Sometimes it may be difficult to talk to someone who is criticizing, judging, or blaming you. It may be just as difficult to deal with someone who is giving you the silent treatment, giving you the cold shoulder or just plain throwing a tantrum. So, here are some tips on how to deal with those difficult people who have a hard time communicating what they want to say in a loving and kind way.
For starters remember that everyone desires to communicate their feelings and needs in a clear way but many times they just don't know how to do this. Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Nonviolent Communication, says that all people are every really trying to say is "please" or "thank you." So, when someone is upset (and being critical) they are saying please. Giraffes, people who focus on the heart (feelings and needs), look to see what the request is that this person is trying to say.
Well, let's look at how to deal with the different types of communicators we discussed in the post "If Animals Could Talk."
The Turtle - To talk to someone who is a turtle (passive and afraid to share their feelings and needs) it is important to give them reassurance that you won't become judgemental or critical. Let them know that it is safe to talk. Once they have trust you can go fishing for their feelings and needs. You can help them by asking, "Are you feeling _____ because you need ______?"
The Jackal - To talk to the jackal (someone who criticizes, blames and judges others) you can start by fishing for their feelings and needs as well. You can ask, "Are you feeling _____ because you are needing _______? By doing this you change their focus. Now they are focused on answering your question and focusing on their feelings and needs and not on criticizing you. When they say "yes, that's it" then you can focus on offering something that they or you can do that may meet their need(s). If while talking to the jackal you are hearing the criticism and getting bitten by it you can give yourself empathy (ask yourself what you are feeling and needing) or, if needed, take a timeout to calm down. Remember the giraffe rule: Never hear what others think of you if it is negative. But if you do hear the criticism, feel free to take time to calm down.
The Skunk - To deal with the skunk (a person who yells, insults, criticizes, threatens others, breaks things, throws a tantrum, etc.) do what you would do if you saw a skunk. Leave the room to avoid getting sprayed. Wait to talk to this person until they are calm. When you are calm and they are calm use the fishing tool (Are you feeling ____ because you need _____?) to give them empathy as many times as necessary until they have expressed all that is in their heart. Then you can help them to find a strategy to meet their need. In some cases, where there is abuse, you will need to set a boundary (agree to meet with a marriage counselor, leave the relationship, call the police, etc.) with the skunk. Meeting with a third party may be necessary to help both parties communicate. It is okay to talk through someone until you can talk to that person alone.
The Mosquito - With this person (someone who is passive aggressive) make sure to not play their game. Do not try to get them back when they are not looking and punish them. Also, do not focus on what they did that was passive aggressive. This will only make them defensive. Instead focus on fishing and finding out what is behind their behavior. Use the fishing tool and then help them come up with something that will meet their need.
Hopefully this helps when it comes to dealing with those difficult people. Remember that giraffes focus on what is in the heart (feelings and needs). They stay tuned in to that. If we change the channel then we find ourselves in trouble.
PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was provided courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was taken by John Collins.