Dealing with Difficult People – Part 3

Okay, let’s quickly review. We are talking about three key strategies in dealing with difficult people:

Listen

Learn

Love
We talked about “Listen” in the last blog so today we’ll focus on “Learn.” How do you learn from a difficult person and why should I?

For two reasons:

Learning is an opportunity to understand how they feel. It’s putting yourself in their shoes. Once they realize you are at least trying to understand how they feel, it removes some of the emotion that tends to create problems. But what do you do if the truth is you really don’t care? Has this ever happened to you? It has to me. Here’s a quick example.

I’m talking with a dad in the lobby of our children’s ministry building who is pouring out his heart to me. Here’s the situation….his wife left him and took the kids. He literally had no idea what to do next. As I am talking with this broken hearted dad, I can see out of the corner of my eye a woman waiting to talk to me. As the dad and I bring our conversation to a close, the woman quickly walks up and identifies herself and the problem she would like to discuss. Apparently, her 6th grader did not like the type of music and the volume of the music in the 5th and 6th grade service that day. In that moment, I could not have cared less. She was making a big deal about the music and was obviously quite passionate about it. But that paled in comparison the “real” problem I just dealt with.

Well, this is where the Listen, LEARN and Love strategy helped me big time! I stopped comparing the two problems and simply focused on her situation. I intentionally tried to “Learn” from what she was saying…that is, I tried to understand how she felt and why. And it worked, for both her and me.

2. Learning gives me an opportunity to gain a new and different perspective that might prove valuable. Learning is also discovering new things, ideas or perspectives that you might not have discovered without the input of others, even if they are just being difficult. Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them. Proverbs 18:15

I wish I could say I am ALWAYS open to new ideas. I like to think I am, but there are those times I’m not. Here is an example.

My new senior Pastor in Chicago, who had only been at the church for a few months, brought me an email one day. It was a LONG email from a mom who has some serious complaints about our Early Childhood Department. He handed me the email and said I should probably have a look at it. The email was like three pages long. I don’t read emails more than three paragraphs, let alone three flippin’ pages. Anyway, I quickly went right to the last page to see who wrote the email. Once I saw the source, I handed it back to my pastor and said, “Don’t worry about her, she’s an idiot.” This woman had an axe to grind about something all the time. Seriously, she was the quintessential “Difficult Person.” But my pastor handed it back to me and said, “Well, she went to a lot of trouble and it’s well written so take a look and see if there is anything useful.” He’s the boss so I took it back to my office and read the email. It felt like I was reading a novel it was so long. Well to make a long story short, the email was quite disturbing. Not necessarily because it was long and negative, but because she was right about a lot of the things she pointed out. In fact, we made some significant changes to that department based on that email.

Was she really trying to help or simply looking for another way to cause trouble? It really doesn’t matter. The fact is, there were lessons to be learned and insights to be gained. That’s why we Learn from difficult people.

In the next blog post, we’ll finish up with the third strategy…Love.

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