How often, when trying to build a good relationship with a "difficult person", have you caught yourself saying or thinking things such as: "If only they would...; If only they would not...; If only they weren't so.....; If only they were more...
The list is endless and the effort to build the relationship can be frustrating. So what do you do?
Here is a simple suggestion and believe me it works:
1. Instead of making them the problem, make yourself the solution by asking yourself "In what ways can I change the experience I create when I interact with this person?"
2. Candidly ask yourself how changing the experience you create can give that person the opportunity to behave differently and by doing so perhaps even minimize your frustration and take the relationship down a positive and constructive path.
3. Manage your patience; change doesn't always occur quickly which often causes us to give up on our effort and the other person, even if they are trying to change the experience they create for us.
4. Muster up the courage to ask a few people what it is like to interact with you; this enables you to more clearly understand the experience you create and better understand how and why people react to you the way they do.
5. Be willing to share with others the experience they create when they interact with others and whenever possible offer both positive feedback and constructive suggestions on ways they could create an improved experience in their relationships.
Sometimes it helps to inject some humor when you are offering that feedback and an even greater sense of humor when receiving the feedback. Let me share two real-life examples.
Years ago one of my daughters said, "You know Dad sometimes I think that if I asked you what time it is you would also give me the history of the Swiss watchmaking industry. Maybe I should start to use a timer when I ask you a question. It prompted me to look at things like my conciseness, presentation skills and ability to engage people when time was a key factor in the interaction."
One of my colleagues is a brilliant man and a wonderful human being. He is also one of the most inquisitive people I know and has the ability to see connections not readily apparent to most of us. The problem this collection of strengths creates is two-fold: 1) conversations with him become very lengthy and not always focused; 2) he loses his awareness of when people stop listening and simply start hoping they can get a word in at some point.
We had offered feedback which he accepted but nothing had really changed. It just so happened that his 50th birthday was coming up and a small gathering of colleagues and his team was planned during the workday. When we surprised him he began to profusely thank each of us, one at a time. It was heartfelt but also typical of his pattern. As we began to look at each other one colleague said, "Mark, I know you love all of us but that is an ice cream cake and it's going to melt if you don't stop loving us." He was the first to laugh. From that day on, whenever he fell back into his old pattern someone would say, "The cake is melting."
We are all in this together so let's help each other understand the experience we create for each other. That way, sooner than we might expect, the good experiences outweigh the not so good."