A Note From Kelly King: If leaders were honest, we would admit there are some people who just “make us crazy.” The reason is that ministry translates into relationships and people—all people. We must realize difficult people are always going to be in our lives. It’s how we respond that makes the difference. Ongoing contributor, Deb Douglas, begins a three-part series on how leaders deal with difficult people. I’m leaning in and hope you are too.
Some people are difficult. Whether they want to be or intend to be is difficult to determine. Drs. Paul Meier and Robert Wise wrote an insightful book on the topic of difficult people and how to deal with them named, “Crazy Makers.” It’s a great title because that is just what difficult people do—they make us crazy! Anyone involved in leadership is going to face challenges with difficult people.
Let’s start with recognizing difficult people. The difficult person:
- Has a new drama frequently
- Takes on the drama of others as their own
- Asks for advice but refuses to listen to the advice
- Presents excuses for why all advice will not work
- Says, “you do not get it,” or “you just do not understand what it’s like…”
- Becomes frustrated when the helper does not fix her situation or is not available on her demand or schedule
- Talks negatively to others about the people trying to help
- Seeks help from multiple people
How do you help difficult people without going crazy?
- Recognize and acknowledge the person as difficult. This helps you keep a healthy perspective.
- Instead of finding short-term solutions for the presenting drama, look for long-term solutions. If you only focus on the immediate, you are not helping her get to a healthy place.
- If the advice you give is not being received, you need to refer the difficult person to someone who can help.
- Be honest.
- Communicate that manipulation is not acceptable. Warning: Difficult people do not like to be confronted about their manipulation!
- Be upfront about what you are able to do and what you cannot do.
- Have strong, healthy boundaries.
- It is OK not to answer the phone or text immediately. Set time limits for conversations. Limit time availability.
- Remember the difficult person is not the only person in need.
Dealing with difficult people can crush us and suck the life out of us. Protecting our hearts is not a selfish act; it is a realization that we want to be in this life for the long haul and to finish the race God has set out before us without being made crazy!
Next week, we look a little closer at helping the difficult person looking for an easy fix.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.