Getting Through COVID-19 with a Difficult Person

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GETTING THROUGH COVID-19 WITH A DIFFICULT PERSON
By Sarah Elliston

 

BIG BLEND RADIO: Sarah Elliston shares communication advice for stressed relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic. Listen here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on Podbean or SoundCloud.


Covid has had an impact on all of us.  If you are working from home with family members living with you, someone is bound to get on your nerves.  If you live alone or with another person and must work virtually with your team members, again, someone might start to really annoy you.  If you live alone and have family and friends checking on you, chances are one of them is beginning to aggravate you.

It is not a good time to explode, even though that may be what you feel like doing. 

Here are three suggestions for developing some patience so you can accommodate these or others in your life who drive you crazy.

Take a deep breath.
A deep breath will energize your body biology; increased oxygen will help you think more clearly.    Three deep breaths are recommended instead of raising your voice and loudly telling the other person what is wrong with them. 

Ask yourself, “What is stressing me?  Whose business am I in?”
A useful concept taught by Byron Kate is that in our lives there are three kinds of business. The first is my business, which is purely about me and what I can control.  Second is the other person’s business, which is about them and their behavior. Third is God’s business which is everything else: the weather, the state of the world, anything outside of me.

For me to be happy, I need to stay in my own business.  Stress and frustration arise when I am in another person’s business.  I have developed an opinion about the other and to solve my problem, I think they should change. I think I would be happier if they changed, but that is something only they can do.  When the safety of children is involved of course I will step in to modify behavior or the environment.

For example, if one of the people who live with me likes to play their music loudly and I find it hideous and annoying, I can address it, hoping they will turn the music down.  If they do not, I become resentful and start developing a mental litany about their unwillingness to cooperate, their selfishness, …the list grows quickly.

Does this happen to you?  Your reaction to some annoying habit of one of your team members becomes all you can think of when you see them.  You develop criticism and judgments about the other person.  You start counting the number of times they say “um” when they make a presentation. It becomes maddening.  You want that person to change so you can be happy.  You are in their business.  Only you can make yourself happy. 

Listen
When the other is conversing, listen.  Listen to hear what emotion they might be sharing.  Listen to hear the story behind what they are saying.  If there is much complaining or whining (which there seems to be for most of us) simply listen.  Give the other person your attention.  Do not try to solve the problem, since it is theirs and their business to solve.

It feels strange at first to be silent and to not make comments. That is your business, and you might need to talk to yourself about it.  Do not expect anything from the other person but if they ask for advice, then you have permission to share your opinion.  Do not be invested in their agreement and willingness to change.  If you are truly in your own business you are invested in your change, not theirs.   You will not find it frustrating that they will not change.

None of us are heard enough.  All of us long to be heard.  Listen to the other person and allow them their aggravating habits.  Give them a gift of your attention.

With the person in my life who played their music too loud, I told myself to listen.  I started trying to understand the words and the point of the vibrant beat.  I asked some questions and listened to their descriptions of what they liked and why they played it.  I merely listened.  I did not criticize their choice.  I did not try to teach them about a classical composer who attempted to impact his world in the same way.  I listened.

I saw them as a seeker and a musician in training.  I noticed that I was no longer frustrated by their music.
  

When you are allowing people to be in their own business and not trying to change them, you start looking at them differently.  You can find alternative ways to characterize them that allow them to be ok the way they are.  They will no longer be on your nerves. You will not be so annoyed and will be less tempted to explode.

If you follow these suggestions two or three times a day or as often as you can remember, your difficult person may no longer be as difficult tomorrow as they were yesterday. 


Sarah Elliston is the author of “Lessons from a Difficult Person – How to Deal With People Like Us, is a faculty member of the Glasser Institute for Choice Theory, and is a workshop leader and trainer who is certified in Values Realization and Parent Effectiveness Training. More at www.SarahElliston.com

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Sarah Elliston is the author of “Lessons from a Difficult Person – How to Deal With People Like Us

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