Every now and then, you’ll be confronted with a difficult person. Maybe it’s your manager who pressures you to make a work deadline. Or it’s your spouse who challenges you at every turn. Maybe it’s even the barista who gives you an attitude while he makes your latte at the local coffee shop. No matter who is giving you a hard time, there is a tried and true three-step method for responding to them in an effective way.
First, take a long breath. When you breath deeply, it will reorient your attention back to yourself. This will help you remember that you’re in control of your emotions and feelings. The difficult person doesn’t control you, and it’s up to you what your response will be. You are in charge of your life, and you’ll decide how to handle the difficult person.
Moreover, breathing has positive physiological effects such as lowering your blood pressure and changing the pH level of your blood. Respond to an angry person by first focusing on yourself and filling your lungs with oxygen.
Second, don’t take what they say personally. This can be tough because it’s easy to take what they say to heart. But when someone is angry or difficult, it’s their perception and their problem. They’re likely going through something that makes them uneasy. And it’s an issue that they are must work out for themselves or with professional help. Don’t let someone else control your attitude or mood.
Everyone sees the world differently and has their own perception. So why should you immediately adopt their view of the world? Just say to yourself “This isn’t about me. It’s about them.” If you take whatever they say personally, you’ll become defensive and respond out of emotion which will only elongate the back-and-forth argument and exacerbate the situation.
Third, ignore them. As long as someone is being mean, angry or difficult, ignore them. Walk away from them or go into another room or office. If you’re having a phone conversation, either hold the phone away from your ear or place the receiver on mute. After their anger or annoyance subsides, you can then embark upon a constructive conversation with them. You could even tell them, “Once you’re ready to work on finding a solution, we can have a conversation.”
But it’s not your responsibility to give them company while they’re being nasty or cruel towards you. By choosing to overlook their anger, you save yourself mental energy, and you can spend your time instead with people and friends who are more positive.
Kabir Sehgal is a New York Times best-selling author, former vice president at JPMorgan Chase, multi-Grammy Award winner, and U.S. Navy veteran. Chopra and Sehgal are the co-creators of Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome, inspired by American immigrants.