Do you have a friend who’s an arrogant know-it-all or a spouse who nags you like a woodpecker on an oak tree? Difficult people can be in our place of work, our church or right in our own home.
But you don’t have to live with hurtful words and put downs—or someone who is simply annoying.
You have choices.
No matter what happens or how people treat you, you can choose how you will respond. You can respond defensively and angrily, or kindly with respect and tact. You can change the subject. You can walk away. You can choose not to argue and take the high road.
Of course, it’s natural to be offended when someone hurts our feelings, but what we do with that offense—whether we hold it inside and let it fester, or release it—makes all the difference.
What are some lessons we can learn from Christ’s examples of how he treated people (with love, respect, and addressing the person’s true need)? How can we deal with conflict and strife from the difficult people in our lives? Here are just a few ideas:
Love. Jesus said radical things like: Love your enemies. Human nature often wants to do the opposite. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to “speak the truth in love²” and say the hard things, with kindness and tact, but also with boldness and truth.
Stay calm. James reads, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” You can choose to be a person of peace despite your circumstances.
Keep perspective. Hurting people hurt other people. The annoying person in the cubicle next to you may have issues in his life you know nothing about. But, past pain in someone else’s life doesn’t excuse bad behavior in yours. Knowing that may help you to better deal with the situation since often the problem is not about you, it’s about them.
Communicate with tact. Don’t blame or accuse, instead say, “When you (describe their action), I feel (describe how you feel). “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Of course, there are times when, despite your best efforts you may need to leave the room and handle the situation another time so anger can diffuse.
Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”
Pray. Most importantly, pray for the person who’s annoying you, and for grace and strength in your response. Your prayers are powerful and effective! Philippians states, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Coping with difficult people is part of life. It isn’t always easy, but God will be your strength to help you overcome and deal with that person in your office or your living room who’s not the easiest person to be around.
Pray about your challenges. Give them to God, and ask for wisdom, healing and hope. Then watch what happens.
You just might be surprised.
For more about dealing with difficult people,
see Powerful Prayers for Challenging Times by Jackie M. Johnson.