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How to Deal with Impossible People In Your Life


Do you dread picking up the phone when your caller ID tells you that a certain person is on the line? We all have some friends or relatives who plague us with their problems. These people deserve an award for being the Victim of the Year. They call to dump their woes on us and cajole us into solving their problems for them or giving them advice that they rarely follow.

Often it becomes a problem for you because the person is your parent, your child, your sibling or someone else very close to you. You can’t tell them to go away since you care for them, but they are wearing you down with their complaints and helplessness.

That is the problem. You may spend hours conversing, and hate yourself for getting suckered in again and again. Other than changing your phone number and not giving it out to these annoying callers, there are some other ways to resolve this predicament by changing your attitude and your behavior. Here are two steps to keep yourself from resenting these unbearable people.

Step one is to bite your tongue! I bet that you are initially flattered by the way your sapper asks you for help. You may feel complimented that the caller thinks that you are smart and wise, so you try to help the pitiful wretch. Remember, past experience has shown you that your words usually go in one ear and out the other until the next conversation.

As you read this you need to vow that from this minute on you will refrain from giving advice, even when you are bursting with great ideas. Desist from expressing what you think about the negative situation or relationship involved or suggesting what your caller should say or do or stop doing. Never again must you utter these three little words: “Why don’t you.” Avoid doing anything that could be seen as a rescue operation. Don’t do for others what they can and should do for themselves.

Step two is to make use of the three Magic Questions. When your impossible pal is crying on your shoulder and seems to be powerless, simply listen without interrupting, and then ask this question, “Well, Jane/John, what would you like to do about that?” Write this short question on a card and keep it next to your phone. If the victim keeps bemoaning his fate even after hearing the question, just keep listening and keep asking this question. Remind yourself once more to zip your lip since you may think you know the answer.

If your caller insists that she doesn’t know what to do, ask Magic Question #2: “If your best friend had this same problem, what advice would you give him or her?” No matter what, do not offer any helpful hints. Keep a friendly tone and assure the other that they are pretty smart and have a lot of common sense. Encourage her to think about this.

If your friend is still unwilling to take charge, use Magic Question #3: “Can you think of anyone who can help you find a solution to this situation?” Since you have had so many similar conversations with this unhappy individual, by now you may want to tell him that he needs professional help, but you don’t know how to broach the subject, so throw the ball in his court.

At this point it is OK to share that when someone else you know, or perhaps yourself, had a similar issue, they went for counseling or joined a support group for people who were anxious, depressed, lonely, etc. You might share that if that were your situation you most likely would consult a doctor, lawyer, accountant, plumber or other specialist. Then repeat question #3 again.

Don’t let his or her problem become your problem. Start today to practice listening without having to come up with a solution. All you have to do is ask the Magic Questions and see what happens. Your friend will be better for it and so will you.

gloria arenson, mft, treats stress, anxiety, trauma, phobias, and compulsions. she has authored how to stop playing the weighting game, a substance called food, born to spend, five simple steps to emotional healing, freedom at your fingertips and procrastination nation.

http://www.gloriaarenson.com

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Listed: January 5, 2009 4:08 am