Dealing with Difficult People - Part 3

"Difficult" people often have differing beliefs. It may not be as obvious as two religions fighting about God. It might be as simple as one person or group believes something is possible (a.k.a. the Wright Brothers) and another person or group believes it's impossible.

Limiting Beliefs

Most limiting beliefs begin with the phrase: "I/We can't because...". We can't go to Hawaii on vacation because we don't have enough money or enough vacation time or whatever. My wife recently decided I was being "difficult" because I didn't want to put hardwood floors in the living room and hallway. She thinks they will look nice. I think they are harder, noisier, and colder than carpet. (Note this is also a conflict between seeing and feeling styles.)

There are five common limiting beliefs: hopeless, helpless, useless, worthless and blameless.

  • Hopeless - It's not possible.
  • Helpless - I can't because...
  • Useless - It wouldn't be valuable to me.
  • Worthless - I don't deserve it.
  • Blameless - It's not my fault.

One woman I know simply overcame her husband's belief that Hawaii was too expensive (impossible) by saving up all the money they needed for the trip. Time and money are excuses, not impossibilities. You might say: "With the economy as it is, there are great travel deals to Hawaii."

If a child says they can't do something, you don't just agree with them. You do something about it. Why do we hesitate to nudge adults who say they can't? It's often possible to start them on something simple and grow their confidence to a level where they can do the more complex task.

If someone thinks that the goal isn't valuable or desirable, it is often possible to link their values (Part 1) to the goal. If, for example, the wife wants to go to Hawaii, but the husband doesn't, but he loves watersports, she might say: "Maui has the best windsurfing in the world."

If he doesn't think they deserve to go to Hawaii, she might say: "How is going to Hawaii exactly what we need to repay ourselves for all of our hard work?"

If he thinks it isn't his fault that they can't go to Hawaii, she might say: "No one's at fault here. All we have to do is squirrel away a little money every month until we have enough money to go."

Sleight of Mouth

Pacing their limiting belief and leading them to see the other side of it is one way to shift a "difficulty" into a possibility. But it's also possible to make the limiting belief part of the solution. My favorite sleight of mouth pattern was developed by Connirae Andreas. It's called reversing presuppositions.

  • "How would not having enough money or time make it even easier to go to Hawaii?"
  • "How would not knowing how to go to Hawaii make it even easier and more fun to go?"
  • "How would not wanting to go to Hawaii make it even more desirable?"
  • "How would not feeling like we deserve to go to Hawaii make it even more surprising to go?"
  • "How would not being a fault for not going make it even easier to go?"

I know, this sounds like silly gibberish, but this pattern often forces the mind to see the other side of the see what's possible, doable, desirable and worthwhile about the proposed goal.

Don't let limiting beliefs create "difficulty" in your relationships at work or at home. Listen for the limiting belief and find ways to peel back the edges and let some light shine on the other side of the issue. Have some fun finding ways to connect with the difficult people in your life in surprising and loving ways.

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