A way with difficult people is one of the greatest assets an individual man can, or MGTOW, have. We have chosen for autonomy and solitude, and not having to deal with nasty, rude, egotistical, annoying folks is probably one of the biggest reasons. But at some point, most of us have to. How do we deal with this?
If you cannot hide
From my experience, difficult people are either controlling or fearful or a combination of both. A person who constantly burdens you with their worrying and irrational fears, can be hard to deal with. The same counts for a person that always tries to control the environment (you included). These people can be familiy members, a spouse, co-workers or maybe that toxic friend that eats more energy than Jessica Simpson eats bags of potato chips.
When we let these people affect us they have become a threat of our individuality. A simple way to keep these people out of our lives is simply by shutting your front door and let none of them into your private space. Unfortunately, there is more to life that sitting at home all day. The majority of you probably have jobs and chances are that you work together with people you despise for eight hours a day. But you got to pay the bills, right? And being self-employed will not happen overnight, which means that in the meantime you have to deal with them. The question is: how? An important rule to remember is that…
..we cannot change others
What I experience with difficult people is that either attacking or engaging with their behavior, does not help. When you attack them, they will attack you back. This will lead to more suffering in both of you. Engaging with them may look like an easy option (talking about it, agreeing with them, following them) but why would you follow someone irrational and fearful? In both cases it is the ego attacking opposing opinions or trying to help or change a person that doesn’t want to be changed.
It is not your responsibility to change other people. They have to deal with their own difficulties. If they refuse to do so, then all the energy you put in is a wasted. You can lead a horse to the water but you cannot force it to drink. No matter if you are dating BPD-woman who has cheated on you several times. No matter if you married someone who changed from sweet and dropdead gorgeous to a devilish beast. You can try to change them but they will never do that if they do not want it themselves. The good news is however that we can change ourselves.
The Stoic solution to difficult people
What can we learn from the ancient Stoics when it comes to dealing with the difficult people in our lives? Let’s start first with explaining a basic tenet of Stoic thinking. This one comes from one of the main Stoic philosophers: Epictetus. Epictetus was a slave who, in later life, was released from bondage to teach. In his great and famous work Enchridion he made a fundamental separation between the things that are in our control and the things that are not. He states:
“Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.”
Other people are beyond our control. Their behavior, their actions, their opinions are within the limits of their own playing field and not within ours. But you DO have have a choice to spend as little energy as possible on these people, while they are in your presence. You can hear their words, but not be moved by them. You can watch their actions, but not be part of them. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was a practitioner of Stoicism and wrote his thoughts on his journey in a personal diary. This diary later known as Meditations, is a main source of Stoic thought and considerd one of the greatest philosophical works.
The way of the emperor
How did a Roman emperor deal with difficult people? In Meditations, Aurelius describes how he copes with meeting the many nasty individuals, and I quote:
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.”
Modern Stoics are using Aurelius’ words as a meditative practise that they call the negative visualization, to prepare for the day. We can consider this as an ancient form of expectation management. And let’s face it: if we don’t expect too highly of others they are less likely to disappoint us. Another thing to consider are the moral letters by Seneca to his friend Lucilius. These contain valuable information about friendship and dealing with other people. Like Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, Seneca The Younger is counted as one of the great Stoics of the past. He was a politician during the reign of Emperor Nero. In one of this dialogues called La Vita Beata (On The Happy Life), he famously wrote:
“All savageness is a sign of weakness.”
According to the Stoics it’s better to put our energy in things we have control over. Difficult people are not part of that area. This does not mean we that we should averse that annoying blue pill mangina co-worker or that irritating purple haired feminist yelling on national television. On the contrary: Stoic philosophy actually encourages to remain understanding and compassionate towards difficult people. An that’s a very great ability to have when you have gone your own way. Also, it encourages to be mindful of where their behaviour is coming from. I know this is hard, especially if you feel like smacking an annoying person in the face at times, but most shitty people suck for a reason. The stance we choose to take in this matter lies within our control, and so is to what extent we let ourselves be affected by them. Perhaps, by letting those people walk their own paths of fear, without interference, they will, someday, realize the consequences of their behavior.