How To Deal With Difficult People When You’re A Sensitive Soul


I found it always difficult being around negative, miserable or aggressive people. As an empath, I could literally feel what they are experiencing emotionally. I don’t feel it always consciously but more on a subtle level, often without even realizing that I am feeling their emotions. As I consequence, I often absorbed too much which lead at first to an overwhelmed mental state and manifested later as a physical illness. I was carrying a lot of the emotional baggage of other people and sometimes, I also imbibed other people’s patterns by not having clear energetic boundaries.

From very early age, I noticed that other people, even strangers had the tendency to talk about their problems and concerns with me, but sadly also to unload their frustration, anger, or other negative emotions. Because I did not know how to establish boundaries I was very vulnerable to negative energies. One of the worst experiences for me was to work in a big open plan office in Central London. I could literally feel all the inner pain, bitterness and dissatisfaction from those who were working there.

This experience was a turning point. I knew that even though it is my nature to be an empath, I can learn to take more care of myself and establish clearer boundaries.

One way to do this is not to take everything other people do or say to heart.

An example from Buddha.

It is said that one day the Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. “You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake!”

The Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead, he asked the young man, “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”

The young man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me because I bought the gift.”

The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.”

With time, I started to realize that what people say or do has not that much to do with me but with them. Their words always show who they are and not who I am.

I may be the trigger of their anger or inner pain which they let out on me, but it was already there.

I was now even able to develop compassion for them as I realized how much they suffered. Even though it is necessary to take strong action at times in order to set clear boundaries it is crucial not to hold grudges. So on the surface level, I might need to be very assertive at times or even raise my voice if this is necessary because this might be the only way the other person will understand it, but inside I feel only compassion for this person.

Buddha referred to such behavior as “ignorance” or “delusion”, which means a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of reality. If I intentionally harm another being, I harm not only the other person but also myself. Jesus used the term, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

9 Tips for Dealing With Difficult People

Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be ‘stuck’ with a challenging individual at work or even at home. Especially if you are an empath it’s easy to give them permission to ruin your day, but if you do so, it means that you give them the power to do it.

The following steps might be helpful. Simply use what works for you and leave the rest.

1. Keep a cool mind

Mindfulness Meditation or Insight meditation (Vipassana) can help you to be less reactive.

Insight meditation is nothing more mysterious than developing your ability to pay attention to your immediate experience. Mindfulness relies on an important characteristic of awareness: awareness by itself does not judge, resist, or cling to anything. By focusing on simply being aware, we learn to disentangle ourselves from our habitual reactions and begin to have a friendlier and more compassionate relationship with our experience, with ourselves and with others.

A calm and quiet mind also helps you to make wise choices in life.

If you practice this meditation regularly you will definitely experience positive results. Even if you are able to stay calm and non-reactive 1 out of 10 when a challenging incident occurs, it is already a success. If you keep meditating, you will rewire your Neural Pathways which can transform your life.

2. Learn to set boundaries

Many empaths and Highly sensitive people (HSP) have very thin boundaries.
Highly sensitive people respond strongly to external stimuli and become exhausted from taking in and processing these stimuli. They are born with a nervous system that may see, hear, smell or feel more than others. As adults, they may also think, reflect or notice more than others. The processing is largely unconscious or body-conscious. HSPs grow up feeling overwhelmed, especially when loud music, crowds of people, or simply a busy day stresses them.

An empath has also the tendency to feel responsible for everyone and there is often a desire to please and help others. They often do so at the expense of their own health. When an empath is feeling overwhelmed, there is a good chance that he or she is not caring for her or his own needs. At such times, they need quiet time alone to recover.

In order to create healthy boundaries, you need to know at first yourself and your needs. Vipassana which is an awareness meditation can be very helpful as you learn to pay attention to your body’s physical sensations while interacting with others.

3. Mind your own business

SOME PEOPLE ARE SIMPLY THE WRONG MATCH FOR YOU, so don’t waste your energy by trying to change them. If it is a college or an annoying relative who challenges you, try to be diplomatic when you have to deal with them. For the rest of the time keep a healthy distance.

4. Seeing the bigger picture

A lot of friction and tension stems from misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

When you feel offended by someone try to view the situation from a different perspective.

When you avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, you become more objective.

It also helps to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.

For example:

  • My partner is sometimes so cold. It must not be easy to show emotions when you come from a family where people don’t express affection.
  • My boss is so demanding today. It must not be easy for him to deal with all the pressure which the upper management is putting on him.

However being empathetic does not excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to be aware of the fact that people behave the way they behave because of their own issues.

When someone criticizes you or gives you advice, connect to your inner self and find out if they want to help or hurt. It is the intention that counts not the words. Someone who feels miserable will always try to find faults in others. Don’t let their words and their unhappiness affect you as it is only the projection of what is going on inside them.

5. Choose your battles wisely

We can’t control other people’s behaviour, but we can conrol your responses to it.

Not all difficult people we face require direct confrontation about their behavior. For example, if you know that someone has only temporary power over you and you can depersonalize his or her behavior you might save time and energy by avoiding a confrontation.

It doesn’t mean that you are passive. You can still have a different view on the situation. However, you consciously choose not to engage in conflict because you feel intuitively that it wouldn’t be beneficial.

You have the power to decide if the situation is serious enough to confront it by thinking twice if the battle you would like to fight is truly worth it.

6. Separate the Person from the issue

We tend to take responses to the issues as personal attacks.
Every negotiation has two elements: people and problems. Separating the people from the problems means separating the relationship (personality) issues (e.g. perceptions, emotions, communication, reliability and so on ) from the substantive issues (e.g. terms, dates, figures and so on).

We are human beings and we perceive the actions and words of others differently. We then develop attachments to past experiences and have often the tendency to react habitually and impulsive. Emotions, egos, feelings, past memories and so on become entangled in the substance of the problem. Therefore be soft on the person and firm on the issue. When we are soft on the person, people are more open to what we have to say. Being firm on the issue demonstrates assertive behavior and leadership qualities.

7. Be aware of the pattern with aggressive people

Aggressive people like to place attention on you to make you feel inadequate and uncomfortable. They usually try to intimidate you by telling that there is something not all right with you while being quite arrogant about their own capabilities. The focus is always on what’s wrong instead of trying to find a constructive solution.

An aggressive communication style may reflect poor emotional development and is usually linked to a desire to verbally abuse, blame, hurt others or exact revenge. Aggressive people often come across as sarcastic, abrupt, cold and sharp. Their tone also comes across as threatening in many cases. They will use sentences like, “You better get that done now”.

Aggressive people want to control and dominate. If you react by being defensive, you give the aggressor more power.

A simple and powerful way to change this dynamic is to put the spotlight back on the challenging individual by asking questions.

Aggressor: ‘Your report is absolutely useless’
Response: ‘Have you given me detailed instructions how to write it?’
Aggressor: ‘You are so stupid, I better do it myself’
Response: ‘If you continue to treat me with disrespect, I will need to talk with the manager. Would you like me to do this? Let me know and I will decide if I will do it or not.’

Keep your questions constructive.

Be firm on the outside with the aggressor but have compassion with him inside, because only a very unhappy and insecure person would bully or intimidate others. Often bullies are victims themselves.

Someone who is angry is someone who doesn’t know how to handle their suffering. They are the first victim of their suffering, and you are actually the second victim. A bully or a tyrant feels separate, unloved or simply bad about himself. The reason they disempower others is that they are trying to feel better about themselves.

“When people don’t like themselves very much, they have to make up for it. The classic bully was actually a victim first.” Tom Hiddleston.

“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” ~Paramhansa Yogananda.

8. Energetic boundaries

Many empaths and intuitives have an unbalanced third chakra (solar plexus chakra), and, for this reason, they can’t protect their energy. It is very easy for the chakras to get out of balance. In fact, your average day will often contain multiple occasions that will put your chakras out of balance.
Your solar plexus chakra is the bodyguard of your entire energy field. If this chakra is unbalanced you will pick up other people’s negative thoughts, emotions and feelings.

The solar plexus is also the centre that holds fears. Many sensitive people feel often tense in this area because they tune in into collective fears and catastrophes.

Eight Signs of an unbalanced third chakra:

1. You see yourself as powerless and compare yourself constantly with others
2. A need to please everyone or a need to have things his or her own way
3. Extreme fear of failure and fear about the future
4. You are generally highly stressed and busy
5. You feel constantly tired
6. You are judgmental, impatient and controlling.
7. Trouble starting or following through on projects or lack of assertiveness are signs of a weak third chakra
8. Workaholics, highly goal oriented people or those that can’t rest or relax, have an overcharged third chakra

At the physical level, this chakra governs the liver, spleen, stomach, gall bladder and pancreas. We hold our fears and lack of confidence in this chakra. This chakra governs the pancreas and when this chakra is in balance you are able to give and receive nurturing on every level.

If you suffer from indigestion, reflux, heartburn or shallow breathing, you will benefit the third chakra healing techniques listed below.

How to Balance Your Third Chakra?

There are a number of ways to balance your third chakra.

1. Spend time in the sunlight
2. Certain Yoga poses can help loosen up blocked energy within chakras. (a. Navasana (Boat Pose), b. Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose), c.Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Leg Lifts), d. Warrior poses (Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Warrior 3, Reverse Warrior, Crescent)
3. Using crystals is a fun way to help balance your third chakra. For example citrine, amber, yellow sapphire and yellow tourmaline
4. Using following essential oils can also help to balance your 3rd chakra:

Rosemary, lavender, chamomile, yarrow, vetiver, petitgrain, peppermint, lemon juniper, and marjoram.

9. Laughter is the Best Medicine – let the problems roll off your back

Humour is such a powerful tool and laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster to bring your mind, body, and spirit back into balance than a good laugh. Laughter relaxes the whole body, releases tension, and stuck energy, lightens your burdens, connects you to others, strengthens your immune system, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

When appropriately used, humor can shine light on the truth and neutralize or eliminate the negative behavior. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Erika is a natural empath, a fully qualified Spiritual Counsellor, Holistic Healing Practitioner, Soul Plan Practitioner and Life Coach.

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