Dealing with difficult people can be a real odyssey. When these people are part of our life or live under our own roof, the problem acquires greater proportions as we have no respite. A toxic relationship can become very frustrating, maddening and sometimes even terrifying.
What bothers us most about difficult people?
We can all become difficult people to deal with. When we go through particularly difficult stages in life, our temper becomes harsh and we can react badly or become emotionally distant. But difficult people have some personality traits that complicate relationships in any situation.
They typically take a defensive posture that limits their ability to listen, so it's almost impossible to say something constructive to improve the relationship. Their hostile reactions can be unpredictable and difficult to manage.
It is also common for these people to belittle others or their ideas, assuming a position of superiority against which any argument crumbles, no matter how fair or reasonable. In this way they generate enormous frustration in their interlocutor.
A study conducted at Bar Ilán University revealed that the trait that bothers us most about difficult people is their inability to give us support and validation, especially when we have helped them in the past.
These psychologists interviewed more than 1.100 people, who described more than 12.000 relationships. They found that about 15% of the people in our network of closest relationships can be classified as "difficult people".
The couple, parents and siblings were the most conflicting relationships, probably because they are the people who are normally part of the circle of trust. Therefore, the main drawback of the relationship was not receiving the support they expected, while they were willing to offer it. In practice, what bothers us most is the lack of compromise and reciprocity in the relationship.
Unbalanced relationships drain our psychological energy
Giving continuously without receiving anything in return can be extremely exhausting. Being available to others, often relegating our needs and priorities to the background, represents a huge psychological burden that can present the bill.
We can run the risk of becoming eternal "donors", people who deprive themselves of the right to be happy to please others, continually sacrificing themselves for them without ever being rewarded. In those cases, difficult people become eternal "receivers". They get used to receiving without any obligation or compromise, until they become very demanding.
In this regard, we cannot forget that giving makes us happy, but we also have the right to receive. Interpersonal relationships, especially close ones, should be a source of emotional support and validation. When only one part offers and compromises, the balance is broken and a toxic relationship begins. Giving without receiving ends up generating frustration, disappointment and dissatisfaction.
Of course, it is not a question of limiting ourselves to giving only to those who have something to offer. It's about making sure that the important people we share our lives with can compensate in one way or another for our dedication. It is about knowing that the other person will be available when we need them, to help us or just to listen to us and emotionally support us.
How to deal with difficult people and balance the relationship?
Interpersonal relationships are complicated and it is not always easy to find a balance. In the vast majority of relationships, there is always a person who gives more, wants more, or is willing to sacrifice more. The goal, in fact, is not to achieve a rigorous quid pro quo, but to find a balance in which our emotional needs are satisfied.
To do this, we need to clarify what our expectations are. Ultimately, expectations that aren't communicated or agreed upon can end up ruining relationships. It's very easy to make assumptions about what we expect someone to do for us and if that person doesn't meet our expectations, feel disappointed and blame them.
The key is to communicate and balance expectations, especially when dealing with a difficult person. We can base the conversation on three key questions:
1. What can you expect from me? It is about telling the person what we are willing to do for them. We can show them how much we care and how much we love them, but also how far we are willing to push ourselves and what limits we will not exceed for any reason.
2. What do I expect from you? In this case, we need to communicate our expectations so that the person knows exactly what we expect of them, the level of compromise we require from the relationship and the degree of responsibility we would like.
3. What can we expect from the relationship? This is the most important point of the conversation because every relationship is a dyadic meeting of different expectations and demands. Perhaps the other person is not willing to compromise to the extent that we want and we need to know to reduce our expectations. Or maybe the person didn't even know that at some point they let us down. So, this is the time to talk about what each can expect from the other and from the relationship, so that misunderstandings do not arise.