We all have difficult people to deal with at one time or another. At home, at work, at the grocery store.

People have bad days. We have bad days. And that, right there is the thing. At the end of the day, we are all just people, trying to do the best we can from our own level of consciousness.

Those of us who feel mindfulness is important can still have an unconscious moment. When we blurt out something we didn’t mean to, or we simply ignore the signals we are getting from others about their feelings. We probably have several of them every day. No one is perfect. When we recognize these unconscious moments, it’s actually a win, because that is an opportunity to see ourselves more clearly, an opportunity for growth. Of course, not everyone sees it that way.

When we have an encounter with a difficult person, it’s important to remember this and to take a breath before we rest our judgment on them. They are most likely making choices that seem the best thing, coming from where they find themselves in that moment.

What to do when interacting with someone gets ugly?

Use the STOP acronym.
Stop what you’re doing
Take 1-3 deliberate, mindful breaths
Observe the feelings in your body, What’s going on?
Proceed with kindness and compassion toward yourself and others.

This process only takes a moment, and if you practice often –before you need it– you’ll find you can naturally drop into it without seeming obvious to anyone. STOP helps settle us so we can see more clearly.

Now that you are settled, you may find the other person responds to your settled calmness differently, even calming them too. It’s a beautiful thing when this happens, it can leave lingering positive feelings for both parties, and make the conversation flow more smoothly.

If that doesn’t happen, take a moment to understand where this person is coming from:

  • Are they being manipulative?
  • Are they in a hurry?
  • Pressured by someone else?
  • Dealing with control issues that are totally unrelated?

Many times being under pressure triggers reactions that go all the way back to childhood. When you can see where their pressure is coming from, you automatically become more understanding. Consider that this person may be responding in the only way they know how to to this pressure. Perhaps they never learned a better way, and deserve your compassion and kindness.

Respond with compassion and kindness

When you respond kindly, rather than fighting back, you don’t give them anything to fight against.

This is not being passive, or a victim. You still maintain your own self-worth and opinion, and you are actually bringing yourself strength through consciously choosing to tell your ego to sit down for a moment and allow the other person to be heard. A heated debate pretty much always escalates, but active listening, with kindness, creates an opportunity for a more peaceful interaction.

When we respond with active compassion, we see the suffering of the other person and that they too want to be happy. They too have been through tough times and good times. Just like us, they want to be loved and understood. Understanding that we all walk this earth together can resonate compassion outside of ourselves, and effect change we could not predict.

Still feeling sucked in?

If this is just too overwhelming and you feel you are being sucked into their negativity, there is no reason not to walk away. The toxicity of some interactions can be physically and emotionally exhausting.

Give yourself permission to resolve this discussion another time, or not at all. Things almost always work out better with time. Walk away to come back to the conversation another day.