That jerk is just afraid: a tactic for dealing with difficult people

Difficult people have the power to ruin our day… but only if we let them. Now, I know that’s usually easier said than done. But I recently discovered a way to reclaim my power when dealing with a jerk.

The next time you’re dealing with a difficult person, I want you to think about what they’re afraid of.

The story…

This particular A-hole that I dealt with several months ago was so aggressive, abusive, and intimidating. I lost sleep because of this dude, and anyone who causes me to lose sleep and is NOT my toddler, becomes my number 1 enemy.

Anyway, fast-forward a few months and I have to deal with him again. I got the sweats, the racing heart, the shaky hands. I started trying to think of ways to get out of it. But then I stopped and thought about why he was such a jerk. What was driving his shitty behaviour?

The answer was FEAR. He was advocating for his son, and he was so terrified of what life has in store for his young guy. The fear of losing control of things as his son got older was just too much for him to bear.

Hey, I could relate to fear. I would also feel desperately afraid in his situation. And I’d also probably forget my manners if this fear was overwhelming me. I’ve got no doubt that can be aggressive and intimidating if I feel the need to protect someone I love.

So now I was on the same page as this man. It didn’t make his previous behaviour okay, but I guess it made it a bit more understandable. I could now work with him and try to keep the conversation reasonable, or at least end it with some respect and empathy. Which is what I did in the end.

The common factor

So then I started thinking about some other ‘difficult people’ I’ve come across. Fear was a common factor. There was always something I could identify that they were afraid of and that probably drove their behaviour.

In none of the circumstances did understanding their fear suddenly excuse their behaviour. But it gave me a different perspective, and a new way of approaching them… or walking away from them.

Give it a whirl

If you’re dealing with a difficult person, I’d really encourage you to take a step back and think about what it is they might be afraid of. You don’t have to call them out on it. Just keep that thought to yourself and see if you can approach them a different way. Or… walk away confidently knowing that they may be afraid of something, but they have no right to make you feel afraid of them.

Let me know if you try this exercise and if it helps you deal with a douchebag. If you need some targeted help with conflict management, feel free to get in touch.

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5 Replies to “That jerk is just afraid: a tactic for dealing with difficult people”

  1. Another great blog, thank you!
    A wise lady once told me all actions come from fear or love – it took me a long time to believe it. Love is easy to spot, but fear? Fear uses many sneaky disguises. If my family are not as concerned as I am about (seemingly, to them) small blips on the horizon, I get angry and then feel the fear – I am afraid of possible consequences as I have less and less control of their lives/actions. You are spot on with this Dad!

    1. Wow, you know I nearly made this post about “fear or love” and how it’s either one of those that drives our behaviour… but then it got too complicated for my tired brain to write, so I just kept it to the fear side for now. Xx

    1. Sometimes getting away from the person is the best option. But maybe rethinking their actions in terms of their possible fears can help you release any bitterness or resentment and move on. X

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