Tue | Dec 5, 2023

HELLO MI NEIGHBOUR | How to maintain a healthy relationship with ‘difficult people’

Published:Sunday | October 1, 2023 | 4:52 AM

Hello mi neighbour! In Jamaica, whenever we talk about “giving people things to say about you”, it means that you are acting in a manner which is unbecoming. The husband or the wife, for example, who insults their partner in public is giving people negative things to say about their marriage.

Which do you think is better? Giving people things to say about you or to allow them to say what they may, true or false? Whether or not you give them things to say, they will say. Your best choice is to be on your best behaviour at all times: deliver on your promises, be a person of integrity, and leave the rest to the Almighty. To be integrous takes hard work and discipline but its worth the effort and sacrifice.

People whose behaviour makes it difficult for you to keep your word, do your job, or maintain a healthy relationship with them, are called ‘difficult people’. Ranging from the remarks they pass to their inability to communicate effectively, difficult people can drain you emotionally, mentally, physically, and even financially. Should we shun them? Not necessarily. Why not? Who is without sin?

While a better understanding of the root cause of their behaviour may help in dealing with difficult people, the frustration one experiences when interacting with them, or, better put, when interacting with us: you and me, always poses a big challenge.

What are some of the common reasons for irrational behaviours in people, and how can we remain calm and composed when dealing with them in a challenging situation, be it in the family or at the workplace? That’s the million-dollar question!

Whenever a person makes life more stressful for you, it can be difficult to empathise with them or try to understand their point of view. Knowing their story, however, can assist with easing the tension, though. A neighbour can become irritable, aggressive, intolerant, and noncommunicative for a number of internal or external reasons.

Excessive stress, whether it’s from work, family or financial obligations, etc., can cause your neighbours to exhibit unacceptable behaviours. They may become anxious and stiff-necked, moody, short-tempered, or critical. Two neighbours with strong personalities may break out into a fight, as no one wants to yield. See how foolyhardy people can be at times? Can you identify?

People who experienced verbal abuse or trauma in their formative years may immediately lash out at the slightest suspicion that that type of behaviour is being directed toward them. You see, the resurfacing of childhood trauma usually causes a lot of mental distress. Careful!

Until the elephant in the room is dealt with, tension will always open the door to irritability, with frustration traipsing behind. Misunderstandings, and the inability to communicate clearly, can lead to difficult behaviours, especially if someone feels slighted.

Personal issues like relationships, finance, sickness, mental health, etc. can seep into behaviour and deepen the problem with relating to others. Knowledge of what causes a person to become difficult and on edge can help you figure out what steps you need to take when dealing with them.

As difficult as it maybe, it is important to maintain calm and composure if someone is yelling at you, being rude, or even threatening. Staying level-headed is an important key in keeping a difficult situation from escalating.

Clinical psychologist Joseph Galasso advises that “It is typically not prudent to engage in any type of challenge or restorative conversation when emotions are high”, and “If you are trying to help someone stay calm, model calmness, make sure your voice is steady and you are clear in what you want to communicate. Be assertive and ask for exactly what you want.” And don’t forget to ask for divine intervention.

And, when all is said and done, see how difficult it is to deal with people like you and me? “Love thy neighbour as thyself” and “do to others as you would have them do to you”.


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To help, please call Silton Townsend @ 876 884-3866, or deposit in acct # 351 044 276 NCB. Alternatively, send donations to Hello Neighbour c/o 53 Half-Way Tree Road, Kingston 10; PayPal/credit card: email: zicron22@yahoo.com. Contact email: helloneighbour@yahoo.com. Visit hellomineighbourja.blogspot.com. Townsend exclusively manages the collections and distributions mentioned in this column and is neither an employee nor agent of The Gleaner.