Four Things You Can Do to Free Yourself from Difficult People


Do you ever find yourself avoiding someone?  You don’t go to this event because you know ‘they’ will be there.  You plan a quick getaway scheme for family dinners just in case that certain someone says that certain thing.  Maybe that difficult someone is a bit closer to you?  A roommate, a co-worker, or —do I dare say it— your significant other??

I am suggesting right here at the beginning of this article, that the other person is not required to change at all and you can find freedom inside your relationship with them.  Your freedom really, really mostly has to do with you.  Crazy talk??

Let’s try something.  Pick a person who you consider difficult.  Just one please.  Grab a piece of paper.  Or whatever you use for ‘writing things down’.

Now follow these steps and let’s see what happens.

1.  Make a list.  1-5 things that this person does that you find difficult.  Example:  1.  They just don’t listen to me.   They talk about themselves way too much.  You, of course, might add more things on your list.

2.  Take a breath.  Now, examine why you find this difficult? 

I’m guessing you might be thinking things like, “What do you mean?  This person is a narcissist.  Nobody likes being around them.  Are you about to try and convince me that I am supposed to like this person?”

No worries.  You are definitely not required to like this person. 

The purpose of this process for you to find more freedom in this relationship, other challenging relationships, and life.


Back to the question, why you find these things in Number 1 difficult?  Example:  I expend so much energy when I am with them I am exhausted when I get home.  I never [if you wrote never, see my blog on Barometers] get to talk about what is happening in my life.  I would like it to be more balanced, or fair, or for this person to give a sh*t about me. 

3.  Take a breath.  Translate these thoughts/concerns into needs.  Remember needs are the experiences you value…and the actual cause of your distress.  [For needs list, click here].  Example: companionship, fairness, care, to be heard

4.  Write down 2-5 ways you might have more of these needs met.  Basically in the form of a request, which is something you might ask yourself or someone else for.  Please include one answer in each of these categories:   

a.  Request of myself.  Example:  I am going to write down 1 way that I might empathize with —maybe even find some compassion for this person about how it is they are the way they are.  In this case, I might write down:  This person is so challenged in her capacity to connect with others, that very few people listen to her.  So in order for her to find any connection she just talks and talks and talks. 

In this kind of request, you might find some spaciousness to drop out of the labeling of this person as difficult, while letting some compassion slip in.  Again, not so you will like this person, or fall into some idea that you have to spend time with this person.  Only so that your experience in the moment is one of compassion and care rather than blame and aggravation.  The quality of your life changes in this moment.  You still get to choose what you are going to do (or not do) with this person.  Also, you might generate some of the energy of the needs listed above —companionship and care.

b.  Request of the other person.  Is there something you might ask this person for with the intention of meeting the needs listed above?  Example:  I might let this person know that I would like to have some quiet time (either sharing why or not sharing why), and ask her directly if she would be willing to sit quietly, rather than talk if we spend time together.  If the answer is yes, then great.  If the answer is no, then I might excuse myself, citing that my quiet time is a priority right now.

Is it clear how this kind of communication increases the freedom you can find in this relationship?  Is it also clear how this request invites the possibility of meeting some of the needs listed above?  Is it also clear that no argument must ensue?  Just get up and go.

c.  Request of others.  Is there something you might ask of others to support you having the needs listed above?  Being super resourced in this way might be easier for you to consider ‘the difficult person’ more fully than the label you have placed on them?  Example:  I know that I am going to run into my ‘difficult’ person tonight.  So I ask another friend to sit with me, so that I won’t be alone with the ‘difficult’ friend.  I might even ask my good friend to interrupt the conversation if the ‘difficult’ one comes over and starts to talk to me.  Maybe even come up with a signal.

I repeat…this request is not so that you will spend more time with your ‘difficult’ person, or obligate yourself to do anything you don’t want to.  Possibly if you are steeping in the energy of these needs you might be able to drop out of the label, hold this person in compassion and care, and find more freedom in how you choose to spend time or not.  Meaning…rather than hold them as ‘bad’ or ‘difficult’, are you able to hold him/her/they as human with precious needs, (some of the same precious needs as your own) and have tragic ways to get them met.

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Can you find the freedom in your thinking to choose to not spend time with this person without having to make them wrong in some way? 

Okay.  My example is pretty easy.  What if your ‘difficult’ person is a co-worker, a family member or your significant other?

The process still applies. 

Challenge me! 

Write in the comments your situation and let’s see if we can find you (and your ‘difficult’ person) some freedom!