Cate Young

Calm, Cool, Collected: Dealing with Difficult People™ (in the Aftermath of the Election)

Cate Young

If you live on this planet, then it's likely you've had to deal with Difficult People™ at some point in your life. Whether family, friend or stranger, there's always that one person, issue or way of thinking that makes your blood boil, and makes it hard to stay calm and keep your composure. Politics are a touchy subject for most people, and tempers can run high.

So how do you deal? Honestly, I have no clue. If you know me then you know that I'm of the "get so angry that I burst into tears out of sheer frustration" variety, and I think we can all agree that that approach is neither productive nor flattering...

While I certainly haven't figured out how to stave off the tears entirely, there are a few things that have helped me keep them at bay longer. In the moment, it's extremely hard to keep it together. When you're trying to explain to someone why reproductive rights are ESSENTIAL for economic success  it can be really hard to overlook their deliberate obtuseness. Dealing with Difficult People™ can be an emotionally exhausting experience, and with the election all wrapped up, you'll likely be dealing with more Difficult People™ than usual in the coming days, but these tips can help you step back for a moment and remove a little of the emotion from the equation:

1. Breathe: Cliche I know, but you'd be surprised how well it works. I can't count the times that taking the time to take a few deep breaths has stopped me from saying some highly unsavory things in polite company. When you feel the bile rising, close your eyes, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth hard, three times. Use those breaths to focus all your anger into a small pointy barb you can then use to take down your Difficult Person™ of choice with civility. Never forget that oftentimes, Difficult People™ will push your buttons intentionally to try to get a reaction. By preemptively calming yourself down, you're diffusing the situation and robbing them of their power over you.

2. Say Nothing: This is easily the most difficult suggestion in this entire post. It can be SO HARD not to interject when your Difficult Person™ is trying their very hardest to pick a fight, especially when social and economic policy are the topic of discussion. But as in the suggestion above, Difficult People™ are often intentionally pushing your buttons to get a reaction. Don't give them one. It takes two people to have an argument, and they can't argue with you if you refuse to engage. And as difficult as this option is, it is deeply satisfying to see the look of defeat on your Difficult Person™'s face when they realize you are determined to let them argue with themselves.

3. Leave: The rate of overlap between Difficult People™ and Stupid People™ (especially in politics) is astonishing. Rational People™ do not waste energy on Stupid People™. Sometimes the only thing to do is completely disengage.

4. Prepare: Sometimes disengaging entirely isn't a possibility, especially if your Difficult Person™ is a co-worker, family member or someone you live with. If a Difficult Person™ is someone you interact with regularly, then it's likely that you have already heard their entire arsenal of asinine arguments. You may not have realized it, but this gives you an advantage. If you already know what their most common defense strategies or arguments are, you can prepare dazzling counter-arguments in your spare time and then dazzle them with your logic and superiority the next time they turn up. We've all had the experience of coming up with an amazing comeback after the confrontation is over, and everyone hates that. Unfortunately, this option requires dedicating even more grey matter to a Difficult Person™ than most Rational People™are willing to, but it has the additional advantage of being a fairly permanent solution. It's pretty hard to argue with solid logic without looking like a crazy-pants Romney/Ryan supporter. (See what I did there? Sly like a tiger!)

5. Don't Escalate: Depending on the situation,  you may be unable to avoid dealing with your Difficult Person™ head on. If this is the case, remember to keep your calm. Don't raise your voice or get flustered. It's all about keeping the conversation at a level that you can maintain, and controlling the tone of the argument. My dad does this ALL the time, and it's BRILLIANT.

And now I'm done. Writing this post has been extremely cathartic! What are some of the methods you've used to deal with the Difficult People™ in your life? Have you manged to excise energy-draining people from your life? How? Let me know in the comments below.