We all face difficult people and ugly situations in our lives. But the way we choose to deal with them is up to us. Here are four friendly strategies to deal with unfriendly people.
1. Question the source
Did someone tell you something bad about him/herself or did you hear it from someone else? In the latter case, everyone tells things from their own perspective and they might leave out relevant information. So think for yourself. Just as with any other information you hear, be critical in accepting any new ‘truths’, especially if they aren’t properly backed up.
But what if your judgement of someone is based on bad behaviour you witnessed yourself? Ask yourself if it is possible that you misinterpreted the situation. If there is even a slight possibility that something isn’t true, don’t act as if it is. Don’t jump to conclusions.
2. Mirror beauty, not ugliness
One can tell more about you by what you say about others, than one can by what others say about you. Do you choose to tell the whole world about someone’s mistake? Do you choose to take revenge? Do you choose to think ugly thoughts about someone? Or do you step up and break the negativity? Complaining about someone will only make you sound whiny and it won’t solve anything. Even worse, people will unconsciously connect the negativity to your personality. Don’t let the ugly reflect on your beautiful self!
3. Recognise the flip side
Find a counterpart for the negative. Does someone always act bossy and dominant? That person is probably really good at getting things done or has a doses confidence you can only dream of. Just as your own characteristics are never black and white, those of others aren’t either. Find the good in the situation or person.
2. Use your creativity
Your creativity is a great source to deal positively with ugly situations. If you are sure that something bad happened, make it a game to find solutions that explain the situation. Somebody cut you off in traffic? His wife might be having a baby and he is in a hurry to make it to the hospital. Your colleague saw you struggling while you were carrying something heavy and he didn’t help? He might suffer from an injury he got while saving an old lady and isn’t allowed to lift anything with his left arm for 4 weeks.
Sometimes the less obvious these thoughts are, the better they work to break a negative pattern. It doesn’t matter so much that the explanation is ridiculous; it is more about creating the possibility of a reason that you might not foresee.
Often I will voice these ridiculous hypothetical explanations in a group, when I notice a conversation is going in a negative judgemental direction. The nice thing is that it playfully communicates that you don’t agree with the current opinion, without explicitly telling someone he might be wrong. In my experience it has a way of silencing a discussion.
Whatever the situation, there is always more than meets the eye. A creative mind can help tremendously in opening up your perspective and introducing you to a world of possible explanations.
Do you use any strategies to think kinder thoughts about others?
December 19, 2013 at 20:41
100% true. In high school, I was so lucky to have a group of friends who NEVER gossiped. Like, I can’t remember a single instance of one of my high school friends saying something negative about someone else. I went to university, and met some very different people. Still wonderful, but very gossipy. I fell a bit down that whole in that time, and managed to climb out after a lot of soul-searching stuff. I have been pretty gossip-free and living happily for a good while now, and I think I do a lot of the same things as you! I always give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even if it seems totally ridiculous! But it always makes me smile, even when I’m on my bike and drivers cut me off, honk at me, yell at me, etc :)
December 20, 2013 at 19:24
You are lucky to have had high school friend like that :) I agree that it makes you smile. Somehow thinking of crazy explanations takes off the pressure/negative waves for a large part :)
December 19, 2013 at 21:03
I’ve been there.. when people hear from one perspective and think it’s 100% true. I hate it. I just don’t come to conclusions whenever I hear people gossip. We have our own interpretations and we know how something could easily get twisted especially with rumors and CERTAIN sources.
I love #4. I always think of what if’s.
December 20, 2013 at 19:26
I know! I can sometimes get a bit frustrated in places like that. It can annoy me that people aren’t more open sometimes (but perhaps I should be more open to their un-openness, ha!)
December 19, 2013 at 22:26
This is lovely, its definitely important to try and be more positive about other people. Like Katherine I think I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, I believe the best in people and it means that most of my interactions are very positive.
I think I have a bit of an issue with talking about other people, not negatively but I think I maybe discuss other people’s lives and stories a bit much and they might not want that if they knew.
December 20, 2013 at 19:27
Good for you! And me too, most often I feel funny to discuss something about someone when he/she isn’t actually there. It seems so irrelevant too!
December 20, 2013 at 11:03
How true. I need to bookmark this for next time I have ugly thoughts!
Wishing you a happy christmas and new year!
December 20, 2013 at 19:27
Good! We all need our reminders :) And I wish you the very same!
December 20, 2013 at 11:43
you know what is the most amazing about this article? that you are actually one of very few people I know who really does it this way and that’s why you are such an amazing person :) thank you for reminding me of that and thank you for reminding me that everyone can do a bit better in this way, although I know my evil bitter self ;) won’t allow me to do it all, but every little helps, right? have a great christmas, hope to see you soon after new years.
lots of hugs from Czech republic.
December 20, 2013 at 19:31
That’s so sweet of you to say :) And yeah, we all have some version of our ‘evil bitter self’ ,in the end it takes some effort. But I do believe that we are all capable of making small improvements. Hope you have a wonderful time in Czech. We couldn’t make it to your party the other day, but yes, then in the new year :)
December 20, 2013 at 17:34
The 4th way is my favorite; I do it all the time! I call it writing “rosy stories” (the word “rosy” coming from the concept of rosy retrospection). It’s so much healthier to think positively about people, too, and not take things personally. Why would you want to feel hurt about something that wasn’t intended to hurt you?
December 20, 2013 at 19:34
I needed to google the term ‘rozy retrospection’. I didn’t know they had a word for the phenomenon! And I love your play of words. i do think it sounds better in English than in Dutch ;)
February 23, 2014 at 17:35
This is such a nice post! I’m often doing the fourth point, creatively changing the path of conversations when it gets a bit uneasy for someone in the group.
In the past, I could always find something positive out of people. Nowadays I just manoeuvre the situation, if it cannot have a happy ending at least a respectful or funny one can do the trick. :)
February 24, 2014 at 09:49
I find it funny to hear that I’m not the only person out there doing that, haha. I understand what you mean