A lot of my clients ask how to handle a person who is difficult to deal with at work. Work is a second home for many of us, where we spend most of our time. We don’t get to choose the people we work with, so clashing with coworkers because of personality differences – and even cultural and ethnic differences – can create tension in your work life that you end up bringing into your personal life.
When you have to work with someone who is harsh towards you, there are a few things you can do to ensure you don’t carry baggage from work into your personal life.
Aggression, anger and negativity are not only obvious in the words people use, but also in non-verbal cues, body language and tone of voice. Someone can say something to you that seems neutral but the way they say it can be damaging.
To help you overcome the inclination to engage in negativity, you can use visualization. In your mind, visualize white light surrounding you like a bubble. The light is covering every inch of you, and its radiance extends outside of you. The light is warm and safe. Then see the negative person in front of you. Their negative energy extends towards you. As their negative energy starts getting closer to your white light, that light reflects their energy back to them.
Remind yourself that when negative energy comes to you from others, it isn’t yours to keep. Let them keep their energy rather than letting it hook into you. Don’t allow them the power to ruin your day. This is difficult to do of course, but with practice it gets easier.
Create new behaviours
Aside from visualization, there are two new behaviours you can start doing that can really mitigate some of the stress, anxiety and emotional exhaustion that happens from dealing with a negative person.
When you’re around that person at work, do your best to immerse yourself in your work so that your mind is occupied. If you can’t focus on your work, get some water, go for a short walk or change your task. The point is that you’re doing something productive that keeps your mind from wandering back to the drama and the apprehension of what this person will do next. When you’re on lunch, call a supportive friend to let out your frustration.
A lot of my clients say that the commute home is the time when they think about their day the most. Instead of ruminating over the parts of your day that left you feeling bad, turn the music up loud. Let yourself release your anger through music. You can even sing at the top of your lungs to let it out! Emotion is energy in motion, and singing can be a kind of catharsis that helps you release any negativity you may have picked up during your day.
Limit how often you talk about it
Talking about the difficult things we go through in our life can feel cathartic, but it can also feel like we are experiencing the difficulty again. Instead of bringing up that difficult situation every night at dinner, have one short conversation about it with someone close to you and let it go. Promise yourself that you won’t rehash the issue every day. This can be hard, but if you spend your evening with loved ones complaining about that difficult person at work, you have allowed them to rob you of that precious time. You have allowed them to leave pieces of their anger and negativity with you, and then you end up carrying those pieces of them into your personal life.
Often if someone is giving you a hard time, that person has a story and is going through something in their own life that likely has nothing to do with you. But their misery is theirs to deal with. You don’t want it, so don’t take on any of that energy.