03/14/2012 03:57 pm ET Updated May 14, 2012

Overcoming Difficult People

Isn't it interesting how we expect others to behave in a certain way so we can feel good about ourselves? And then when people don't behave as we want them to, we feel so disappointed and angry -- when really, most times, we're not actually surprised at their actions? In fact, when we find out what latest, greatest act they've pulled, there is some part of us that usually says, 'I knew it!' And we did. We're not typically surprised; we just want those actions to be different -- actions we'd be more comfortable with.

A dear friend of mine was over this week so I could share with her a wonderful home-cooked meal and a bottle of wine. About the time we got to the freshly-baked oatmeal cookies, the conversation turned to her somewhat crazy sister. I had to smile, just a little, since her sister-stories have had much the same theme for the last two decades.

When her frustration was just about to peak over her sister's latest unbelievably selfish act, I suggested she begin trying 'The Law of Patient Acceptance.'

"How can I possibly accept her behavior?" my friend asked.

"Acceptance doesn't necessarily mean tolerance," I shared. "It just means that you accept the person for who they are and you stop knocking yourself out trying to change them."

Everyone has these difficult people in their lives from time to time. I personally believe that the recession has given birth to a whole new realm of greedy, competitive and selfish folks. But nonetheless, they exist. They always have.

"Think of it this way," I said. "If you were to go out and buy an ottoman today, thinking you were buying a chair, you'd be really angry that the ottoman was such a pathetic chair. But once you realize what you're dealing with, once you accept the ottoman for what it is and you stop trying to turn it into a chair, your anger largely goes away."

You have to accept people for who they are. Even when you've had high hopes that they might have been able to be someone else.

"You can't change people," my Mother has always said. And she was right.

The best we can do is to see people as clearly and objectively as possible. For they rarely change.