The topic of dealing with difficult people is a broad topic. Difficult people come in all shapes and sizes. There are difficult people who are close to us and difficult people who are distant from us. There are difficult people who have influence over our lives, and there are difficult people who have little influence. There are difficult people who are good-intentioned and others who are evil-intentioned.
There are many factors that will determine how we approach a difficult person. Approaching a difficult spouse will look different than approaching a difficult boss. Approaching a difficult believer will be different than approaching non-believer.
The point is that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Every situation will require specific wisdom and insight. Living relationally is more of an art. There is no specific formula. There is no 12-step approach to relational bliss.
Yesterday, I talked about the importance of valuing people. God made each person unique. Each person is special in God’s eyes. We have a way of labelling people. “Difficult” is a label we give to some. But I would challenge you – even as we consider the topic of difficult people – not to look at other people as difficult people. Look at them as God looks at them. Look at them as a unique individual created in his image.
I find that most people are not intentionally difficult. They are not intentionally demanding for the sake of being demanding. They are not possessive for the sake of being possessive. Their difficulty is typically a symptom of something else at work in their heart.
Every person has a story. I would encourage you to make it a point to learn their story. When you learn their story, something amazing happens. Walls begin to break down.
Learn who they are. From here did they come? What brings them joy? What are their dreams? What are their fears?
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19–20 (ESV)
Listening will do so much more than anger. The more we learn about others, the more we learn that we are not that different. The more you see of a person’s heart, the easier it is to see past what might be a rough exterior.
One of the best gifts you have to deal with difficult people is your ears. Make use of them!
Questions for Reflection
- Why do you think relationships are so difficult?
- What does listening produce?
- Who do you need to take the time to hear what they have to say?
- Share your comments.