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Dealing With Difficult People? Use These 4 Recovery-Backed Tips

People are messy. They come with baggage, personalities and a multitude of differences.

You may be experiencing a challenging interpersonal dynamic at work, at home or in your group of friends. But regardless of where or how you’re struggling with challenging people, it can be draining and difficult on your life and mood.

You might be dealing with a negative coworker, a challenging family member, or a friend from your past. No matter who, what or when, try not to let the drama or stress of the people in your life be all-consuming. Instead, try using some wisdom from recovery to help get you through.

4 Tips to Get You Started

  • Tip #1 Adjust your behavior first.
    You might have learned this one in treatment. Whether you call it staying in your lane or keeping your side of the house clean, it’s important to remember that any of us can really only change ourselves. If you’re struggling with a difficult person, try thinking through the adjustments you can make to your own actions first. Are there comments you make that worsen a situation? Better ways you can react? Spend a few minutes writing down or thinking through how you can better handle yourself in tense situations. Chances are, your small efforts will go a long way.
  • Tip #2 Have honest conversations.
    Honesty and assertiveness are healthy ways to communicate in the world. In addiction, you may have bottled up your feelings or acted out in anger, which are both unhealthy ways to cope with interpersonal conflict. Instead, practice honesty. This one might take some work. Sitting down with the person you’re having a hard time with can be nerve-wracking. Try not to get nervous, and instead be compassionate yet to-the-point. Use “I” statements rather than blaming ones, and use the first tip – take accountability for your actions, share how a person’s actions have made you feel, and keep it to the point. Avoid getting overly personal, offensive or emotional about the conflict, and go into the conversation with resolution and reconciliation in mind.
  • Tip #3 Embrace boundaries.
    It’s not always easy to put up boundaries, but it is always possible. This one might apply most to some of your using friends or even certain family members. If adjusting your own behavior and having an honest conversation doesn’t work, try putting up boundaries. If you’re comfortable, tell the person you prefer not to talk about X topic with them. Or, create boundaries that only you, your mentors and your sponsor know about. Ask for their help in keeping you accountable as you work to maintain boundaries, and adjust your expectations of the relationship accordingly.Depending on the relationship dynamic, setting boundaries might even mean cutting the relationship out of your life completely (if possible), especially when lighter boundaries, honesty or self-reflection offer no avail to fixing the relationship. Be sure to work with your support network as you make these decisions – cutting off a negative relationship is never easy, and you want to make sure you do so with tact, wisdom and the tools of recovery.
  • Tip #4 Give second chances.
    While you’ll have to use discretion and wisdom with this one, always make sure you’re willing to give second chances, just like you were given a second chance in recovery. If you’re having a hard time getting over something someone has said or done to you, think back to the amends you’ve made and the forgiveness you’ve received in recovery. Take a few moments to reflect on how it feels to have been forgiven and sit in gratitude. Now, move forward with that same spirit of grace, second chances and forgiveness. You’ll feel lighter and freer to pursue your own recovery while you build healthy relationships along the way.

Applying Recovery Principals to All Parts of Your Life

This is the benefit of recovery: you can use it in all other parts of your life. The lessons you’ve learned staying sober are now some of your most valuable assets. These assets are wisdom, patience, determination, and compassion – and you have them at your disposal at all times.

It still won’t be easy working with challenging people, but at least you’ll be equipped with the tools, skills and strategies to get through it. And that’s the exciting part.

What are some tips you’ve used to handle difficult people during your recovery? Follow me on Twitter at @tori_utley and share your tips with us at @Recovery_Org!



Images Courtesy of iStock

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