How do I survive difficult people? Is the title of the latest book by psychotherapist Jörg Berger. Crossers, talkers, negatives, dominant people, vengeful, avoiders and energy guzzlers: they don’t mean badly. Yet they can make your life miserable, suck energy out of you and push you to the limit. How can you effectively protect yourself against this? And, if possible, without becoming a difficult person yourself?
Difficult people have been through difficult things, so they deserve our understanding. But to get what they want, they turn to resources that require a smart response. You can only defend yourself if you recognize unpleasant behavior in time. This mainly concerns manipulation, the violation of interpersonal rules, the avoidance of responsibility, and deception.
Socially minded people find themselves in a difficult dilemma. Shouldn’t you tolerate, protect and help a difficult fellow human being? But how far do you go with your self-sacrifice? And even if we mean well with difficult people, can we just let them have their way? Shouldn’t we also correct them? Once we become aware of the psychological mechanisms underlying their behavior, we can better understand difficult people. Then we also find starting points to deal with them better.
Berger introduces strategies for dealing with difficult people. The overview below gives a clear picture of the behavior of the individual personality types.
Border crossings actually mean well. But when their needs don’t match the needs of their fellows, they don’t realize it. They go beyond personal boundaries of others and sometimes invade someone’s private sphere. They claim other people’s property, knowledge and help. They are also very sensitive to rejection. Then their captivating embrace can turn into a chest clamp from which the person concerned is only released after the wishes of the border-crosser have been granted.
Chat makers can present themselves masterfully. They are charming and inspiring. Their projects are supported, they win good jobs and prominent positions. But those who look behind the scenes are disappointed. What chatterboxes sell as excellent is in fact mediocre. Their personal or occupational flaws are so great that it is almost unbelievable. You would prefer to rattle their beautiful facade so that it collapses. But if you try, a shrewd illusionist emerges who shows things that aren’t there and makes disappear what shouldn’t be seen.
Dominant people don’t like anyone to get in their way. Their intimidating body language, loudness, big words, threats and demonstrations of power instill fear in others. Most people avoid conflict and give in. But that doesn’t make dominant people grateful. On the contrary, they are increasingly taking it for granted to violate the rights of those they consider weak.
Negative people make themselves the measure of things. Their tastes, their preferences, their knowledge and skills are the yardstick against which they measure other people. They make negative judgments about others and express them without any sense of tact. As a result, they affect the self-esteem of other people.
Victims sometimes need days to recover from the disapproving and hurtful words. When negative people openly express their negative judgment, those affected are faced with a dilemma. Should they defend themselves, at the risk of being viewed by others as oversensitive, or vain, or unable to handle criticism?
Vengeful people settle outstanding accounts. If someone pushes something at their expense, they bear it after him. If they feel their rights violated, they become vindictive. Then they wait for the right moment and find exactly someone else’s weak spot with their words. They damage the reputation of others by gossiping about them. They are disruptors, they ‘forget’ important requests and in this way prevent others from achieving their goal. They disguise their retaliation as mistake or coincidence and hide their motives behind implausible explanations. Nevertheless, those involved intuitively understand the message: it is better not to get in trouble with me!
Avoiders withdraw when they feel insecure. They see danger everywhere and don’t want to do things that instill fear. For that reason, they also abstain from many obligations and withhold things that are self-evident in relationships, such as an open conversation about difficult topics or help with unpleasant matters. People who deal with avoiders often feel abandoned. If you really want to get close to an avoider, you have to enter his snail shell. You can feel safe there, but also feel very oppressed.
Energy guzzlers are looking for parental figures. The complicated world places too high demands on them, the harshness of life overwhelms them and they have trouble making decisions. In fact, they still need a mother or father to guide them through life and teach them how to deal with challenges. Anyone who helps energy guzzlers quickly notices that the help is inadequate. Thus, the helping person is torn between overload and a bad conscience if he gives less than is asked. Some are annoyed that energy guzzlers put themselves first.