You know the story of Pavlov’s dogs right?
In his digestive research, Pavlov and his assistants would introduce a variety of edible and non-edible items to dogs, and measure the saliva production that the items produced. Salivation, he noted, is a reflexive process. It occurs automatically in response to a specific stimulus and is not under conscious control. (Ref)
And that is exactly what happens when the stimulus of “difficult people” is waved under our noses. We experience a conditioned emotional response. Our heart takes over and we feel anger, resentment, fear, pain, regret … a potent cocktail of negativity which evokes the fight or flight impulse in us.
That’s okay up to a point, until you realise that while you’re in that frame of mind, there is nothing that you can do, to improve the situation.
Let’s face it – when you’re ready to punch someone in the nose, or you feel like curling up in the foetal position and letting out a primeval scream, you’re not going to be particularly well disposed to dealing with the problem, right?
That’s why, when we’re keen on actually doing something to fix the problem, to improve the relationship, to reduce the amount of stress that difficult people cause us – we need to stop and think. We need to engage the mind, to change the circumstances.
Of course, that’s God’s very point:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
That’s easier for some than others. If you’re a “heart person”, one of those people who perceives the world and interacts with it mainly through your heart, then it’s going to be more difficult for you, because your emotions (both positive and negative) play such a big part in this for you.
If, like me, you’re more of a “mind” and “strength” person, it’s less of an issue, but depending on the nature of the relationship, it can still be tough.
The difference between “heart” people and “mind and strength” people, explains why some struggle to deal with difficult people, and others don’t seem to mind too much about having to confront them.
But whichever we are, to make things better, we need to step back from the raw emotion and think about it. That’s the key. It’s not that the steps we need to take won’t involve our emotions, but while we’re busy judging the other person and thinking about all the ways that we can inflict pain on them, we’re not in a position to help them, or ourselves.
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye. (Matt 7:1-5)
The reason that I’ve written a book called Dealing with Difficult People is because we all have difficult people in our lives. And we all need help to move from our Pavlovian emotional responses, to thinking through how we can improve our most difficult relationships, and then taking the steps to make that happen.
And the reason I’ve made the book available as a free download in eBook format, is that I know that you too, like the rest of us, have difficult people in your life. So be blessed as you embark on your journey, to deal with the difficult people in your life.
Written by: Miriam Emenike
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