Tricky people

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In the last retreat the subject of tricky, difficult people came up. There are people we get on well or relatively well with but with others it’s not so easy. This is no big deal if it’s a person we will probably never meet again in the future – for example, that driver who cuts us up. But if it’s with a work colleague or someone close, or worse still, an expartner… oof!… they can really topple our peace of mind.

More problems in life are caused because we take offence than by others giving offence.

When someone starts to unsettle you it can be useful to take heed of the following rule:

Don’t take it personnally; lighten up!

When someone behaves badly with you, imagine yourself as the pilot going through turbulence: you speak in a calm voice, soothing the passengers. Don’t take the bad behaviour of another personnally and open your mind.

One way of opening your mind is to accept that the other person does have the right to have a point of view different to yours. It’s also useful to accept the possibility that their versión of the reality doesn’t necessarily need to coincide with yours!

Negative emotions are infectious. They upset everyone – fast! If you can distance yourself a little, you can stop the contagion.

It helps to understand that when we are tired, fluey o when we feel overwhelmed by the pressures of life, (and I mean practically all of us), that’s when we can lose control, get angry and feel anxious. This is when four types of negative behaviour can come galloping into the situation – the “Gremlins” (to quote Caroline Goyder*) 

Such stormy behaviours tend to mask what is happening inside –all those feelings of fear and anxiety.

We are all guilty of taking on the role of one or more of such gremlins at different moments and in situations. Which one do you identify with? Or are we all a mixture of all four?

The Blamer: the one who points the finger, who blames others. This gremlin tends to be very judgemental, thinks he or she is right and wants others to obey them. Finding fault and blaming others destroys relationships as it triggers anxiey. It kills listening and understanding. This gremlin uses the word “you” a lot, for example: “You never…”… or “Why do you never…?” or “Why do you always…?  This gremlin often doesn’t let others finish what they want to say; keeps interrupting and doesn’t accept responsability for his part.

The Placator  tends to be scared to reveal that he/she doesn’t agree. This gremlin rarely defends him/herself and doesn’t insist on transmitting his/her point of view and often apologises for things he/she hasn’t done. This gremlin tends to adopt the victim position: palms up in front defensively, eyebrows raised, then opens his/her arms out, moving his/her head rapidly. This is the smiling, passive-agressive saboteur-gremlin – often because he/she is frightened about not agreeing.

The Administrator applies ice-cold logic and calculation to the situation without taking into account the feelings of the other person. This gremlin insists on strict observance of protocols and proceedings and lives completely in the rational mind. He/she thinks him/herself above all that emotional stuff but is scared to reveal his/her true self and hides behind what  he/she believes to be superior knowledge and the insistence on acting “correctly” in all situations.

The Whirlwind: This gremlin feels the fear and in order to distract him/herself and others from the situation, creates a whirlwind of drama. This gremlin loses focus fast, changes the subject, goes off at a tangent, tending to speak very fast and doesn’t keep still.  He/she changes the subject constantly without drawing breath, creating a smoke-screen to confuse, so that the others too lose the thread. He/she is covering his/her uncertainty. This gremlin is exhausting.

In order not to get swallowed by the toxic soup of blame and counter-blame, take on these gremlins and improve our relationships, it helps to stand back a little and identify which roles are being played.

It is posible to neutralise these four gremlins when you realise the roots lie in fear and anxiety. We will explore how in the next newsletter.

My thanks to Caroline Goyder and her excellent book “Gravitas”. She quotes the work of the family therapist Virginia Satir and her book “Peoplemaking”. Author: Rhea Sivi

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