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Dealing With Difficult People With NLP Hypnotherapy

Many of us consistently struggle with how to deal with difficult people. Whether you’re in the workplace or if these difficult people are in your own family, you have to find ways of dealing with people we find challenging.

When it comes to people who are self-important, chronic complainers, bullies, victims or martyrs, we generally struggle to manage our responses effectively. However, NLP training teaches us that we are in control of a lot more than we think we are, and have a capacity to respond in more considered and useful ways once we have the tools to do so. If you have Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) communication and self-management skills you should have a vast range of responses. If you don’t, then here are a couple of simple points that don’t require any real background knowledge.

The Drama Cycle

One thing I teach in my NLP Practitioner Certification is something called “The Drama Cycle.” This is not NLP and a purist might challenge its presence in NLP training, but NLP is a model that draws from the best approaches in the world, and my students find it extremely useful.

The drama cycle explains most human interaction. In the drama cycle, there is one of three positions you can take. if you play one of them, then you will tend to play in all of them at different times. You will either play the rescuer, the victim, or the persecutor.

The Rescuer

The rescuer is the person who’s always trying to help out when people are stuck. They often have good intentions, but sometimes are driven by their own need for significance or purpose, which they enhance when they assist others. Outside of their conscious awareness, it often satisfies a deeper need in them. It offers a sense of significance, importance, and contribution.

The Victim

The victim is the person who is habitually stuck. I’m not talking about somebody who has just broken their leg and they need a bit of help. I’m talking about someone who constantly struggles and their life. It’s as if they have a dark cloud above them. They lead and try to connect with others through complaining and talking about their problems. They regularly lean on others, espousing statements of helplessness, and often put a fair amount of energy into trying to guilt people into helping them.

The Persecutor

The other role of the Drama Cycle is the persecutor, the person who has no tolerance for the victim. They might even seek out and target the victim. This is the office bully. They are intent on punishing, often using harsh tones, or conversely stony silence or disdainful looks to communicate their dissatisfaction. Sound familiar?

So how does this Drama Cycle work?

This is a very large subject and I could talk about this for hours, but here I can only cover it in a very cursory way. Essentially, once you are in this Drama Cycle, drama is the currency. Now, if you play one of these roles, you play all of these roles. You might have a default. You might lean towards the victim position or you might lean towards the rescuer position. If you keep trying to rescue people and they just don’t come with you, or keep making the same mistakes and complaining about it, there will be a part of you that might just drop into the persecutor position. How do you know you are there? Tone! Statements like, “For God’s sake” are a bit of a give away, even if you don’t state it externally, you are there.

At that point, you’ve dropped into the persecutor. So none of these are mutually exclusive. We have all played these roles at some point in our lives.

When we are dealing with difficult people, we often see them as either the victim or the persecutor. And even if we don’t physically rescue, our desire to try to make them feel better, somehow make up for their situation, or appease them in some way, often puts us in the rescuer position. But we’re in it. You’re in the drama of it and we will be upset by it. We can go from rescuing someone to feeling persecuted very quickly because now we feel like it’s costing us too much. So the lines between these three positions are very, very blurred.

The Observer

There’s also the fourth position and that’s referred to as the observer position. The observer is the coach, the adult position, the person who is not buying into all the drama, who doesn’t get drawn in emotionally. They are more likely to respond with words to the effect of, “That’s interesting.” The observer is a witness to the drama but can remain solution-oriented. The observer is the position that is most useful because the observer position doesn’t get caught up in rescuing.

A typical observer's response to a tale of woe is, “Okay, that must have been challenging. So what are you going do about this now?” They don’t get emotionally drawn in or let their emotions get rattled. So the observer sets decent boundaries.

The observer is more likely to recognise that we are all responsible for our choices. No one gets to make you feel inferior angry or unappreciated. No one gets to make you feel anything. That’s up to you. I can’t make you love me. I can’t make you hate me. I can’t make you feel anything towards me. That will be your choice. And so, as the observer, you have a choice about how you respond to the world. Most people do not spend very much time in the observer position.

What keeps us stuck in the Drama Cycle?

We get stuck in the Drama cycle for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is our inability to maintain boundaries. And before you explain this skills gap as a result of not loving yourself enough, that is not it!

It’s because you’ve not learned how to manage your emotional state. It’s because you haven’t learned that “Hmmm interesting” is a much more useful response most of the time than, “I can’t believe this,” “How dare they?” or “What if they don’t like me anymore?”

These sorts of reactions preclude you from having a choice in the way you respond to difficult people or situations. No one has control over you unless you give them that control.

Are you conflicted?

Another factor that makes us more prone to the actions of difficult people is that most of us are conflict averse. So if you have poor self-regulation, you don’t trust yourself enough to be able to have a serious or challenging conversation, then you’re unlikely to have it. A lot of people also fail to make the distinction between being assertive and being aggressive. So if you’re worried about becoming aggressive when all you want is assertive, you are likely to baulk at confrontation.

Being assertive, to give you the distinction is being able to assert your rights. Being aggressive is asserting your rights over someone else. Some are more worried that they will end up in tears rather than being able to maintain a professional position. For others, it's an excessive need for acceptance, (almost always learned in childhood) that makes them give too much weight to other people’s opinions. Once again, this will probably lead to avoidance.

Do you have an excessive need for acceptance?

Can I suggest for a moment that acceptance is one of the single worst patterns you can have? The excessive need for acceptance will completely limit your life. That’s something that, if you come to an NLP training, you could work on.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that you should not care what people think. I think that’s ridiculous. But it’s about giving appropriate weight to the views of others depending on the context. What you want is a clear view of your worth, with the ability to check in with others.

Do you lack process?

Moreover, you could be hampered by a lack of process. If you just don’t know how to have a potentially confrontational conversation, or how to keep an argument contained, a robust discussion could initiate a series of unforeseen consequences. And it’s our fear of consequences, whether they are real or imagined, that often dissuades us I’m taking action.

And finally, you need effective impulse control so you don’t get caught up in the drama. You have to make a distinction between what is personal and what merely affects you personally. If you lean towards being sensitive then you are going to be much less likely to have to confront conversations and a wider range of the population will seem difficult to you.

How do you determine it is personal?

Let me offer you something. Anything someone says to you is not personal. It may well say more about them than you. And even if they are talking about you directly, making it a personal attack, what they’re talking about are the patterns that you run.

They don’t get to make it personal for you. Only you can do that. I’m gonna suggest to you that no matter what anyone says to you, they don’t decide how you should respond to it. A criticism or a complaint isn’t personal unless you decide it is. This is how you maintain your power in challenging situations.

Do you Self-reference?

Another factor is something called self-referencing. It’s also a cognitive distortion. In essence, it’s a belief that people and the world should act the way we want them to. A standard self-referencing statement is, “I can’t believe they did that. I would never do that.” It’s where you are using your values, your expectations, and your standards, and assuming that the rest of the world should do the same. They are not going to. And the more you want the world to be different, the more disappointment and frustration you’ll feel. Other people have the right to be total idiots. That’s their right. You have the right to ignore them. The more you want the world to be different, or to meet your needs, the more you’re out of touch with reality.

So understand that in any population like a workplace, you’re going to find difficult people among the mix. There’s no getting around that. You can avoid them but probably not forever, and if they are in your family it's hard to exile them completely. And this is where NLP comes in. It gives you tools to manage your internal state. Once you can do that, you can choose your response. So instead of reacting, you respond.


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