Dealing with People You Cannot Change

Currently I’m dealing with a person that really gets my goat. I’m sure you know the type (though it’s different for everyone)… they seem to push all the buttons to annoy, frustrate and anger you. They may have habits or traits that are opposed to your own. They don’t take kindly to suggestions or advice…in fact, why would they? This is the type of person who knows everything regardless of the topic, regardless of the context, regardless of their education or anyone else’s in the subject being discussed. It’s their way or… well, it’s really just their way.

If you haven’t had the opportunity in your life to cross paths with an individual like this, never fear because it’s an almost certainty that at some point you will. And when you do, you too will be faced with the dilemma on how to deal with them. Most importantly how you can deal with them, while retaining your own self worth and respect and staying within the bounds of your beliefs and morals.

First, if it’s a situation where you do not have to directly deal with this person (for example on the train or at a party), then DON’T. If this is someone you have no obligation to at all, kindly excuse yourself from the situation. It’s not worth your time, energy or stress level to deal with someone of this manner when you don’t need to. Trust me.

Second,  if it turns out this person IS someone you need to deal with and do not have the option of excusing yourself from (such as a co-worker or a family member) then you’re going to need to find a way to do so without detriment to yourself. Chances are this person may not realize (or potentially care) how much distress they are causing you (and possibly others). If you are close to them or feel a particular responsibly to them, you may feel the need to figure out the underlying cause of their behaviors. It might be that they are dealing with some personal issues (such as mental health or substance abuse). However, even if this is the case, you shouldn’t martyr yourself to “save” someone who may not actually want to be saved. You cannot change or help anyone who does not have the desire to change or be helped.

In dealing with people that push your buttons it’s best to have as limited interactions as possible. When needed, know your limitations and the level of distress you can handle and kindly excuse yourself temporarily from any situations before they reach a boiling point. It’s much easier to excuse yourself to use the bathroom (or the like) to cool yourself down that to have to explain why you’ve verbally or physically assaulted another human being. Remember, we’re trying to keep our own morals intact here.

If you are in a situation with a button pusher where excusing yourself is not possible (in a car, etc) then these strategies can prove helpful. Distract yourself with something else. Rather than focusing on the person that is causing you distress, focus on something (anything!) else. One method is to look around the room and find items (visually) in a certain color. Another method could be writing or making lists. Deep breathing is a great way to distract yourself and calm yourself down. Take a deep breath through your nose and think to yourself “1”. Next exhale your breath through your mouth and think “2”. Continue this method as you feel necessary.

Despite these methods you still may feel your buttons being pushed. Remember that the only things we can change are ourselves and our actions. We cannot change anyone else. Getting fixated on a person who angers, annoys or stresses us will not change that. Any belief to the contrary is false. At the end of the day we are all free to do whatever we want to do.

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