Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Insiders Guide To Dealing With Difficult People

When I was asked to write a piece for Triangle Style Magazine about dealing with “Difficult People” (DPs), I felt like a schoolgirl caught passing notes, and forced to scribble out my infraction across the chalkboard for the whole class to see. Spend a little time with me, and it’s not hard to see why I’m sometimes, (or is that often or always?), referred to as a Difficult Person. In fact, when a friend once heard someone refer to me as “such a sweet girl”, she nearly choked on her chewing gum!

So, how do you deal with a DP? Ever since Eve first learned to roll her eyes at Adam in disgust, hundreds of guests on “Dr. Phil” have philosophized, thousands of books have theorized, and millions girlfriends have gone through their cell phone minutes in tears - trying to answer this question of the ages.

Lucky for you, I'm a descendant of a long line of DPs. My Grandpa Sam was known as Grumpa and my Dad's the type of guy who when at a deposition for a fender bender, (not his fault, the jerk!), was asked in what direction he was traveling at the time of the accident, gave the actual on-the-record response; “What am I a compass?" So, I'm quite sure that my sassy ways make my ancestors proud.

Well readers, don't say I never did nothn' nice for ya, ‘cause today I'm here to give you the “Insiders Guide to Dealing with Difficult People”. DPs take all sorts of forms and at some point, you've probably had run-ins all of us. From the Nosy Neighbor to the Overbearing Boss, we don’t make life easy for you - but there are ways to work around us. Here are a few of our trade secrets;

May I Borrow A Cup of Secrets?

The Nosy Neighbor knows no property lines. She knows every UPS package that arrives at your door, and you'll find her conveniently watering plants or tending her tulips each time a repair truck makes a visit. I'm sad to report that this neighbor has a nose for news, and it’s your home front that makes her headlines. At times, it feels like the only hope is to hole up and live like a hermit. But News Flash!: She’ll quickly uncover that your life is just as boring as hers - and nobody else is really interested in hearing all that about it anyway.

And remember, the Nosy Neighbor does have her benefits. Wondering about the late night scuttle in the cul-du-sac down the block? You can be sure your neighborhood newshound will be sniffing around to deliver the before the morning paper arrives.

What's Up?

It's clearly not the Buzz-Kills. We all have our bad days, but for these depressing DPs, there's only joy in misery. Next time you’re stuck standing next to Diane Downer, Katy Killjoy or Ned Negativity at an event, don’t let them suck the life out of your party. Your Mama was right, you can’t make everyone happy, so learn to quickly cut your loses here.

Sure you can try to keep the conversation light and positive, but dilution is really the only solution here. With this un-gregarious group there’s safety in numbers, so try to rope in some other, more upbeat, party animals to brighten the mood. Oh, and don't EVER ask the question, “How are you?”

Where's That File!?

You work your fanny off her, but still she treats you like a mere paper-pusher. There are plenty of choice places you'd like to put that file, but according to your legal department, most of them are not an option. The Overbearing Boss makes work a four-letter word.

There are several types of bosses that can make your nine to five seem like an eternity. For example, there's The Witch, whose wicked ways are well known. Yet, somehow she’s cast a spell upon the upper management, (or maybe she just knows some secrets!). Her minion is likely made up of Conspiring Co-Workers, so just be careful just who you fly off the handle and vent to in the bathroom.

Then, of course, is the *itch, (you know, the word our breeder kept calling our female dog, while our kids bust a gut!). She's the Overbearing Boss who will be sweet as saccharine to your face, but it seems as though she may commute to work on the Bipolar Express. Quicker than you can say “coffee break”, she’ll snap, berate you or talk behind your back. If you’re not careful, make one mistake and she’ll kick you right in you the cubicle. Bottom line, overbearing or not she's your boss, so your just gonna have to suck it up, while you search the classifieds off the clock.

You Didn't Hear This From Me…

But the Gossip Girl already knows. She's got her French manicured finger in speed dial as she drives and she's ready to dish. The Secret Service could learn a trick or two under her tutelage, but she already knew that. She's got her sources, and her sources have sources, so there's no sense in trying to escape her scope. Throw her a bone and she may even toss you a juicy tidbit or two. How does she do it? She'll never tell…

But there is just one way stop this Super Hero of Hearsay. The only Kryptonite that will cripple her is to simply turn a deaf ear - and a mute mouth. Always remember readers, what goes around - comes around - and for the Gossip Girl, it travels at the speed of sound.

Do You Take This Man…And His Mother, too?

The Meddling Mother-In-Law is like the dinosaur of the DP's, as she likely roamed the earth for millions of years. But unlike 'ole Mrs. Brontosaurus, the Meddling MIL is genetically designed to outlive even the longest Ice Age.

But folks, I’ve learned the hard way - never come between a lioness and her cubs, or a man and his mother. Sure, as she sometimes likes to remind you, she carried your husband in her belly for nine months, and though it's been years since that cord has been cut, it’s a tie that binds. Just keep reminding yourself that one day you might be the MIL, and you’d hate for your “concern for your baby” to be misconstrued as meddling. It can be a tough transition from Mother to “Other”, no matter how long it’s been, so try to keep that in mind frustration starts to climb the family tree. After all, she did carry him for nine months…

What's New Copy-Cat?

Woah, Whoo, Whaaaat? Oh no she didn't! Sure, imitation is indeed a form of flattery, but when it comes to the Copy-Cat - it’s just flat out creepy! Remember that movie from the 80's, with Jennifer Jason Leigh. You know the one…Single White Female, about the girl with the cute red haircut who takes in this really weird roommate, who then basically steals her look, her life and then tries to kill her.

Anyway, your Copy-Cat may not try to do you in with a butcher knife - but when she's rockin' the same jeans that you just scored with your entire last paycheck - looking 10lbs lighter and she got 'em on sale - Well, it's time to let the fur fly. Don’t bother to call her on her what she’s already done, as she probably won’t see it any way. Just be mindful next time she admires you - be vague about your sources and available stock. And be sure to remind yourself, that she only copies you because she lacks her own creativity -- and that’s something that can never be duplicated.

Did You Hear What My Boy Genius Got On His SATs?

Oh, puh-leeze! The Bragging Betty really isn't a difficult person, per se, she's just difficult to be around. Her house, her hair and her heirs are all perfect - and it's just perfectly annoying. You can always try to top her, but no matter what Betty's got you beat. She's just better at it. Just one more thing for her to brag about…

Your best bet here is to be polite and go ahead and congratulate her on her many accomplishments, as she likely honestly deserves it. But, remember that things are not always as they appear, and while she seems like she’s total perfection on the outside, Bragging Betty might just be another perfectly imperfect person, like the rest of us. Any shrink worth their co-pay will tell you that she’s probably looking on the outside admiration, to fill a perfectly empty void inside of herself. Poor Bragging Betty, now I kinda feel sorry for her…

An Army of One: Don't ask, Don't care…

And then there's the most emotionally draining DP; the Fair-Weather Friend. Sure, she's fine when the focus is on her, but when the social climate changes and you've got the problem, she beats the heat and heads for the hills.

Trust me on this - a true friend should never turn a cold shoulder to gal-pal in need. You never know when your own world will come raining in on you - and you'll need your friends to weather the storm. (Thanks friends - you know who you are!!!)

There - was that so difficult?