A friend of mine texted me in the middle of the day this week.  She was frustrated because of a conflict with a co-worker.  More than frustrated, I would say she was angry.  The co-worker had lately become lazy, dishonest, and rude to everyone in the workplace.  Rather than just an isolated event, this behavior was becoming a regular routine.  So my friend turned to me, the “Choosing Joy” lady for a little compassion for her situation.

So here are a few tips for handling a difficult person inspired by the book 1 Thessalonians.

  • Consistently acknowledge the difficult person with a smile and a cheerful greeting at every opportunity.  Making this deposit in the emotional bank account will make confronting him or her about problems down the line much easier.
  • When this person comes to you with a complaint, listen carefully, and then make
    sure that you perfectly understand him or her.  Ask clarifying questions like “What can I do to make this better?” or “Have you tried this solution?
  • If you need to confront this person with a concern, always start the conversation with a positive observation, then a non-threatening phrase like, “Hey I just wanted to talk with you about…” and then try to wrap things up with “What can I do to help you with this?”
  • apologize!  Humility goes a long way in restoring relationships.  Even if you are not forgiven by this person or even if you do not get the apology that you think that you deserve, be proud that you did the right thing.
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  • Stay calm!  Raising your voice or even speaking in an annoyed tone can shut down conversations very quickly.
  • If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about someone, buy that person a gift.  Giving gifts feels nice on both ends and will help you shift your focus.
  • resist the urge to bash the difficult person with others, especially co-workers who have  no power to resolve the issue.  Talking about others negatively rarely solves the problem and unfairly taints the difficult person in the eyes of the one with whom you are complaining.
  • Most importantly, pray for your difficult person.  Often the people in our lives that are rude have had a lot of rude demonstrated to them.  Pray that this person will find joy in his or her work and peace in the heart through a relationship with God.
  • Never forget, that if you believe that Jesus is the Christ, then you have the Holy Spirit at your disposal.  You have built-in self-control.  You have built-in patience.  You have built-in kindness and gentleness.  Use these tools!  For these tools build relationships rather than tear them down.

    “Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

    1 Thessalonians 5:13-18 (NIV)

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