Say it ain’t so! Yet, where would we be without difficult people?
“Difficult people are irritants. They can help us make pearls.” My mother, Beba G. Gurri, said when we came across difficult people. Without these people, we would not hone our personal power and Red Shoe Attitude or Skills. Somehow, I have faith that we have all taken turns creating and harvesting a long string of pearls. Here’s some salt-free food for thought.
Red Shoe Story
My family, the Gurri family, escaped from Cuba in 1960. Limited to only the clothes we could wear, my mother, Beba, wore impractical red shoes as a quiet defiance to Castro. In our adoptive home, most everyone was lovely. One exception stands out.
Shortly after arriving in the USA, a woman walked up to Beba, pointed to her red shoes, and declared, “Those shoes make you look loose.” Beba stiffened in anger, then quickly relaxed and, in her beautiful accent proudly said, “Jes! I can dance!” For me, those red shoes seemed to magically harness the power of yuckiness with courage, humor, and grace. The Red Shoe Attitude was born. It’s about choosing happiness, inviting excellence, and owning our power.
Three Foundational Truths
Life is smoother if we accept Three Foundational Truths about difficult people. Difficult people: 1. Are all around us. 2. Are sometimes us. 3. Help us make pearls… or not!
If we dive into the task of understanding what makes people tick, free of harsh judgements, we can respond graciously and effectively to almost anyone. Mindfulness is key.
Fab Four Difficult Personality Types
I’m especially grateful to four types of difficult people. I playfully nicknamed them the Fab Four, as they can bring out the best in us. For over thirty years, these Fab Four have kept me happily and profitably engaged as a keynoter and consultant working with leaders, organizations, and teams. The Fab Four include: the 1. Opera Singer (as my twin, Elena, refers to Narcissists), and three commonly regarded clinical types, the 2. Know-it-all, 3. Bully, and the noteworthy, 4. Passive Aggressive.
Below is a table that will hopefully help you identify and deal with the Fab Four graciously.
The Fab Four: Types of Difficult People
|Fab Four||Opera Singer
|Me, Me, Me: trouble listening, never met an agenda they couldn’t destroy, blame, make excuses, vulnerable to rejection, charismatic can be fun.||Fact Queens: tone of authority, final absolute truth; cannot allow others to share opinions or shine; gloat.||Mean grown-ups: repeatedly and deliberately hurting someone with less power; aggressive verbally, physically, sexually, financially, or spiritually.||Hidden Hostiles: get even without acknowledging their anger, resentment, envy; can’t take reasonable feedback, sabotage others.|
|“Me first!… Back to me.
When I was with the president…Let me tell you about the time…It was terrible, he…”
|“Well, actually. Did you know…No. In truth… I hate to tell you this, but…”||“Was I talking to you? … So, I hope you don’t mind, but I told everyone that you slept with…That’s your mom? Now it all makes sense.”||“I’m not mad… Fine… Whatever… I didn’t know you meant now…Not my fault… Why are you getting so upset?”|
|Feel||Scared, vulnerable, insulted, unloved or they are all that.||Annoyed, eager to be helpful, pressured to look smart.||Dread, frustrated, ashamed, others provoke the cruelty.||Like an emotional roller coaster, frustrated, stuck, afraid to confront directly.|
|Afraid to be forgotten,
Feel their own greatness,
Need constant approval.
|Scared, feel unworthy, bravado insecure, feel compelled to correct errors, afraid to admit they are wrong.||Afraid, bravado, posturing, may feel threated, this is the way to gain power.||Lack confidence to be loved for themselves, can’t be direct with my anger.|
|Strategies||Avoid shame and challenging them, demand little…Expect little, listen, give credit when due, smile||Avoid arguing and that eye roll;…Listen and redirect, come prepared with facts, agree to disagree||Avoid being aggressive or defensive…stand tall, be brave, document and report, keep safe||Avoid reacting…be calm and cool, keep your distance to avoid the hidden hostility, set limits|
|What to say||“I see. Can you think of how others (or I) might see that?”||“Great facts. Where do you suggest I read about that?… What does Jane think about that?”||“Please stop or STOP…Excuse me. I have something to tend to…. Can you explain what you meant by…?”||Use I, we lets statements. “I noticed the deadline wasn’t met….Next time you are late, I will meet in inside the movie.”|
Which one of these types of difficult people bothers you the most? What gets you steamed? To understand triggers is to delve into the underlying beliefs of difficult people, whether it is them or us. We identify the Fab Four by what they Do, Say, and Feel.
Red Shoe Attitude is about the personal power that comes from knowing ourselves, others, and the contexts in which we find ourselves. We are all difficult sometimes. So, how are you difficult? In what contexts? For which types of personality types are you most difficult?
Be brave. Take a hot minute. Do a core dump of all the things bothering you right now. Is the list longer than anticipated?
- Next, ask yourself, “Why does this set me off? How do I react?
- An even more important question is, “How am I difficult?” “How do I contribute in any way to this person being difficult or seeming to be difficult?” Self-awareness is that gift that keeps on giving. In any organization, knowing ourselves and our teams is vital to our mission and to our bottom line.
Though strategies differ in our response to the Fab Four, all start with compassion, understanding, and a generous sense of humor. Letting the Fab Four save face and figuring out how to channel the spirit behind the difficult behavior is key in great communication and… world peace. After all, it is our mission to help others by working together to make even one kidney owner feel healthier and hopeful. A Red Shoe invites others to an aligned goal, commitment, and influence.
The next time you face a difficult person or do a great impersonation of one, get excited. This is a great opportunity to step up in your ruby reds to a difference in this world. Go forth and make us all proud!
Eleanor Roosevelt had the Red Shoe Attitude: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” So, stand tall in your ruby reds and make it a Red Shoe day!