Loving Difficult People – Part Three

Another person who is difficult to deal with is the THUMB SUCKER. Thumb Suckers tend to pout, are full of self-pity, and try to get people to cater to their own desires. This pouting is used as leverage to manipulate others. If things are not going their way, they can create a heavy atmosphere that is as oppressive as a rain cloud. They can do this very cleverly. Often they employ the silent treatment to get what they want.

Here is a strategy in dealing with this individual.

First, make the Thumb Sucker aware of the fact that moodiness is a choice. This is essential. People become moody to manipulate people and gain control. They are very seldom moody by themselves. Teach them that they are responsible for the atmosphere they create, especially if they are in a position of leadership in the team or the church. Everyone in the world has problems; the Thumb Sucker has no right to add his or her personal petty grievances to the load. They can choose to be even-tempered and no longer impact a situation or others by their pity party approach to life. 

Sometimes it is helpful to expose Thumb Suckers to people who have real problems. Perhaps it will cause them to see themselves in a different light and to have a more grateful heart and positive attitude. 

It is important to never reward or give attention to moody people. Giving them an opportunity to publicly exhibit their negative attitudes gives them a sense of recognition. The best method of attack is to praise this person’s positive ideas and actions and ignore him when he is sucking his thumb.

Thumb Suckers are subject to mood swings; they’re negative only part of the time. However, THE WET BLANKET, on the other hand, is constantly down and negative. He is the classic impossibility thinker who see a problem in every solution. He is afflicted with the dreaded disease of Excusitis — finding problems and making excuses.

The most difficult thing about working with a person like this is that he or she usually takes no responsibility for his or her negative attitude and behaviour. It’s either “the other guy’s fault” or it’s “Just the way I am,” — a way of blaming God. Again, don’t reinforce the Wet Blanket’s behaviour by providing a platform from which to make excuses. Kindly but firmly point out that you have confidence in this person, but his or her present attitude is hindering progress. He needs to choose whether or not he is going to  risk being positive and responsible. If he chooses to change his behaviour, he’ll have a cheering section. If he chooses to not change, though, your best move will be away from him.

THE GARBAGE COLLECTOR is locked even deeper into the mire of negativity than the Thumb Sucker and the Wet Blanket. Garbage Collectors have surrendered the leadership of their lives to negative emotions. Oh, how they love to rehearse and replay the injuries they have suffered at the hands of other people. They nurse their wounds and hold onto their wounded ill spirits. Briefly and concisely, they stink! The fact that there is garbage in life is depressing enough, but to collect it and haul it around town in a dump truck for public viewing is downright sick.

How do you deal with these people? First confront them about the way they try to represent other people. I never allow a person to tell me “there are many others who feel this way also.” I won’t hear them out unless they give me names. That single requirement takes a lot of the “stink” out of their garbage because it usually boils down to just one or two individuals who have an affinity for garbage too. I challenge their statements by pinning them down when they make generalizations and exaggerations. If they have created a serious enough situation, it may become necessary to destroy their credibility by exposing them to a decision-making group.

THE USER is the person who manipulates others for his or her own personal gain. Users avoid responsibility for themselves, while demanding time and energy from others to benefit their own situations. They often use guilt to get what they want. The put on a weak front in order to get people to feel sorry for them and help them out.

How do you work with USERS? First, set predetermined limits on how far you will go to help them. Otherwise, they will push your guilt button and you will weaken. Remember that these people will not only take you the second and third mile, they’ll take you to the cleaners if you allow them. Require responsibility from the User. Even if you feel disposed to help him, make sure he is responsible for some part of the job. Otherwise, you will wind up carrying the load while he goes on his merry way — more than likely looking for another gullible soul.

Last, don’t feel obligated to Users, and don’t feel guilty for not feeling obligated. Most of the time a simple, firm no is the best medicine.

More next time …