What I am writing about this week is not the easiest practice to exercise, but incrementally, I have found it to be a practice in personal wellness with long-term benefits that far exceed the discomfort it creates.
When you are dealing with a difficult person, see and do first through a lens and intention of compassion.
I have come across numerous instances in my life in which people have given me a hard time. Whether it was intentional on their part or not, they became a source of frustration, anger, and resentment. I have led projects in which someone would constantly challenge my authority and speak up about every little thing I said. Other times, people with volatile emotional struggles have derailed plans or made a gathering unbearable. Sometimes, there are just people who are difficult because it is partly in their nature.
This has been a struggle for me, but I have been practicing being compassionate when I come across someone like that. Maybe they are having a bad day or week. Perhaps they may be dealing with a difficult physical condition or did not get enough sleep. Maybe they’re constipated?
Whatever the reason, compassion starts with a place of empathy and grows from there. If we could try to understand where they are coming from, we can not only gain insight toward a better way to proceed, but we can also start to unload feelings of anger or frustration in a more productive way.
There is, however, one caveat I must throw in. Being compassionate will not necessarily solve anything. The person may continue to be difficult, and there may not be a workable solution whatsoever. In those instances, you have to maintain your own sense of self-respect and uphold your end of the deal regardless of whatever drama may ensue. It may even be helpful to just be honest about your feelings after a good dose of compassion is doled out.
Either way, at some point it becomes clear that the person in question does not have the wherewithal to understand how their actions and words affect others no matter what you do. In those instances, project yourself, keep lines of communication clear and open, and try as best as you can to minimize the fallout. If he/she crashes and burns, they do not have to take the whole ship down with them.
If you color all of your actions with compassion, you give yourself the opportunity to consider the perspective of the difficult person. Being human, we may sometimes be blind to the struggles and circumstances of others, and compassion allows us to account for this.
What I have found as a result of being more compassionate toward others is a significant amount of reduced stress and anxiety. Instead of being reactionary and on the angry offensive, I exercise more patience to let others work themselves and their personal dramas out. This also allows me to free myself of constantly taking on responsibility for the actions and mistakes of others. If I take the time to understand the source of someone’s behavior, it helps me see when undesirable outcomes have nothing to do with me. After the twelfth time that someone fails to keep up with their responsibility and several attempts at trying to help that person, you can let yourself and your compassion off the hook. The rest is on them.
So, just think about it. If there is someone in school or at your workplace who rubs you the wrong way or antagonizes you, approach them with compassion and a solid dose of your own self-respect. Maybe you will find your own epiphany from the interactions.
Whatever happens, compassion is a true act of kindness, and we can use a whole lot more kindness in the world today.