Why you should be thankful for difficult people


Even if you’re as cool as a cucumber, there’ll always be somebody to test your patience! Whether they’re criticising you, belittling you, or simply ignoring you, people can be challenging.

So, what is the best way to deal with difficult people? Well, contrary to popular belief, the best way to deal with challenging people is to embrace them. After all, denying your problems only gives them more power.

That said, it’s not easy to embrace people who make you seethe with anger or shrivel with fear. But it becomes a lot easier if you view difficult people as blessings rather than problems. Once you make that shift, your relationships will become altogether more satisfying.

What makes a person difficult?

If I asked you, ‘when was the last time you encountered an unreasonable person?’, you probably wouldn’t have to think too long before coming up with an answer. We are all tested by so-called ‘difficult people’ on a regular basis.

It might seem like there are certain ‘types’ of difficult people, such as the ‘know-it-alls’ or the ‘I-can-do-it-better-than-yous’. But this is quite a judgemental way of looking at it. In fact, we’ve all been a ‘difficult person’ at least once in our lives (just remember being a teenager!).

Although everyone is ‘difficult’ from time-to-time, people with low emotional intelligence (EI) tend to be the most inflammatory. However, it’s also true that people with low EI are easily triggered by others, so they may (unreasonably) perceive others to be ‘difficult’.

So, the bottom line is, all humans can become better communicators if they are willing to develop their emotional intelligence!

Why low emotional intelligence makes people difficult  

Emotional Intelligence matters because it is the lens through which we see and experience our lives. The more emotionally intelligent we are, the easier we’ll find it to manage our emotions and behaviours. On the flip side, low emotional intelligence can lead to:

  • Poor self-awareness – People with low EI tend to lack self-awareness. This can leave them vulnerable to addictions and impulsive behaviours. Indeed, addictions often arise when people try to suppress difficult emotions rather than deal with them head-on. In contrast, being in-tune with our emotions enables us to cope with our problems in a healthier way. Addicts are often perceived to be very difficult – especially by close family members.
  • Arrogance – This is quite common in people with inflated self-esteem but poor self-acceptance. It can be difficult to build meaningful relationships with people who are driven by arrogance.
  • A lack of empathy – A boss who lacks empathy will judge you harshly if you make a genuine mistake. Or, they’ll refuse to give you time off work for an important family event. This is because they struggle to see things from your point of view. Also, people who lack empathy often have poor listening skills. As a result, the colleagues and friends of an unempathetic person will struggle to feel truly ‘heard’.
  • Anxious/ highly critical of others – However, it’s important to look at things from a slightly different angle. People who are very anxious may perceive others to be ‘difficult’ when they are not. For example, people with health anxiety may interpret doctors to be ‘unhelpful’. Also, people with social anxiety may perceive all extroverted people to be extremely challenging. As mentioned, our perceptions about others are partly a reflection of ourselves, so we must be mindful of that when labelling others as ‘difficult’.

So, we’ve established that low emotional intelligence can make human interactions difficult, but what’s the solution?

Clearly, we shouldn’t just become social recluses until we’ve developed better emotional intelligence. So, what’s the alternative? Well, instead of seeing difficult human interactions as problems, perhaps we can view them as opportunities.

How to use human interactions to boost your EI

According to Eckhart Tolle, we should ‘regard difficult people as blessings’. Why is this? Well, difficult people give us the opportunity to enrich our emotional intelligence.

Let’s compare emotional intelligence to physical fitness… To become fitter and healthier, you must work out regularly. So, to become more emotionally-intelligent, it follows that you should do some ‘emotion work’ on a regular basis.

Part of this ‘emotion work’ can be done by reading self-help books, taking classes, etc., but hands-on experience is also necessary. Here’s how it can be done:

  1. Define the difficulty

Whether you’re dealing with a difficult boss or an arrogant best friend, first define the ‘difficult’ situation as you perceive it. Ideally, take pen to paper and answer the following questions:

  • What did you find challenging? Try to be specific about the other person’s behaviour, body language etc. For example, you might write ‘My boss didn’t wave or make eye contact with me this morning, but she spoke to everyone else. She ignores me a lot…and it makes me feel rubbish.’
  • What emotions and feelings did this experience trigger? Be very specific here… Labelling emotions helps to develop emotional intelligence.
  • What is the other person thinking/feeling about the situation? For now, just acknowledge your own presumed narrative. So, it could be “My boss must not like me. She must think I am boring or not value my work, otherwise she’d have taken the time to say ‘hi’…”

Often, we get so caught up in our emotional reactions that we don’t take the time to fully acknowledge what we are feeling and why we are feeling it. We cannot achieve self-awareness without fully acknowledging our emotions, so don’t overlook this step.

If you do nothing else, take the time to fully acknowledge your emotional reactions as this will significantly enrich your emotional intelligence.

  • Provide 3 alternatives

The next stage of the process is to come up with 3 alternative explanations of the situation. It’s best to write them down rather than keep them in your mind. To do this task, you’ll be practising empathy and rational thinking – both key components of EI.

So, for the previous example, you might write:  

  • Maybe my boss was just super busy this morning. She knows I can be trusted to get on with my work, so perhaps she didn’t feel the need to say ‘Hi’.
  • Maybe I am giving off unfriendly vibes and my boss left me alone because she didn’t want to feel like she was ‘bothering’ me.
  • Maybe my boss just didn’t realise I had arrived… After all, she is quite busy in the mornings so her attention could have been elsewhere.

Sometimes, people try to intentionally hurt others through their actions. However, often this is not the root cause of interpersonal rifts. Often, it is our reluctance to see the world from another’s perspective which causes us to label them as ‘difficult’. Or, it could be our own anxieties which our clouding our judgements.

Even if you strongly believe the other person is wholly at fault, don’t skip this step. It’s important to consider alternative explanations before you jump to conclusions.

  • Change the dynamic

You might find that changing the dynamic between you and the other person helps to improve your relationship.

So, let’s assume you think number 2 might be true (I.e. that you are giving off unfriendly vibes). For the next week, you could make a concerted effort to greet your boss in a friendly manner, and see if this improves the relationship. Remember, relationships aren’t one-sided. Both people must take responsibility for the dynamic of the relationship. Treating the other person in the way you’d like to be treated is often a great place to start. This is a very simple example of how modelling desirable behaviour can change the dynamic of your relationships. Think carefully about how you could incorporate this technique into your personal and professional lives.

If you try to change the dynamic but it doesn’t work, try having a grown-up conversation about the dynamic, instead. However, it’s important not to blame or accuse the other person. Instead, try to use ‘we’ statements as these share the burden of responsibility. Jay Johnson – behavioural analyst and executive coach – recommends saying something like “I’ve noticed we are having trouble communicating…We should probably take a look a this a little more effectively…”  

  • Practise acceptance

Difficult people allow you to practise the art of acceptance. Importantly, a large part of this acceptance is self-acceptance of your own reactive emotions.

So, let’s say your manager’s tendency to ignore you creates feelings of vulnerability, resentment and shame. You either have the choice to accept these feelings (through mindfulness) or repress/deny them. As mentioned, the latter can lead to addictions and other self-destructive behaviours.

Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool for inviting acceptance into your life. The more you practise it, the easier you will find it to stay calm in difficult situations.

  • Walk away

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, connecting with a particular person may not be possible.

Mindfulness teaches acceptance but it doesn’t teach resignation to one’s life circumstances. Sometimes, through mindfulness, you’ll realise that a person or situation is not helpful for you and therefore the best thing to do is walk away.

Most of the time this is not the case. This is because, usually, you will be able to modify your behaviour to improve the relationship. Nevertheless, you (and only you) may sometimes decide that it is right to walk away from a particular person or situation.  

How to cope with challenging people

To summarise, try to see challenging people as opportunities rather than stumbling blocks. After all, it is through interacting with so-called ‘difficult people’ that you learn more about yourself. In turn, this will enhance your emotional IQ.

As Daniel Goleman says, developing your emotional intelligence is a lifelong process. This means opportunities for personal development should always be embraced.

So, next time someone triggers you, don’t fly off the handle! But don’t ignore them, either…. Instead, practice empathy, acceptance and reflexive thinking. Above all, see the situation as an opportunity for personal growth.

Mindowl Weekly

Sign up to our free weekly newsletter, to have early access to new articles on Meditation, Psychology and Breathwork.  Enter your email to subscribe – emails are limited to one a week and your address will not be shared with anyone else.

Follow us on Instagram

254 Posts
5668 Followers

Mindowl

Go beyond the meditation app!
Free resources:
👇👇👇

We find ourselves in our own world a lot of the time & lost in thought, even when talking to our loved ones, friends and colleagues. 💭

Mindful communication involves applying the principles of mindfulness to the way we communicate with each other, labelling our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to enhance our awareness. 

By being mindful about how we interact with others, we can become more empathetic, compassionate, and honest. 💗

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/mindful-communication/

#meditation #mindfulness #peaceofmind #compassion #selfawareness #wellbeing #mindfulmoment #dailycalm #mindfulcommunication #quietthemind #selfacceptance #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation We find ourselves in our own world a lot of the time & lost in thought, even when talking to our loved ones, friends and colleagues. 💭

Mindful communication involves applying the principles of mindfulness to the way we communicate with each other, labelling our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to enhance our awareness. 

By being mindful about how we interact with others, we can become more empathetic, compassionate, and honest. 💗

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/mindful-communication/

#meditation #mindfulness #peaceofmind #compassion #selfawareness #wellbeing #mindfulmoment #dailycalm #mindfulcommunication #quietthemind #selfacceptance #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. 😊

If you want to be happy, practice compassion. 🤗

#quote #quoteoftheday #quotestoliveby #motivation #inspiration #inspirationquotes #livinginthemoment #mindfulmoment If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. 😊

If you want to be happy, practice compassion. 🤗

#quote #quoteoftheday #quotestoliveby #motivation #inspiration #inspirationquotes #livinginthemoment #mindfulmoment
One of the first steps you need to take in order to begin enjoying the simple pleasures in life is to slow down. 😊

Take a moment to stop what you are doing. 🚫

1️⃣ Draw your attention to your breath (this will ground you in the current moment).

2️⃣ Notice your breath entering and leaving your body.

3️⃣ Next, firmly plant your feet on the ground and draw your attention to this sensation.

4️⃣ Keep your attention and awareness directed at the breath or your feet on the ground, any time it moves away draw it back with patience.

5️⃣ Continue on with your day. 

This is a great way to introduce mindfulness into your life, you are simply making sure that your awareness is directed at the current moment. 🧘‍♂️

#presentmoment #selfawareness #innerwork #livinginthemoment #mindfulmoment #emotionalintelligence #wellbeing #wanderingmind #quietthemind #meditationsoul #livinginthenow  #calmthemind #livemindfully #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation #mindfulness One of the first steps you need to take in order to begin enjoying the simple pleasures in life is to slow down. 😊

Take a moment to stop what you are doing. 🚫

1️⃣ Draw your attention to your breath (this will ground you in the current moment).

2️⃣ Notice your breath entering and leaving your body.

3️⃣ Next, firmly plant your feet on the ground and draw your attention to this sensation.

4️⃣ Keep your attention and awareness directed at the breath or your feet on the ground, any time it moves away draw it back with patience.

5️⃣ Continue on with your day. 

This is a great way to introduce mindfulness into your life, you are simply making sure that your awareness is directed at the current moment. 🧘‍♂️

#presentmoment #selfawareness #innerwork #livinginthemoment #mindfulmoment #emotionalintelligence #wellbeing #wanderingmind #quietthemind #meditationsoul #livinginthenow  #calmthemind #livemindfully #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation #mindfulness
Flow states are moments when you are deeply connected & engaged in an activity, and therefore living in the present moment. 🧘

Whether it's sport, writing, drawing or even cleaning, flow states are a great reminder that mindful living doesn't always mean regular deep meditation - mindfulness is everywhere. 🍃

Read more ➡️ mindowl.org/effortless-meditation

#mindfulness #meditation #selfawareness #selfcompassion #innerwork #practicemindfulness #livinginthemoment #selflove #selfcare #mindfulmeditation #mindfulliving Flow states are moments when you are deeply connected & engaged in an activity, and therefore living in the present moment. 🧘

Whether it's sport, writing, drawing or even cleaning, flow states are a great reminder that mindful living doesn't always mean regular deep meditation - mindfulness is everywhere. 🍃

Read more ➡️ mindowl.org/effortless-meditation

#mindfulness #meditation #selfawareness #selfcompassion #innerwork #practicemindfulness #livinginthemoment #selflove #selfcare #mindfulmeditation #mindfulliving
There are a number of breathwork exercises that aim to make you feel more energised. 🏃

These types of breathwork include the Wim Hof Method, the 5-3-3 technique, and ‘Breath of Fire’. 🔥

Energising breathwork practice is far more healthy than using caffeine or sugar to liven yourself up. 🥤

So put down that cup of coffee, and give the incredible power of breathwork for energy a go. 💪

🔴 mindowl.org/breathwork-for-energy

#breathingexercise #breathing #mediation #exercise #mindbody #motivation #happiness #meditationsoul #selfcareseries #inspiration #mindfulnessteacher #wellbeing #mindfulmoment #wellness #mindfulmeditation #practicemindfulness #mindbodysoul #groundyourself #learn #breathworkmeditation #breathdeeply #yoga #zen
Putting in the maximum amount of continuous effort isn't always the answer, besides what society tells us. 💭

The art of effortless meditation is about stopping the search for "more" and instead focusing on what you already have. Stop worrying or waiting for something greater than what's happening right now. 💗

Wu Wei closely relates to the goal of effortless action. ✨

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/effortless-meditation

#mindfulness #meditation #innerwork #selflove #practicemindfulness #livinginthemoment #selfcare #mindfulmeditation #quietthemind #effortlessaction #artofdoingnothing
We understand selfishness as lacking consideration for others and being concerned only with personal gain and pleasure, yet doing the things which contribute towards a genuinely happy and meaningful life, can be intelligently selfish. 

Doing what's best for others is the same as doing what's best for yourself. ✨

This can be practiced through Tonglen Meditation, which helps cultivate an inner peace of mind by extending compassion towards others. 🙏

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/tonglen-meditation/

#meditation #mindfulness #peaceofmind #compassion #selfawareness #wellbeing #mindfulmoment #tonglenmeditation #quietthemind #selfacceptance #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation #dailycalm We understand selfishness as lacking consideration for others and being concerned only with personal gain and pleasure, yet doing the things which contribute towards a genuinely happy and meaningful life, can be intelligently selfish. 

Doing what's best for others is the same as doing what's best for yourself. ✨

This can be practiced through Tonglen Meditation, which helps cultivate an inner peace of mind by extending compassion towards others. 🙏

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/tonglen-meditation/

#meditation #mindfulness #peaceofmind #compassion #selfawareness #wellbeing #mindfulmoment #tonglenmeditation #quietthemind #selfacceptance #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation #dailycalm
Change is inevitable. It is important to focus on our relationship to change, one of the certain elements of life. 💭

To move with the fluctuation of life, change has to be embraced. We can choose to swim with the tide, or against it. 🧘

#mindfulness #meditation #selfawareness #selfcompassion #innerwork #practicemindfulness #livinginthemoment #selflove #selfcare #mindfulmeditation #inevitablechange Change is inevitable. It is important to focus on our relationship to change, one of the certain elements of life. 💭

To move with the fluctuation of life, change has to be embraced. We can choose to swim with the tide, or against it. 🧘

#mindfulness #meditation #selfawareness #selfcompassion #innerwork #practicemindfulness #livinginthemoment #selflove #selfcare #mindfulmeditation #inevitablechange
There is so much more to life, so much to experience when we simply notice. Don't let life pass you by, be present and be human. 💗

#quoteoftheday #quote #quotestoliveby #mindfulness #meditation #mindfulmeditation #livinginthemoment #quietthemind #mindfulmoment #livinginthenow #selfawareness #inspirationquotes #inspiration #innerpeace There is so much more to life, so much to experience when we simply notice. Don't let life pass you by, be present and be human. 💗

#quoteoftheday #quote #quotestoliveby #mindfulness #meditation #mindfulmeditation #livinginthemoment #quietthemind #mindfulmoment #livinginthenow #selfawareness #inspirationquotes #inspiration #innerpeace
We live in such a busy and fast pace environment, that we look past the beauty around us. In every moment of life there is something to be grateful for, you just need to look to find it. 🌞

Slow down and appreciate the small things in life. This can lead to an overall feeling of contentment day-to-day. 

Write down three things you are grateful for every night before bed, and watch your life transform as you train your mind to see the positive in each moment. ☕️

#mindfulness #selfcareseries #meditation #gratitude #practicegratitude #mindfulsoul #mindfulmoment #peacefulness #selflove #selfcare #presentmoment #groundyourself #livinginthemoment #mindfulmeditation #reflection
It’s important to follow some practical steps when seeking to achieve an intentional life. 🏃‍♀️

Start by making more Towards moves, and less Away moves. Towards moves are healthy habits that align with the sort of person we want to be. 🤸‍♂️

Away moves are ineffective and unhelpful; they hook us to difficult thoughts, emotions and behaviours. 😔

Consciously implementing intentional living can help reproduce more towards moves. 🧘‍♀️

🔴 mindowl.org/intentional-living

#mindfulness #happiness #inspiration #intentionalliving #lifestyle #wellbeing #selfcare #mindfulmoment #presentmoment #innerwork #learn #practice #calmthemind #peacefulness #groundyourself It’s important to follow some practical steps when seeking to achieve an intentional life. 🏃‍♀️

Start by making more Towards moves, and less Away moves. Towards moves are healthy habits that align with the sort of person we want to be. 🤸‍♂️

Away moves are ineffective and unhelpful; they hook us to difficult thoughts, emotions and behaviours. 😔

Consciously implementing intentional living can help reproduce more towards moves. 🧘‍♀️

🔴 mindowl.org/intentional-living

#mindfulness #happiness #inspiration #intentionalliving #lifestyle #wellbeing #selfcare #mindfulmoment #presentmoment #innerwork #learn #practice #calmthemind #peacefulness #groundyourself
Tonglen meditation is a type of ancient practice focused on compassion. It is a type of visualisation that enhances feelings of compassion towards others. 😌

The word Tonglen is Tibetan for "sending and taking" which is exactly what this practice aims to do. It allows you to focus on the wellbeing of others, stepping away from the usual self-centred approach of our busy daily lives. 🧘‍♂️

Follow this exercise to cultivate the power of Tonglen Meditation. 

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/tonglen-meditation/

#meditation #mindfulness #compassion #selfawareness #meditationexercise #tonglenmeditation #innerpeace #quietthemind #meditationmoment #healing #wellbeing

MORE FROM THE BLOG

Keep on reading

Mindful communication involves applying the principles of mindfulness to the way we communicate with each other. By being mindful about how we interact with others, we can become more empathetic, compassionate, and honest, while simultaneously training ourselves to recognise and resist negative or aggressive reactions to those around us. Just

Read More

Ancient Buddhist practices represent the root of most modern forms of meditation. However, many meditation styles are no longer guided by a spiritual path, having been adopted within various therapeutic or secular contexts because of their ability to foster calmness, peace of mind, and emotional intelligence. This is certainly true

Read More

When you have felt under attack or unsafe, have you ever noticed that your reaction only worsened the situation? Then you might need to read on. In this article we’re going to be discussing the huge difference between reacting and responding to stressful situations, and how we can bring our

Read More
  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    >