Mindfulness and Difficult People: Learn 4 Mindfulness Techniques to Deal with Difficult People
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, Health and Happiness Specialist™
Much of what we hear about mindfulness has to do with how it can enhance the stillness of our mind, soothe our nerves, and awaken our senses for stress management and wellness. But rarely do we hear about how mindfulness can help during encounters with difficult people.
No matter how many self-care practices we embrace, or stress management workshops we attend, we will always encounter people in our lives who have complaints in some form or another. I am sure that you have heard these things said to you or someone near you at one point in your life.
I want to talk to the manager!
You’re not listening to ME!
NO, I WILL NOT QUIET DOWN!
Mindfulness can help. It has helped me in more occasions than I care to imagine. When faced with difficult people or circumstances, mindfulness allows me to keep present in the moment and feel calm and in control of not only myself but also the situation.
If you are new to mindfulness the techniques shared here will seem like common sense to you especially during those regular days when things are going well. But what if your day is not going well and you are overwhelmed with work and someone approaches you all upset, wanting you to fix a problem. Often, an unexpected stressful moment can make common sense seem not so common. When our fight or flight reaction gets triggered it is difficult for our prefrontal cortex, the rational part of brain to think straight. In fact, the amygdala, the alarm part of our brain, takes over, making it difficult to calm ourselves down. If you are a mindfulness practitioner (or even a mindfulness dabbler) then the skills that you are about to read will be good reminders for you.
What is Mindfulness?
Before I share with you the techniques let me just briefly define mindfulness so as to avoid any misconceptions of what this practice is all about. Mindfulness is not yoga. Mindfulness is not a religion. Lastly, mindfulness is not about emptying our minds. It is more than that! I like to describe mindfulness as the awareness and acceptance of the actual of ebbs and flows of life— without attachment or judgment. It is purposely living in the moment.
Mindfulness Day In and Day Out
Hundreds of studies have proven that practicing mindfulness is effective in lessening chronic pain, depression, stress and so much more. Fortunately for us there are many ways to practice mindfulness in everyday life. We can practice mindfulness day in and day out if we want. In fact, anything we do in life when done with purpose and with full awareness of our senses can be considered a mindfulness practice like, bathing an adorable little baby, eating a piping hot cheesy pizza, or hugging someone you love.
While practicing mindfulness is easy in a controlled and quite setting, it can be a challenge out in the real world. One of the true tests of mindfulness is when someone invades your personal zen-bubble and decides to burst it. I call these situations the true test of mindfulness practice. The reality is mindfulness does not shield us from life’s tribulations. But what it does do is help us become more resilient so we can bounce back quicker and prevents us from taking difficult situations personally.
Here are the 4 mindfulness skills that have helped me remain calm, cool, and centered in the midst of heated encounters with difficult people. Please note the intention of this article is to provide you with a mindfulness plan to help you deal with difficult people. Always trust your gut instincts when you encounter a difficult person especially when they start escalating. Always err on the side of caution— safety first!
4 Mindfulness Techniques
The 4 Mindfulness Techniques for Dealing with Difficult People are:
- Body– Mindful body is very important during negative encounters. Maintaining a grounded and powerful pose puts you in a state of relaxed attention that will also keep you on your toes. Body language speaks much louder than words. Whether you are sitting or standing, it’s best to position your body so that both feet are on the ground with both feet at least shoulder width apart. Look at the person’s hands to see what they are doing and keep a safe distance away from them.
- Breath– Mindful breathing is one of the best practices to do when you are stressed. Taking slow deep breaths during negative encounters has a subtle and powerful effect on you as well as the other person. When possible, purposely and subtly deepen your breathing pattern so that the other person can see what you are doing. Doing this has a subtle way of encouraging the other person to slow down their breathing to match yours and may help them feel better too.
- Listening– Mindful listening is also crucial during heated moments. People like to be heard. By giving the other person your undivided and compassionate ear you will help them feel important. Pay close attention to what is being said in order for you to relay the story back. Mindfully listen to your own thoughts during the encounter. Avoid jumping to conclusions before the person is done speaking. This will help you listen more intently.
- Seeing– Mindful seeing is very important because this will allow you study the person in front of you. Always keep your eyes on the person so that you can best read whether he or she is distraught or delusional. Notice what the person is doing. Do they seem relieved from talking or are they escalating? If you notice that all of your great mindfulness intentions are not working, ask for help. Remember you don’t have to do this by yourself.
Don’t Take it Personally
It’s very important to remember not to take these negative situations personally. While it is upsetting to have some yell at you, try to keep your dignity and the others’ intact as much as possible. At times, being respectful is enough to take care of the situation. Try to give the other person the benefit of the doubt when possible.
Once again your safety is very important. If your instincts are telling you to get help, please do so. I hope that this mindfulness plan will help you in the future as it has helped me.
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Please share any other mindfulness techniques that you feel would help during difficult encounters. Thank you!