Perspective is everything.

I have a problem. For the longest time I thought that this wasn’t actually my problem, but that it was other peoples’ fault. Go figure. The problem is that I have expectations, and when things don’t happen the way I think they should – I am not a happy camper. I would never describe myself as easy going. My husband, the sweet man I married, is a very easy going kind of guy. Actually… since he spends so much time with me he does occasionally get his panties in a twist – but generally he is laid back. Another way I would never describe myself as.

But I have another problem – and it’s kind of specific, so making this general is difficult. Okay, assume that I am trying my best to easy going. I am thinking very carefully about everything I say, and I am doing my best to not take offense to another person’s responses or tones. But every time I exchange any kind of words with this person I get a tongue lashing. Any time I talk to any one in the same room as this person I get corrected. The one time I tried to talk to this person directly I spent a good 10 minutes formulating exactly how to say the words and focused on my tone as to come across easy going and laid back. And I still made them mad.

I know. Too general. I’m sorry. But my question is this:

How do you deal with the difficult people in your life. This person is very important to me – I love them very much. But despite my best efforts they take everything I say the wrong way. I’m at the point where I feel like the events would go better if I just didn’t show up. I’m going crazy and I always end up leaving feeling like I would be better off not talking to any one. So what do you say to some one who takes everything personally?

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  1. I'm sorry that your friend is treating you that way… regardless of differing opinions, it's always possible to be respectful.

    I have a dear friend I've know for years and years, and we sometimes encounter this problem. I think it stems from how different we are. Most of the time I'm around friends who think very similarly on at least a few subjects, or are up for discussion without being abrasive. I admit that when my friend starts on a subject where she's not respectful or listening, I just clam up. I respond to her, of course, but I don't give her much to go off of. You know, "uh huh" and "mmm hmmm" until we get on another subject. If that doesn't work, I think you need to say something (kindly, of course.)

    1. It is possible – it's just easier said than done.

      I have had many many many one on one conversations with this person. Usually we'll get in a big fight, and then we'll apologize and agree to be more civil. But it's not like she's going out of her way to be mean – it's that she doesn't think before she says anything. It just seems like she is so set on out-doing me that she says the first thing that comes to mind. When I say we fought – this was a long time ago. I try not to engaged any more – it's just challenging.

      I wish "claming up" would work for me. I've tried it. The problem is it's not just when I talk to her. It's when I talk to anyone in the room.

  2. If you haven't already, I would sit down and talk with them directly about it. You've done everything you can think of to change your behavior, but it might be time to sit down and get feedback from the other person.

    In regards to difficult conversations in general, and how to confront people judiciously, I highly, highly recommend the book "Crucial Conversations". I generally avoid self-helpy kind of books because they can be cheesy, but I read this book and took a 3 day seminar over it through one of my past employers, and it was fabulous. It is helpful for becoming a better communicator in stressful situations- asking for a raise, talking about a big issue with a co-worker, having an honest talk with a spouse/friend, etc.

    I hope you find a way to make things go more smoothly with this person!

    1. I'll have to look for the book. Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂

      This is a really old problem. But we have lived in different cities for a while – so it's been fine. We're good when we're apart. We've had many conversations that ended with promises to be more thoughtful in what we say, and to be nicer and blah blah blah. I don't think she's trying to be mean – she just is. 🙁

  3. That is really rough. I'm sorry you're dealing with this!

    If you are able to do it, I think the best way to approach it would be to do it head-on. Invite your friend/relative for a calm activity, like coffee or a lunch, and then just gently tell her that you feel like you can't do anything right around her. You don't want to fight, you genuinely want to understand what's going on and how you can make your relationship less anxiety-producing.

    Maybe it won't work – maybe she'll jump down your throat. But at least you will have tried. And hopefully it will help!

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