One change in thought to make conflict more manageable.

selective focus photography of grumpy face toddler sitting on plaid pad taken during daytime

I saw a great quote from the author Ann Voskamp, “Sometimes it helps in the moment to think… People aren’t being difficult, they are having difficulty.”

Why is this such good thinking?

So many times when we are dealing with others, whether those “others” are customers, coworkers, friends, or family members, it is easy to label them as “difficult” when they are being…well…difficult.

The problem is that when we label them this way it gives us some justification to react in a similar difficult way. This ultimately leads to arguing, bad feelings, and nothing getting accomplished, or, if something does get done, it is done begrudgingly. Bottom line—relationship breakdown.

This is not the result we want and we usually realize it when we reflect on it later. In the final analysis, it is a largely unsuccessful outcome.

Voskamp’s quote however gives us an antidote. Imagine changing your thinking. What if you could look to identify the difficulty causing the “difficult” behavior instead of labeling the person as difficult. Most people aren’t “difficult” by nature, they just get that way due to the challenges that frustrate their ability to accomplish their goals. If we could focus on the cause rather than the symptom, we would get to a result that solves things faster and without negative consequences.

Try it. Next time you get into a conflict situation, change your thinking. Instead of labeling the person as “difficult,” look for the difficulty that is causing the behavior and then start looking for how you can help rather than hinder.

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