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Ajahn Chah – “Everything experienced with a peaceful mind confers greater understanding. No longer do we create proliferating interpretation about what is experienced”

Have you even had one of those days where one particular person who has a full mind is just out to sabotage all of your good intentions? This otherwise good person behaves badly and sometimes out of character. We’ve all experienced such days I’m sure. It can be emotionally debilitating and also have a knock on effect to those you hold dear, much to your own consternation.

Your reaction, to what is commonly termed a “difficult person”, can travel in two broad directions. We can either escalate a particular personal conflict by the nature of our immediate reaction or we can negotiate over common ground and bring the heat of the moment back to manageable levels.

Sometimes people react out of fear for their own position and emotionally cling to their job or status. Unfortunately some people have also risen so high up the professional ladder that they have reached their own level of incompetence and this can also become a source of conflict.

So what do you do?

My immediate reaction, being a hot-blooded alpha male, is to attack with the complete force of the arsenal of words that I have at my disposal. This is the easy course of action as I don’t in any way need to have previously thought of the consequences or what to say and it’s a completely intuitive response.

Alternatively I could go home and look up how to deal with difficult people from a Buddhist perspective. After cursing a bit in private fortunately for all concerned I elected the latter course of action. So this is what I came up with as a few compassionate steps to take when confronted with a difficult person:

1. Be fearless in the face of blame and hostility.

2. If you are confronted with anger remember that they own their anger. So let them keep it. If you feel anger arise, note it and let it subside. It will only be temporary in you and it will pass.

3. Gift them your patience and empathy. They may be having a bad day as well, especially if their difficult disposition seems out of character.

4. See this difficult person as an opportunity to learn something about yourself. They are your teacher in this respect in that moment of opportunity. Note your feelings, mood and your bodily reactions. Practice mindfulness.

5. Consider Karma (what goes around comes around). If you react there’s likely to be more internal strife and others are going to suffer as well.

6. Seeing the “Red mist” stops you seeing reality with clarity and reduces the opportunity to practice the application of wisdom. So try to keep a clear, spacious mind and seek wisdom in dealing with such situations where ever that may be found.

7. Having respect for another’s right to express an opinion doesn’t equate to acceptance. We often use the word respect and jump straight to acquiescence. If you are at ease with your particular point of view then express it in a considered and calm manner. Intelligence and a well thought out response will often win the day.

8. You have two ears and one mouth so try to use then in that same proportion. Listen, try to remove your prejudices and then respond coherently.

9. Be compassionate to yourself. You owe it to yourself to stop, think and deal with a difficult person in an agreeable way.

Tomorrow is another day and I wonder whether I have the capacity to deal with a difficult person in a considered and compassionate way. I do sincerely hope so…

How do you deal with difficult people and circumstance? I’d really like to know, so if you have the time to comment please do so…