Are you being difficult too?

July 10th, 2012

In my Dealing with Difficult People workshops, I try to get everyone to realize that they are usually being difficult to someone else. Most people who attend my workshops are looking for skills to learn to deal with their difficult person, their bully, or handle a confrontation.

I need to make them realize they are part of the problem, and in order to find the solution, we need to change that. Most participants are surprised to find out that what they are doing is contributing to the difficult person’s continued behavior. They don’t see themselves as part of the problem; they see themselves as trying to fix the problem.

Imagine the following activity:

Are you pushing?

Are you pushing?

–       Everyone is put together in pairs. One person is person “A” and the other is “B”

–       They stand facing each other, about three feet apart

–       Each partner puts their hands up (chest level), towards (and touching) their partner, palms facing out, as if they are going to play the child hood game “Patty-Cake”

–       When I say Go, partner A is instructed to push as hard as they can on partner B’s hands

–       1-2-3 Go! I let this happen for about 5 seconds before I say stop

It seems that the response is almost always the same. Partner A follows the instructions, pushes on B, but B pushes back (although they were not told to do that).


It is an instinctive reaction. When one person pushes (either literally or figuratively), the other pushes back. When B pushes back on A, it stops A from being able to follow the instructions and instinctively A pushes even harder. Before you know it, partner A&B are having a bit of a pushing match.

In this situation, partner A considers that partner B is being difficult because they are pushing back (that wasn’t part of the instructions, and it stops them from doing what they are trying to do). Partner B considers that partner A is being difficult because they assume that A is trying to knock them over (although that wasn’t part of the instructions either).

This little exercise illustrates exactly what happens in other situations. Each person considers the other to be difficult.

Are you pushing?

Are you pushing?

So you are part of the problem right? Have you considered perhaps not pushing back and seeing what happens?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 at 12:58 pm and is filed under How to Deal with Anger. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can trackback from your own site.

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