Another piece on dealing with collaborators and personal relationships from Adam Kahane in Strategy+Business, this time There’s No Such Thing as Difficult People.
“… perhaps there are no difficult people — only situations in which people seem to us to be difficult. Flipping my perspective in this way has helped me to draw lessons from my professional life that can help us all deal with the so-called difficult others we know.”
The lesson here - that I keep learning - is that “difficult” doesn’t refer to other people. It refers to me - my responses, attitude, beliefs. This is best demonstrated in my interactions at home: sometimes my kids are the best thing on the planet, and other times I react strongly (negatively) to what I see. They are the same kids. They are not the ones doing the reacting. I am.
How do I take advantage of this knowledge? “Where the world as a loose garment” is the Zen version of these ideas. Kahane describes some ideas to put this into practice:
Create low-stakes spaces. Make it okay that there will be disagreements and acknowledge where there are uncertainties (and thus differences of opinion).
Look for patterns in your frustrations. What is happening inside when I get frustrated? When I let someone else get under my skin? Do I see a threat? Did I have some assumption about me / them / the situation that ends up not being right? (It helps to have a low-stakes space in which to step back and think about these things.)
Practice letting go. I don’t have to be in control all the time, and I don’t always have to have the answers (even if I think I do - even harder to keep the “difficult” out of my voice).
Whenever I am upset or angry or in a pique, it is me that is upset. What is it about me that is causing that scenario?