Lessons from a Difficult Person: How to Deal with People Like Us
Author: Sarah H. Elliston
Category: Adult Non-fiction, 176 pages
Genre: Self-help / Relationships
Release date: November 30, 2016
Content Rating: G
The funny thing is that Sarah Elliston never realized she was “a difficult person,” — someone who harangued people until she got her way, threw snip fits and temper tantrums, talked over her bosses and pointed out what she thought were their misconceptions. In her family, where she felt bullied, the only way she knew how to get someone’s attention and approval was to voice her opinion—and loudly! Without standing her ground, how could she do what she thought was best for herself and everyone around her. She wasn’t intentionally mean-spirited. She was just trying to do what she thought was RIGHT!
Until a kind, but firm, boss woke her up! With great compassion, and strength, her boss pointed out that that her actions had consequences. That in being “difficult,” she was not only disrupting the office camaraderie and production, but impeding her own professional advancement.
That’s the beginning of Sarah’s transformation— when she started on the journey to leave behind the difficult person, and become the woman who teaches others how to deal with difficult people. Sam Elliston is now bringing forth her vital manual on how to awaken the challenging personality, and change both the relationship and the environment, with her new book Dealing with Difficult People; Lessons Learned from a Difficult Person.
Today, Elliston is a highly successful workshop leader and trainer, who offers wisdom learned the hard way—by experience – as well as through rigorous study and certification in many areas of professional training that aid her in her work — Values Realization, Parent Effectiveness Training and Reality Therapy. She is a faculty member of the William Glasser Institute. Glasser is an internationally recognized psychiatrist and developer of Reality Therapy, a method of psychotherapy that teaches people they have a choice in how they choose to behave.
The methods Elliston offers in her book end the trauma and the drama, and minimize the possibility of confrontation. She gives YOU, the reader, the ability to take a strong, positive, confident—yet compassionate–stance with the “difficult person”—whether that is a relative, coworker, friend, one of your children or anyone else for that matter.
Elliston demonstrates how to:
• Identify the ways to talk to a “difficult” person
• Incorporate true incentives to help people change
• Make real the consequences of the “difficult” person’s action
• Increase success through acceptance and belonging
• Avoid being triggered by the “difficult” person allowing you to neutralize those hot buttons and communicate without judgment
Elliston lays out a proven script for peacefully transforming the difficult person’s behavior and the environment. She gives you the tools for successfully initiating and engaging in a conversation with a difficult person that would lead to change.
Sarah (Sam) Elliston is an expert in the art of Dealing with Difficult People. She is a top workshop leader and a member of the faculty of the William Glasser Institute, which espouses “Reality Therapy” to foster behavioral change.
But her instructional career began long before she even became aware that she was herself a “difficult person,” traits that began in Lincoln MA, where she grew up. For more than 30 years she has been teaching and training, first as a high school teacher in Ohio and Cincinnati—and then as an administrator in the not-for-profit sector.
Interview with: Sarah Elliston
Author of Lessons From a Difficult Person; How to Deal With People Like us
- It’s an unusual title –What does it mean?
I discovered that I was a difficult person in the middle of my life and I was surprised that I hadn’t been informed before. I realized that most articles and literature on difficult people are written as if the difficult person is the enemy and there are tricks one can do to get along with or avoid him or her.
As my title suggests, this book is designed to help someone who has a difficult person in his life examine the situation and follow some steps to having a conversation with the person. It involves moving from annoyance with the other to being in their corner and cheering them on as they consider changing.
- Who inspires you as a writer?
I suppose the writer I emulate is E. B. White who wrote Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little and coauthored Elements of Style with William Strunk.
Mr. White wrote in clear language with simple descriptions that were as crisp and lively as they were clear-cut. My training was to write as distinctly as possible while also being vibrant and pure.
“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that he make every word tell.”
“Elementary Principles of Composition”, The Elements of Style
The way of writing urges writers to eliminate unnecessary words. I find myself deleting the word “so” because it waters down the emotion (“so” glad to be here – being glad to be here is joyful enough) and growling at people who describe something as “very” unique. Unique is unique, there is nothing like it or it wouldn’t be unique. It does not need a modifier; a modifier insults the word and the reader (or listener).
I worked at diligently editing and restructuring my book so it would be as close to this as possible.
- What does it feel like to be difficult?
My experience was that it felt distanced from others and confusing, as if there was a message everybody else had and I didn’t get it. That led to a resentful and distrustful approach to others, especially those in leadership roles. It’s hard to feel close to another person when you’re considered difficult. I often felt as if I was walking through the paces of whatever role I was playing.
- Why should we make an effort to have a relationship with a difficult person when they already drive us crazy?
The simple response to this is because the difficult person isn’t happy being difficult, it is all they know how to do. Difficult people can be argumentative or clingy, they can be pushy or always quiet. They may not know how to be otherwise and if we don’t make an effort to have a relationship with them then not only are they missing out, we are missing out of having a real relationship with someone who, believe me, wants one but doesn’t know how to get it.
It is always a surprise to others when I suggest that difficult people really don’t know what they are doing that annoys others- they know that the others are annoyed but they don’t know why or if they have been told why, they don’t know what to do instead. Difficult behavior is a habit and it needs to be discussed and changed with the help of someone who is willing to take time and make an effort.
- Who do you think will benefit the most from this book?
My hope is that the difficult people will benefit if they have people in their lives who take the time to have conversations with them inviting and encouraging change. I hope the difficult people become less difficult and develop stronger relationships.
All of us need connection and a sense that of belonging with others. Difficult people don’t feel needed or connected enough or they would not be difficult. They wouldn’t need to annoy us in whatever way they do. They do what they do because it is a habit and it is all they know. Something about the result satisfies them or they wouldn’t keep doing but it isn’t really what they want.
We all crave to feel a part of something. It is a profound human need. For the people who have difficult people in their lives, I hope they benefit by getting to know themselves better and initiating a more fulfilling relationship with the difficult person.
And my passion is with the person who is annoying you to death. It is a habit and they are no happier about it than you are.
Prize: One winner will receive a copy of Lessons from a Difficult Person and a $10 Amazon gift card (open to USA & Canada)
Ends Feb 25