Most difficult people don’t realize quite how difficult others find them to be; from their perspective, their words and action seem quite reasonable. If you’re finding others difficult, or touchy, maybe you are the difficult one.
As you answer these questions, be brutally honest. Don’t make excuses; just answer accurately. These questions apply to family members gathering for a holiday — or to co-workers, or to any group of people who are trying to get along with each other.
–Do you often find that when you do something nice for people, they do a lot of grumbling? Do they seem ungrateful or uncooperative? For example, you offered to host Thanksgiving dinner, but no one appreciated it.
–When you join a group of people, does the mood often shift? Does a group tend to break apart after you join it?
–When you do something generous for others, do you think it only right that your generosity will allow you to make decisions for them or direct their actions?
–Do you find it hard to get your calls and emails returned?
–Are you often puzzled when people dramatically over-react to little mistakes, oversights, or casual remarks you make? You bring up some cute anecdote from years ago, and everyone acts upset.
–Do you often find yourself saying defensively, “It was just a joke!”
–Do you think it important to express your true feelings and views authentically, even if that means upsetting other people?
–Do you find that people seem resentful and angry when you offer objective, helpful criticism or advice?
–Do you often find out that something you’ve done or said has caused an argument between two other people? For example, your son tells you that he and your daughter-in-law have been arguing about the lovely holiday plans you’ve made.
–Do you find that even when you’re trying to be helpful by explaining something or providing information, people don’t want to seem to listen?
–Do you feel annoyed because people tend to refuse to acknowledge your greater experience or knowledge in an area, and instead, ignore your suggestions?
–Do people tend to change the conversation when you try to explain a major insight that has led you to make a major lifestyle change?
–Do people tend to gang up against you – when you’re arguing one side, everyone takes the other side, or when one person criticizes you, everyone else chimes in?
–Do you find it funny to see other people squirm?
–If someone asks for your opinion, do you think it’s right to tell them frankly what you think?
–Do you think it’s useful to point out people’s mistakes, areas of incompetence, or previous track records of failure?
–If you’re just teasing someone in fun, do you think it’s unreasonable for that to become angry?
–Is it fairly common for one person to tell you that he or she will speak to a third person, so that you don’t have to? In other words, do people volunteer to act as intermediaries for you, rather than let you do your own talking?
A “yes” may be a red flag that you’re a source of unhappiness for others. What other signs have I missed? Curbing my tendencies to be difficult is an important element of my Happiness Project.
The days are long, but the years are short.