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We are social creatures who desire validation. We feel good when others share our belief system. But we feel dejected when others do not value our inputs, crush our ideas, or ignore what we have to say.
These difficult people act in undesirable ways and give us permission to pass judgement and offload responsibility by blaming them for undesirable outcomes.
When dealing with difficult people, the amygdala in the brain, responsible for processing emotions, perceives them as a threat. This triggers the fight-or-flight response.
We either try to fight the behavior or flee from the situation without solving the problem. The interaction can release stress hormones that lead to a pounding heart, tense muscles, and anxiety. It can also drain us of energy and lead to overthinking.
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The basic rules that we need to apply:
Hanlon’s razor is a potent mental model which can be used in any situation where our first instinct is a negative assumption. Any wrong hypothesis related to the bad intentions of others is counterproductive and can play havoc in our lives.
Don't try changing people, try understanding them.
When you try to change someone they tend to resent you, dig in their heels, and get worse. The way to disengage a difficult person is to try understanding where they are coming from.
When trying to understand difficult people, search for their value language.
A value language is what someone values most. It is what drives their decisions. For some people it is money; for others, it is power or knowledge.