It has been a year now, and chances are you have had your dealings with people who don’t understand the concept of social distance.
Maybe you have had more than one conversation with someone that seems to know it all about how others should respond to the crisis and they are determined to “enlighten” you with their knowledge.
Maybe you have stood on the same aisle with someone who decided to remove their mask to sneeze. In your mind, you are screaming at the thoughtless or disgusting behaviors, and it takes everything in you to hold your peace and restrain your tongue.
Maybe you know someone who will lash out and put anyone in their ‘proper place’ immediately because COVID-19 is a matter of life or death and there are no concessions….ever!
Is there a right way to handle difficult people in a pandemic?
Unless you are living like a hermit and refuse to leave your home, you will encounter difficult people during this world crisis. Maybe you have a boss or a co-worker whose approach to COVID-19 is completely different from yours and they don’t mind telling you a thing or two about what’s wrong with the world.
How do you deal with difficult people without losing your cool or compromising your character?
Accept the Circumstance – Not the Behavior
No one asked for this pandemic, so no one is to blame – accept that fact. Does this mean you roll over and accept all behavior? Absolutely NOT!
If a person is in your personal space, TELL THEM: “I don’t like to inconvenience anyone, but I am not comfortable standing so close to you. Let’s give each other more space, thank you.”
If someone finds your approach too “safe” and they disregard your standards and expectations for safety, tell them where you draw the line: “We can agree to disagree on this. Thank you for not trying to redirect my positions and I will be careful to try not to redirect yours. Let’s just follow the guidelines and move on”.
Difficult people have always surrounded us, only now, they are LOUDER! We live in a world where every voice has a platform. We are bound to have extreme ideas and extreme people willing to follow each of those ideas.
Since we can’t control other personalities and behaviors, we have to learn to accept them for who they are. This can be exceptionally challenging in a pandemic. People are even more on edge, more fearful, more overwhelmed, and in general, more uneasy.
So, what do we do?
#1 Keep calm.
Take a deep breath and swallow an egg (figuratively) before you speak to anyone.
#2 Understand the person’s intention.
If someone removes a mask before sneezing, they are not trying to harm you… they are just not thinking.
Their concern may be simply, “I cannot bear to have a mask that is wet and stinky”.
Don’t get ready to rumble for their lack of consideration!
#3 Let the person know where you are coming from.
If a person is standing too close, TELL THEM! If a person refuses to mask up and you can’t avoid being in their proximity, ask them kindly to do what they are supposed to be doing. Just remember that it’s not always what you say, but it is always how you say it!
#4 Treat the person with respect.
Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean they are totally wrong and should be put in their “proper place”. No one likes to be treated like they are ignorant or incompetent. Never result in name-calling or demeaning behavior.
If you have done everything you know to do to get along with someone during these already difficult times, just ignore them. Plain and simple… NEXT!
It takes more strength to handle difficult people with kindness and the heart of Christ. Have wit and love in your response to others. Wit does not mean being smart-alecky with difficult people, but it does mean being smart.
When the difficult person is a coworker, pray for God’s wisdom to speak the right words.
When the difficult person is family, pray for God’s love to remain evident in action and in your conversation.
When the difficult person is a complete stranger, pray for peace, insight, and God’s divine intervention.
Be kind to others but don’t be afraid to fill an empty mind with something to think about, if and when necessary!
It is not always easy to deal with difficult people. That may be the reason why there aren’t a lot of songs that specifically shed light the subject.
TobyMac’s “Speak Life” is probably the best advice to give when you are confronting a difficult person. Always remember to be kind and speak life!
Traci D. Fuller, Pearls and Pretty Pens © 2021