Changing Really Difficult People: Work on You, Not Them | Stage Two

If you are prepared to do the work, there are three stages to it.

STAGE 2 – Remind yourself it’s not Personal.

This person’s behaviour is not about you at all. They are simply another human being with patches of flawed and distorted thinking that makes them behave this way. Just like you and me. We are all neurotic at times – we just have different forms of defence.

It is so much easier to deal with a difficult person if you can recognise that they are struggling with their own neuroses and mind chatter. They are not in good shape currently. They are not out to get you. It’s not personal.

People can only really do you harm if you believe their words and behaviour, and take it in. You do not need to attach or react to their comments – you genuinely have a choice in that.

To realise it is not personal, some people remind themselves “this person is doing the best they can with what resources they have at the time”. “I do not like or accept what they are saying, but clearly, they cannot find anything better right now”. Some people remind themselves that this person may have been damaged in previous workplaces or relationships. They may have had losses and hurts in their life that have created this behaviour.

Businessman arguing with himself

Remind yourself, if you want to avoid people and their human condition, you can go live in a cave and meditate for the rest of your days. However, if you want to have a job, or to live in a relationship, or to parent children, you will have to deal with people. This includes people who are at times in poor shape.

Trying to collaborate or solve problems for mutual benefit with someone who is in an unhealthy level of neurotic functioning, is very hard work at times. On occasion, you may consider leaving it for an hour, a day, or a few days if that’s at all possible.

I teach the Enneagram as a truly brilliant tool for understanding the different types of defensive mind chatter. It is an ancient psychological and spiritual growth tool, which seems to have been around throughout time. It is found in archaeological digs throughout the world. The Sufis, a particularly spiritual tribe in history, are often credited with its development.

In essence, the Enneagram teaches that each of us has one of the nine different unconscious ego defences used for survival. None of the nine patterns of habits is any better or worse than any other, they are simply clusters of neurotic behaviour and beliefs. We all have them, and understanding your particular patterns enable you to wake up and challenge the script of your mind chatter.

I find this tool the best to assist myself and encourage others to become conscious of their own brain chatter.




Type 9 –
The Peacemaker/Mediator
I must keep the peace
Avoiding conflict
Sublimating anger
Long rambling sentences
Doing inessential tasks
Type 8
The Challenger/ The Asserter
The world is unjust
I must stay strong and defend the innocent
Overwhelming people with bluntness
Aggressive confrontation
Avoiding vulnerability
Type 7
The Optimist/ The Enthusiast
I must be happy and free to find opportunity
I can’t stand to be restricted/deprived
Over emphasising me – my plans
Insensitivity to your needs
Unfaithful to ideas and friends
Type 6
The Sceptic/ The Questioner
I seek security
The world is a threatening place
I need to look to authority – but I question it
Watching for danger, suspicion and scepticism
Rigid boundaries
Protective relationships
Type 5
The Researcher/ The Thinker
The world is invasive and confusing
I need privacy to think
Detachment from feelings and relationships
Excessive analysis
Greed for knowledge
Type 4
The Artist/ The Romantic
Fear of being defective
I am different
Something is missing in my life
Moodiness – especially melancholy
Longing for what I don’t have
Being dramatic
Type 3
The Achiever/ The Performer
I must be successful and admired or I won’t be loved
People love a champion
Competing against people
Focus on other’s opinions of you
Deceiving yourself and others
Type 2
The Supporter/ The Helper
To be loved I must be needed and helpPride in being indispensable
Resenting and manipulating others
Not meeting own needs
Type 1
The Reformer/ The Perfectionist
The world is imperfect – I must correct errorJudging and correcting others
Righteous anger
Being tense and anxious
Burdened by too much responsibility

The table above will remind you that difficult people are struggling with their own defences and mind chatter. Waking up to your brains stressful chatter, allows you to calm down enough to see it’s not only the other person who has neurotic beliefs and behaviours – we all do. Relationships are fraught at times because of this.

The next blog details the very best interpersonal skills required in this situation. It is the final blog in this three-part series on Dealing with Really Difficult People: entitled;  Stage 3 – Influencing Skills – Pacing and Leading.