I'm no expert in human behavior, and I often feel like a lost stranger when it comes grasping the complexities of human interaction. Part of this difficulty involves the problems that arise given the interaction of particular sorts of personalities.
I think we all can think of some particular instances of difficult people in our lives. People that threaten us. People that push us to the very limits of our patience. People who push all the wrong buttons. Notice that I'm not talking about people who push us hard or who challenge us. I do not consider challenging people to be necessarily difficult people.
As I don't feel to have considerable mastery over this topic, consider this more of a brainstorm session.
On common characteristic of "difficult people" is threats. Everyone resorts to a occasional threat. Since most of us are not naturally persuasive or confident, we tend to need to use some force on occasion. I think this is usually an unhelpful method, although there definately may be circumstances that justify it. But, continuing, difficult people that use threats are using this psychological ploy to accomplish something (namely, get something out of you or vent in some sort of way).
How should we deal with threats? Here are some potential suggestions. Remember that here I am not
speaking of "death threats", but rather the minor threats that are often used in a manipulative context
without various sorts of relationships.
1. Attempt to temporarily ignore the threat (regardless of how severe it is) and address the underlining need. Often the threat will be empty and won't be carried through if you show you are serious in addressing the underlining concerns. So, to make this more clear, if someone states a threat in the form of "If X, then Y.", ignore Y and drag the conversation into a discussion of X. Perhaps X can't be done because of some other mitigating factors. Perhaps X is not even clearly defined. Perhaps X is unreasonable. Perhaps X was done, but this fact is not recognized. Whatever you do, do not let the conversation focus on the threat itself. You could almost pretend the statement was instead formed as: "I want X". Threats can be a prototypical manipulative ploy and are often eventually manifested as being textbook examples of an attempt to draw you into a dual, usually by a person who has a characteristic reliance on threats to get what they want. By ignoring Y and focusing X, you are not only saving yourself from being on the receiving end of some major venting, you are also increasing the likelyhood of a win-win outcome. It is the best interest of the aggressor here to be derailed from his/her dash towards discussion of reprecussions.
2. Keep a calm and contained composure, as a much as possible. Whether you are about to solidly refute this persons claims, or concede because you know the reprecussions would be too great and the case they make too damning, it is in your best interest to remain cool. If you are about to refute what they are saying, you need to remain calm mainly because snapping back will only get them to listen to even less of what you have to say. However, a calm, peacefull response to their hot-headedness will certainly give them pause and likely make it more likely that they may hear more of your future argument. On the other hand, if you are about to concede and plead for mercy/leniancy, you should still remain calm. This person, more likely than not, came to you in order to set you straight. Non-resistence will not only make you a more difficult, but also insure that you have nothing to be embarassed about later. Remember, remaining calm is POWER and it will actually show your dominance over the situation, becuase you are controlling the most difficult thing to control. It is more difficult and awe-inspiring to be able to control you response to insults than to control someone elses behavior (which is what the other person is likely trying to do to you).
3. Beware of making unnecessary concessions in your conversation here. Sure, it would be nice to give in a little to pacify things (and that can be effective), but remember that some people have made careers of using this sort of manipulative technique of staging threats to get what they want. The greatest concessions will not likely passify the most hot-headed individuals and they may potentially be used against you later, which can be especially problematic if you later determine that they are unrealistic.
There are other factors and points to consider, but most of them highly depend on particular scenarios.
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