There are many reasons why people dread having difficult conversations, with one of the standouts being fear of handling difficult people and their erratic, unpredictable ways. That fear is legitimate but misplaced. It's true that difficult people are expert at sucking the life out of a room and turning normal, everyday situations into profoundly unpleasant, jarring events. But it doesn't have to be that way.
See, what happens is that difficult people draw others into an alternate reality that has nothing to do with real life in real time. They're reacting to something else within themselves, but in doing so they're also revealing remnants of their past. It's their world though, their problem, not yours. Even if you were the trigger, it still has nothing to do with you.
All you have to remember is that wherever and whenever you see drama, a child is in the room. That person is either regressing to an earlier time where the appropriate coping skills did not have an opportunity to form, and/or he or she is stuck in a less developed point in life.
So, framed this way, handling it actually becomes quite easy. You have two choices. You can either deal with it, or not deal with it. Oh, and make sure you go into zero-emotion mode first.
If you decide to deal with it you can:
1. Engage, which is to say, "Please help me understand this, because your behavior is not making any sense.
2. Confront, which is to say, "You've gotta stop. This is utter ridiculousness."
3. Comfort, which is to say, "Is there anything I can do to put you at ease so that we can get back on track?"
Or, if you prefer not to deal with it, you can:
1. Walk away, which is to ignore it and make pretend it's not happening. Since "the child" is seeking attention, this one works wonders.
2. Reconvene, which is to simply propose that you revisit the conversation at a better time when his or her behavior has returned to "normal."
Either way, whichever you choose, you'll be amazed at how effective you become at managing, controlling and relieving the discomfort surrounding difficult conversations that involve difficult people. The point is that what you are essentially saying is, "We're not getting anywhere and if you insist on ... (insert irrational, dramatic behavior here) you will prevent us from moving forward and having a productive conversation," which translates into, "I am not willing to participate in your drama or your past."
Find Donna on:
Follow Donna Flagg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/donnaflagg