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A better way of dealing with someone you can't stand

Fight, fright or flight?
Fight, fright or flight?
Jeff Gross Getty Images

Do you ever run across a person that seems to make it especially difficult to follow the Golden Rule?

Are there a few people running around that it seems their purpose in life is to make you feel stupid, incompetent, or inferior?

It’s difficult to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” when the other is baiting their hook with venom against you.

If you would rather not play their game, it’s best to avoid or taper the amount of time being around them. However, that is not always possible, particularly if it’s a relative or co-worker.

Here are some techniques you can use to resist the traps set by difficult people you can’t stand.

Be aware of your vulnerability. They want you to hurt and be angry. But you don’t have to accept it.

Try this instead:

1. Be respectful. No matter what happens, you are taking a higher ground. It doesn’t mean you have to roll over and take punishment, but if you are going to dish out a dose of disrespect, it's not going to be especially easy for them to change their attitude.

Remember, you are not required to be close to everyone. Being polite is a major key to getting along, and dealing with difficult people. Instead of going into that old familiar instant defensive mode, practice being calm instead.

Walking into their power struggle trap will only lead to defensiveness, summon criticism, or invite bad outcome.

2. Realize what is under your control. A short list would be your response, attitude, and willingness to take the high road. Change your response. Don’t let anyone treat you in an acceptable way by using assertive, but polite communication.

One of the best strategies for gaining control is to check that you are not repeating the same old patterns of negative interaction with the individual. Changing your response can lead to a more healthy pattern of communication.

3. Refuse to go down the instinctual road of fight, flight or freeze reactions. Don’t participate in the intended combat that you're being invited into. Your goal is to save hassle, time, energy, and perhaps even your own skin.

4. If you have to respond to an absurd attack, ask your adversary what exactly he is angry about. This will show him you are interested in collaborating, rather than in arguing. By doing this you throw the burden of responsibility bounces back in their court.

5. Try to find something--anything, even if it is just a morsel of truth--to agree with. By concentrating on this, it helps overcome your own compulsion to leap into the fire. Agree with that single bit.

6. Lower your and slow down your voice and tone. This will help you calm the emotion. It will be easier to be tactful without sounding defensive.

7. Acknowledge and reiterate any definite mistake, but decline any unfitting or negative label.

8. Offer your best shot as to what he is feeling, and ask for feedback. "It sounds like you're upset right now, and I'm sorry you feel that way."

You can take diplomatic control with a willingness to understand his frustration without finding fault or using defensiveness.

Instead of fighting to win the battle, your goal is to listen and ask questions that will lead him to his own positive conclusion.

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