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Difficult People

 DO YOU HAVE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE WHO DRIVE YOU CRAZY?

CHALLENGES SPECIFIC TO HIGH ACHIEVERS

1. The number one challenge for high achievers is to NOT rely on logical arguments.

2. The high achievers’ tendency to take on responsibility for others’ behavior causes them to second-guess themselves when dealing with difficult people.

3. There is no “winning” with difficult people-only managing and quarantining them. This concept is difficult for high achievers who are used to creating positive outcomes.

YOU CANNOT HAVE A RATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH AN IRRATIONAL PERSON.

–Dr. Tricia

A CLIENT STORY

Sue’s sister, Pam, called Sue several times per week to “check-in.” The phone calls usually lasted 30 min- 1hr and consisted of Pam complaining about her life. If Sue told her that she couldn’t talk long, Pam sighed loudly and said “that’s fine. I know I’m a burden. I’m sorry I wasted your time. I guess I won’t call you anymore.”
Sue had no other family. She was worried about losing the relationship if she offended Pam.
First, I asked Sue about the past pattern that had occurred when she’d offended Pam. Specifically, I asked for the longest amount of time Pam had not spoken to her. Pam used the threat of terminating the relationship as a manipulative tactic but had never followed through on it. While one could argue that there is always a “first time,” the likelihood of a sudden shift from an established pattern of interaction is unlikely. Next we discussed both the frequency of contact and the length of each conversation that would feel good to Sue. From there, we shifted to behavioral strategies.

      1. Script: “Hi Pam, before we catch up, I wanted to let you know that I need to go at 7:30. Life is pretty busy right now, so I wanted to touch base tonight (Tuesday) and Friday.” At 7:30, Sue says, “okay Pam, I have to go. I will call you Friday. I hope you have a great evening.”

      2. I told Pam to expect that she would have to interrupt and probably hang up on her sister.

      3. Pam needed to refrain from answering any calls from her sister until Friday. I told her that she could screen voice mails in case there was an emergency. There was no need to listen to all of the voice mails as people will state a true emergency in the first few sentences. We decided that if Pam began a guilt trip at the beginning of the call on Friday, Sue would respond “I’m really trying to be aware of my schedule. I want to be sure to talk with you, and so making sure we touch base on Tuesdays and Fridays seem to be the best way to make that happen.”

      4. Sue practiced ending the conversation and hanging up the phone if her sister began to criticize her. “It seems like it’s not a good time to talk right now. I hope you have a great evening, and I’ll touch base on Tuesday.”

      5. Anytime her sister was positive, Sue positively reinforced it with questions and praise.

      6. Sue’s sister pressed harder with the guilt trips at the beginning. When Sue remained consistent, her sister got used to the discussion length and even reduced her negativity.

      7. CONSISTENCY, CONSISTENCY, CONSISTENCY. Yes, it is like training cats and dogs. If we can train them, then we can also train people how to treat us.

*** Please note. The best protocol will differ according to the various personality, relationship, and environmental factors.

BASIC PREMISES NECESSARY FOR SUCCESS

1.  The other person is unlikely to change.

2. Handling them the way you have in the past 50 conversations will not yield different results.

3. You CAN be assertive and kind at the same time.

4. Conversations to help them see your point of view is a waste of your time.

5. You will probably offend them.

6. Strategic actions are more effective than conversations.

COMMON MISTAKES:

1. The lack of consistency will kill the effectiveness of behavioral approaches. Consistency is 100% of the time. The research on behavior shows that inconsistent responses maintains behavior the longest (i.e. gambling…a reward is coming if you just try long enough).

2. People are afraid of being mean. Usually, they are mean when they have “held it in” too long. Consistent firmness allows one to be kind.

You can’t have a logical conversation with an illogical person. High achievers–you CANNOT change this fact. You MUST rely on behavior modification rather than reasoning.

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