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SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim explains why some difficult people might behave the way they do and how to deal with them.
My mother is one of the most difficult people I have ever met. She cannot be reasoned with in any capacity when she has convinced herself of something, which happens a lot. She is always right and the rest of us are wrong. She is irrational to the point of a little crazy and narcissistic, and no matter what we try, we can’t get her to see that her thinking is faulty and she is over-reacting. It has become an insurmountable issue. I work with her on a daily basis and am thinking I will need to find another job because I can’t deal with her anymore. Many of her employees will also leave if I leave because they can’t deal with her. Is there anything I else I could do?
I want to answer your question by helping you to understand human behavior in a new way. My business partner and I have developed a system that makes understanding people easier. We believe there are 12 types of people in the world. Our 12 types are not personality types, rather they're based on behavior and the drivers of behavior — what one fears and what one values most.
There are two fears and four values in the system and we call the different types of people the 12 Shapes. Each of the 12 functions in one of two emotional states all day, every day. We are either in our balanced state, where we are at our best, or we are experiencing fear in our unbalanced state, where our worst behavior comes out.
It sounds like your mother feels unsafe in the world and may feel the need to protect herself from everyone. She might see others as a threat thinking they threaten her quality of life, her opinions and control. She is most likely a Square in the 12 Shapes, which is a fear of loss dominant shape.
There are two possible dominant fears in play within each of us: We're either fear of failure dominant or fear of loss dominant.
People who are fear of loss dominant have a tendency toward feeling offended and mistreated a lot of the time. They are afraid of losing things, money, arguments, reputation, safety, the moral high ground or anything else. The fear of loss dominant are defensive a lot of the time. Fear of failure dominant people fear being insulted, not valued or not good enough.
If your mother is functioning in an unbalanced state because she feels mistreated or taken from, she could come across as angry, controlling and sometimes illogical. Her main focus in her unbalanced state is getting whatever she needs to make herself feel safe in the world. Unfortunately, when people are in an unbalanced fear state, it can also make them selfish, making it difficult to think about anyone else.
In the 12 Shapes, there are also four value systems. Each of us values one of the following more than the others: people, tasks, things or ideas.
People who value ideas most (like a Square) may value their own ideas and have a tendency to need to be right all the time. Their strong sense of right and wrong dictates how they think other people should behave, and they can get quite bent out of shape when people don’t behave the way they expect. Their ideas could seem illogical to the rest of us, but to them, it genuinely looks like their view is valid. Squares can also be opinionated, critical, controlling and stubborn when they are in an unbalanced fear state.
Here are some tips for dealing with a difficult person in a fear state:
1. Remember nothing they say or do changes your value as a person
They might find fault but their opinions have no power unless you give them the power. Choose to believe you have the exact same value as every other person on the planet, no matter what anyone thinks of you.
2. Remember their need to criticize others comes from a need to feel superior in some way, so their ego can feel safe
Take their criticism with a huge hunk of salt because what they say has more to do with who they are, than it does with who you are. They have a tendency to project and find fault even though they may be guilty of the same things. Judging others is also an immature way to feel better about oneself or more superior than others, but that doesn’t make it true.
3. Honor their right to be where and how they are
Every one of us is experiencing a totally unique, interesting and difficult classroom journey. No one on the planet will ever get the same family, upbringing and exact combination of life experiences that you got. This means that we are all in a different class. You will never know why their journey is what it is and what lessons they are supposed to be learning from their journey. But you can trust there is reason, purpose and meaning in it being as it is. This viewpoint will help you allow each person to be who and where they are without judgment that they should be anything different.
4. Have the wisdom to choose your battles
If you choose to see your journey (including your interactions with difficult people) as your perfect classroom, you know resistance is futile. Instead of resisting what is and expecting people to be different than they are, you can accept this lesson as it is and be grateful for what it can teach you. Try as often as possible to ignore bad behavior. Save up your energy to fight only the battles that feel really necessary.
5. Have strong boundaries and avoid contact when possible
This is the most important thing you must do. Figure out the things you cannot tolerate and draw those lines strongly. Do not let them take from you, abuse you or dishonor you. If they continue to do these things, limit your contact with them as much as you can.
Remember the amount you suffer over difficult people and lessons in your life is totally up to you. You can choose peace, trust and a feeling of safety in every moment.
You can do this.
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