A crab provides little food, so he is not so easy to eat. But the little food he does offer is the best food under the sky. To eat crab you must work, which makes you appreciate him more. He is the blessing, the remembrance. And no man or woman ever ate enough.— James A. Michener, Chesapeake
Listen up and smile, Marylanders! It’s almost crab season!
Even happy, crab-laden summers can be dulled by difficult people. Everyone has someone in their life that is difficult. Difficult people we encounter may include clients, bosses, co-workers, family members, and others in our lives. It would be easy to say “just remove yourself from the situation.” However, as in the case of care giving, that is not always possible.
The Lawyer Assistance Program of the Maryland State Bar Association publishes a monthly Wellness Tip on the MSBA web site – www.msba.org. The tip that recently caught my eye was titled “Coping with Difficult People.” Family care givers are often required to cope with a difficult loved one when the difficulty may be caused by disease or dementia.
The article was written by Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, CAC, and she has agreed to be our guest columnist this week, although we only have room for half of her article. Look for more about this subject next week. Find more information about the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program at the end of today’s column.
When dealing with difficult people, it is helpful to understand the correlation between your mental and physical health and the people in your life. Studies have shown that positive, supportive relationships can be good for your mental and physical health. However, negative relationships cause stress and can actually be detrimental to your mental and physical health.
Difficult relationships are often due to the interactions between two people. It is usually caused by a pattern of communication that fuels the conflict. You can’t change or control someone else, but you can look at how you react to that person and your role in the relationship.
Have a positive attitude – start off each day, before you get out of bed, visualizing how you want your day to look and how you want your interactions with other people to be. For example, you have a meeting with a difficult client. Going into that meeting with a negative attitude will produce a negative outcome. Looking ahead and changing your reactions and communication, with that person, can result in a positive outcome.
Be calm– Getting upset just fuels the fire. When you remain calm, you remain in control.
Practice stress management – Deep breathing is an easy technique, but you need to practice it to be able to use it when you need it. It goes like this – inhale through your nose for 5 seconds – tying to fill yourself with air from your toes up. Hold for 5 seconds. Exhale through your mouth or nose for 5 seconds. Repeat 2 more times. Put a sticky note where you feel stressed to remind you to breathe. For example, if talking on the phone makes you anxious. put a sticky note on your phone to remind you to breathe.
Don’t take behavior personally – Remember, behavior patterns begin in childhood.
Avoid “hot” topics – Keep conversations neutral. Don’t push someone’s buttons discussing topics you know they are passionate about.
Watch out for someone who is inconsistent – Someone who is nice to you but trashes other people, or who is short, rude or impatient is very likely someone you may not want to trust. This behavior is a red flag. This person can’t be trusted and can turn this behavior on you, too.
Focus on the positive – This can be helpful especially when dealing with family, and can make the time together more enjoyable.
Get support – Rely on people who have proven that they are there for you. Talk to someone you trust and who is a good listener to help you deal with your situation. Look at the pattern of your relationships and behavior and make sure you are choosing healthy people to be in your life. Don’t rely on someone who has let you down or causes a lot of drama and stress.
Let go – Don’t wait until you are totally beaten down to make a change in your life. When you can, end relationships that are no longer healthy for you. Learning to take care of yourself isn’t selfish; it’s how you stay healthy. If you can’t end the relationship, give yourself space when dealing with a difficult person and learn techniques to cope.
Don’t give up on dealing with difficult people. It can take getting help to learn communication techniques and new ways of coping. Remember you have control over yourself and your choices.
Senior Moments is grateful to the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program for the good counsel in today’s column. The Lawyer Assistance Program is a free, confidential counseling program for Lawyers, Judges, Law School Students and their families.
Thank you for reading. Stay well. See you next week.