Facing the "Difficult" Person
Somewhere along the way whether in agencies, communities, the workplace, or even in your own family you have likely encountered one or more people that you thought were difficult if not impossible. You consider their thinking and behavior to be shockingly inconsiderate, disrespectful, or small-minded.
Many times I have heard students of mine describing this scenario and saying, "I don't think NVC works in this kind of situation. You can't connect to this kind of person."
I get suspicious whenever I hear the phrase "NVC works". Hearing yourself say this you might examine if you have gone into thinking that NVC is about getting people to be "reasonable" and collaborate with you. Hopefully creating connection does lead to collaboration, but when someone doesn't respond to your attempts to connect, it doesn't mean NVC is failing or you are failing.
Sometimes folks just don't choose to connect with you. You could analyze these folks and why they are so "difficult", but you don't need to. The really important question is what do you do in response to their choice?
You can't make someone connect with you, but you can choose to stay connected to yourself. Making this choice is NVC.
The first step is often just naming and watching your own rage, indignation, and shock. Let yourself watch the jackal show. Before you vent to your friend about this, name it for what it is: "This is my jackal show. I think this person is...!"
The next step is acknowledging your own hurt and sadness around not being met with consideration and respect.
Then it is about naming what you really care about in that situation. Reacting is deciding what to do based on what someone else does. Responding is deciding what to do based on your own needs and values. You don't have the support of this person in meeting needs, so you may have to change your strategies, but you don't give up on the needs.
As the initial shock and anger fades and you become centered again in your needs and your approach to meeting them, a little more space in your heart may open. You can choose to dissolve your enemy images of this person in that space.
Holding anger in your heart disconnects you from yourself and saps your energy. Anger's purpose is to get you to attend to what's happening. Once it has served that purpose, it's not useful to hang out in it.
Reflecting on this person from a more full heart you might be able to remember that they have feelings and needs. You might be able to picture them and see behind the exterior into a sense of vulnerability, fear, or pain. Having compassion for this person, does NOT mean you accept their behavior or stop working to meet the needs alive for you. It simply means that you do your work in a different state of mind, body, and heart.
Take a moment now to notice if there is someone in your life for whom you are holding anger towards. Go through the steps above. Begin by letting yourself feel that anger and then ask it what it wants you to notice, take care of, or be mindful of. Often anger, just wants you to be clear about continuing to take care of yourself and meet needs as they arise.