiety, you won’t be interested in listening to someone who’s never experienced it. Neither would I unless you’re a great friend or a therapist.
Yes, I’ve got control over much of my anxiety, with a lot of effort and some major life changes. But it still lingers and raises its ugly head in certain circumstances.
Are You An Introvert Like Me, And Highly Sensitive To Noise
Whether it be busy public places, social gatherings, overly boisterous extroverted people. This includes anyone who decides to get difficult because they have an issue…justified or not.
Here’s how I handle it.
It’s all about standing your ground, maintaining your personal boundaries and distancing yourself if all else fails.
Don’t Let Their Issues Become Yours
When you’re suffering from anxiety, dealing with anyone can be a challenge. Let’s face it, often, you just don’t want people around you. (related post)
Having to interact with normal, happy people can be especially difficult because you don’t feel happy. So it’s hard to know what to say…or whether you should even tell them that you’re not feeling up to their ‘life is wonderful’ attitude.
And I know that it’s no good anyone telling you to ‘buck up and get over it’….that isn’t going to work, ‘cos if it were that simple you would have done it already!
So what happens when you have to interact with difficult people.
It Could Be A Family Member Like A Bad-Tempered Spouse
Maybe a work colleague with issues, your 20-something kids still throwing tantrums (in my experience it’s usually daughters).
Or even people you meet in public. Who knows…difficult people are everywhere these days.
Sometimes, when you feel anxious or depressed, it can seem like their whole goal in life is to make those around them as miserable as possible, subject to their actions, words, and whims.
People Often Don’t Realize They’re Being Difficult
They may think that it’s everyone else’s fault for reacting in a certain way.
Or, they may be totally unaware that it’s the current pandemic circumstances or something else fueling their difficult behavior.
Interestingly, who you consider to be a difficult person and who someone else considers to be a difficult person, can differ.
It all depends on your own personality traits and life experiences…and the level of anxiety you are personally experiencing.
No matter what though, you can spot a difficult person as soon as you meet them. They provoke you and then make you feel like you’re the one in the wrong for responding the way you do.
OMG…this is JUST what you need in your current state of mind!
You Can’t Fully Escape Difficult People
Unfortunately, difficult people with their own issues (‘cos obviously they’ve got them) are everywhere in this world, even without the pandemic to deal with.
Sadly, the world we live in now has given rise to a lot of anger, frustration, fear, and grief. All this can naturally manifest into people behaving aggressively, being demanding, or just plain nasty.
And, while it’s understandable given the world’s circumstances, you really don’t want to be on the receiving end…particularly as you have your own issues to deal with.
Here Are 7 Steps To Deal With Difficult People
1. Distance Yourself From People Behaving Badly
If it’s someone acting up in public, just walk away. Don’t even engage them.
It’s not your problem if they can’t control themselves in front of people they don’t know, because they feel the need to seek attention.
Don’t let it get to you…don’t give at another thought. Just go and get a nice coffee in the nearest cafe where people are behaving normally, and you’re not the focus of their attention.
But what if it’s a friend, neighbor, or family member?
It’s not as easy to just walk away and remove yourself from them, (although I’ve done it) for self-preservation!
When someone is getting all het-up and irrational over something, you’d be amazed at how deflating it is when you just walk away from them.
Yes, it can make them angry but you’re in your car by then…so let them get on with it!
They will have got the point.
Sometimes some tough love can bring them back to better behavior. But, if this isn’t an option (like during a lock-down situation), tell them that you’re ok to discuss the issue with them, but only if they calm down first.
Remain strong and refuse to speak until they do. Works wonders, ‘cos talking to a brick wall isn’t any fun!
You May Need To Employ This Same Strategy At Work
Sometimes, when you tell a colleague or your boss to stop shouting at you, and that you don’t deserve to be treated that way, it will often bring him or her back to reality.
Just leave the door open for future communication by telling them that you would like to discuss it, but not while you’re being berated or shouted at.
2. Change The Way You React To Them
Although sometimes it is true that difficult people are just trying to get a reaction out of you, other times this is not their intention. Their emotions just get the better of them and bubble over.
So many people have ‘issues’ these days, unhappy marriages, problems with kids, finances, fear of Covid-19 and its implications, afraid for elderly parents. It’s quite often a hidden problem and nothing to do with you personally.
In a way, this is the same as your anxiety.
They aren’t causing it, but there will be times and situations where you really feel like taking it out on someone (I’m guilty…we probably all are!).
This is where it helps to look at yourself because if you change how you react to them, chances are it will change your interactions with them for the better.
For example, If you sense that the person you are dealing with wants to argue, don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap.
Quite often you can diffuse the situation by apologizing (even if it isn’t your fault), saying that you hadn’t realized you had upset them so much.
You’ll be surprised how often this can result in de-escalating a situation. Deep down they know that you weren’t the cause of their problem, so they may even feel apologetic for directing their outburst at you, and calm down.
3. Recognize That Everyone’s Personality Is Different
When I was still working in the corporate sector, I was encouraged to learn the Myers-Briggs personality types. I was a sales consultant and this gave me a better understanding of why people behave the way they do…it’s why we all react differently to things.
For example, some personalities are more analytical, while others are more happy-go-lucky. Some people react erratically to situations, where others internalize and become moody.
When you accept that no two people are alike, it can really help you understand the way people react…including people close to you.
Even though a person is related to you, doesn’t mean they will ever react to things the same way you do. I’m certain you already know this as any parent or spouse would…frustratingly so.
This Can Be More Accentuated As We Get Older
We become more set in our ways, and less inclined to change our point of view, or be prepared to consider other points of view.
While none of this helps your anxiety issue and what’s causing it, an understanding that different personality types require different ‘handling’ can lessen the challenge you experience.
Remember, you’re always free to decide whether to deal with it, or to just walk away.
4. Stay Calm And Stay Positive
I know…super easy to say but very difficult to do when you have your own issues to deal with. However, positive self-talk can do a great deal of good here. Tell yourself that you are going to stay calm before an interaction.
Try Using Positive Affirmations That ‘Speak’ To You
Only when you are calm can you think straight and deal with the difficult person in an effective manner.
This is a great habit to adopt even if you’re not confronted with difficult people. Keeping a positive attitude can go a long way to helping you cope with anxiety.
BUT…if all else fails and you feel your anxiety levels rising to an uncomfortable level…walk away.
Seriously. Tell the person you just can’t deal with their problem right now. Protect your peace of mind by removing yourself from the situation.
Remember, it’s always your choice to walk away.
You don’t have to bear the brunt of anyone else’s bad behavior. When you already have anxiety, there is nothing to be gained by allowing someone else to add to it.
5. It Helps To Chat With Others
If you’re having problems with a family member or spouse, think about discussing it with a close friend, or another relative. Someone who you can trust to give you considered advice.
Hopefully, you have already been able to confide in this person about the issues causing your anxiety, so they will be very aware of how upsetting the current situation is for you.
If you are at work, it can be beneficial to discuss a challenging person with another colleague that you trust. Perhaps your co-worker is experiencing the same thing and can offer you some more tips for dealing with this difficult person.
If nothing else, it can be very therapeutic to laugh at the extremes of behavior that some people exhibit. If you can laugh it off, and realize that it’s not just you…it will make you feel a whole lot better.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Confront Your Anxiety Head-On
Anxiety is usually caused by feelings of worry, unease, and fear, and 2020 has been the perfect breeding ground (seriously, no pun intended) to cause anxiety for those who weren’t suffering from it already.
Aside from the worry of Covid-19, spend time quietly considering what could be causing your ongoing feelings of anxiety and rationalize whether they are real or imagined as a result of some upcoming event in your life.
For example, a milestone birthday, turning 50 or 60, as silly as it may sound, these birthdays can be traumatic for some without you realizing it.
Don’t let a feeling of perceived helplessness stop you from analyzing the true cause of your anxiety.
Often there’s a rational reason behind an irrational fear. Guess what?…that means it can be conquered.
If you’re already aware of what’s causing your anxiety, remove yourself from any situations that make it worse and work on your self-care. Really prioritize it. It’s essential for your ongoing health and state of mind.
Make sure your family is aware that you’re going to prioritize it at certain times. Make a schedule and stick to it as far as possible.
7. Consult With A Counselor Or Chat With A Trusted Friend
Are you feeling like your anxiety is getting the better of you and you’re unable to get to the bottom of it? Is the added pressure of these confrontations at work or with family making things so much worse?
It can be very beneficial to have a chat with a trusted friend.
There is nothing to be gained by struggling along with feeling ‘unheard’ and trying to get on top of anxiety by yourself.
An outside perspective can work wonders to give you clarity and get to the real cause of the problem so you can take steps to overcome it. This worked for me.
During the early stages of menopause, (related post) I was at a point where I was anxious and would suddenly get panic attacks for no reason. The fact that I was getting the panic attacks was scarier than the attack itself because I was worried I was going nuts!
Let’s be honest, menopause makes us all a little crazy!
Consulting with a qualified counselor can really help. Or just opening up to a really good friend and laying all your cards on the table, can prompt some non-biased observations leading to inspiring ways to get on top of your problems.
For most of us, the anxiety we suffer from is known as ‘Generalized Anxiety Disorder’. This means the cause is a result of some perceived or potential problem in our daily lives that we are not dealing with.
This is totally different from a serious mental disorder. I’m not referring to any type of life-threatening depression. If you have any thoughts of self-harm, please consult a councelor (Betterhelp) (affiliate)
Often, it’s a reaction to stress. But sometimes it’s a result of an upcoming event, or knowing there is something we should deal with, but for some reason, we’re refusing to do so. AND, very often it is being caused by menopause…which means there are ways to deal with it.
Take comfort from the knowledge that this type of anxiety isn’t life or death. It’s often perceived and irrational.
Meaning… YOU CAN FIX IT BECAUSE YOU’RE AN AMAZING WOMAN!
So, stay positive. De-stress. Make plans and goals for the future. Don’t dwell on the negatives. Breath deeply. Exercise. Pamper yourself. Get plenty of sleep and water.
AND… avoid difficult people wherever possible! I really hope this post helped you deal with a side-effect of the pandemic, and think differently about your anxiety.
As always, I would live to hear your thoughts. Please drop me a line in the comments below.
Here’s to your stress-free and anxiety-free life.