Friday, February 29, 2008

You Can Manage High-Maintenance Relationships



Difficult people -- the ones who fray your nerves and drain your energy –

can be found anywhere. If you have high-maintenance relationships

with people in your family or neighborhood, at work or at school, you

don’t have to despair. There is a better plan for dealing with such

relationships than simply trying to avoid difficult people.


Here are some ways you can cope with -- and even improve –

high-maintenance relationships:


*  Rather than focusing on trying to change other

   people, decide to change your own behavior

   around them. Commit to building better

   relationships with them by changing the

   dynamics of how you interact with them.


*  Realize that all people are valuable and

   loveable in God’s eyes, even with all their

   faults, and that He wants you to live at

   peace with everyone as much as possible.

   Consider the grace God has extended toward

   you, and try to extend grace to others you



*  If you’re dealing with “Critics” (people who

   constantly complain and boss others around),

   try setting boundaries with them, scheduling

   limited, specific times to hear complaints

   and advice and telling them honestly when

   they have offended you and that you won’t

   accept criticism that’s not constructive.

   Surround yourself with people who encourage

   you, and don’t allow criticism to snuff out

   the fire of your dreams.


*  If you’re dealing with “Martyrs” (people who

   always play the role of a victim), try using

   humor when you’re with them, since laughter

   is likely to foster a healthier perspective

   on life. Don’t try to give them advice;

   that’s futile. Instead, try to help them

   pinpoint the underlying issues behind their

   problems, to raise their awareness and spur

   them to do something about solving them.


*  If you’re dealing with “Wet Blankets” (constantly

   pessimistic people), try to objectively observe

   their negativity without becoming infected by it

   yourself. Monitor the messages you give yourself

   internally, and proactively replace pessimistic

   ones with realistic ones that reflect the hope

   you have in Christ. Have positive comebacks when

   conversing with Wet Blankets, and try using humor

   with them, too.


*  If you’re dealing with “Steamrollers” (people who

   are insensitive to others), avoid confronting them

   to engage in a power struggle. When you can,

   acknowledge and affirm their ideas so they know

   you’re listening to them. But refuse to let them

   bully you, and let them know what specific needs

   you have when interacting with them so they’re

   aware of what’s important to you.


*  If you’re dealing with “Gossips” (people who spread

   secrets and rumors), try protesting the next time

   they start gossiping. If you don’t speak up, you’re

   giving them your tacit approval. At the very least,

   you can walk away so you don’t have to listen. Or,

   contribute some positive comments about the person

   who is being gossiped about. If you’re the victim of

   gossip, quickly confront those who are responsible.


*  If you’re dealing with “Control Freaks” (people who

   want to wield control over every situation), try

   explaining to them how their behavior makes you

   feel. Give them as much information as you can

   about a particular situation so they’ll have less

   to worry about, and work in advance to negotiate

   your respective roles in ongoing situations (such

   as assigning household chores rather than fighting

   over them each time they need to be done). Help

   them feel better about who they are as people,

   rather than just what they do.


*  If you’re dealing with “Backstabbers” (deceptive

   people), avoid sharing your deepest thoughts with

   them. Once you’re sure that people have acted in

   a two-faced manner, confront and expose them.

   Build a support network comprised of people you

   trust and who trust you. Don’t try to take revenge

   on Backstabbers; trust God to deal appropriately

   with them.


*  If you’re dealing with “Cold Shoulders” (people

   who avoid meaningful contact with others), try

   exploring whether any recent changes in your

   relationships with them might have contributed

   to their decision to disengage. Talk with them

   openly about the problem. Realize that a cold

   shoulder reaction doesn’t necessarily mean

   rejection; there are many possible underlying

   reasons for it. If Cold Shoulders don’t respond

   to your efforts to heal relationships with them,

   grieve the losses and move on.


*  If you’re dealing with “Green-Eyed Monsters”

   (people who seethe with envy), try praying for

   them. Don’t take their attacks personally. Don’t

   hide the hard work you do that contributes to your

   success, and when you see Green-Eyed Monsters

   succeeding, compliment them on their own efforts.


*  If you’re dealing with “Volcanoes” (people who

   frequently erupt in anger), try guarding yourself

   from their wrath by refusing to be a scapegoat

   and clarifying the reasons behind all conflict.

   Although it’s tempting to respond with anger

   yourself, resist doing so. Leave the situations

   in God’s hands, and pray for the grace to be a



*  If you’re dealing with “Sponges” (people who

   constantly take but never give back), try making

   a list of your own needs and desires to help you

   see how important they are. Don’t allow Sponges

   to obstruct what you need and want, and deflate

   each situation they present to you as a crisis by

   showing them that it’s actually quite manageable.

   Pray for discernment about how you can be genuinely

   helpful to them, and limit your help to those ways

   you believe to be most effective. Say no without

   feeling guilty.


*  If you’re dealing with “Competitors” (people who

   keep score in every situation), try simply refusing

   to play their games by saying that you just want

   to make conversation and don’t care how you compare

   to them. Share interests in non-competitive ways

   to emphasize mutual enjoyment rather than a “win-

   lose” scenario.


*  If you’re dealing with “Workhorses” (people who

   never seem to be satisfied), try communicating

   your limits to them. Realize that you’re human,

   and humans are imperfect. Give yourself permission

   to have fun sometimes, even if others don’t. Let

   them see you pursue your dreams, and listen to

   them share theirs to help them understand why

   they’re pushing themselves so hard.


*  If you’re dealing with “Flirts” (people who

   communicate with innuendoes), don’t blame

   yourself, because flirting is most often the

   result of Flirts’ own insecurities. Don’t allow

   yourself to be cornered by Flirts, and always

   have a comeback ready to fight them off. Let

   them see you be openly affectionate with your

   spouse, or hear you talk lovingly about him or

   her if your spouse isn’t present.


*  If you’re dealing with “Chameleons” (people

   who are so eager to please that they lack

   integrity), try clarifying the commitments

   they make by asking them to honestly reassess

   what they think they can do. Affirm the deci-

   sions they make to boost their confidence in

   making their own decisions.


-- By Whitney Hopler, Live It channel

   Dr. Les Parrott III is a professor of psychology and    co-director

   with his wife, Dr. Leslie Parrott, of the Center for Relationship

   Development at Seattle Pacific University. He is a fellow in

   medical psychology at the University of Washington School of

   Medicine, and an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene.


   Adapted from High-Maintenance Relationships: How to Handle

   Impossible People, copyright 1996 by Les Parrott III. Published by

   Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Ill.,,


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