Difficult People and Difficult Relationships

Difficult People and Difficult Relationships

Do you ever find yourself having to deal with “difficult people”?  Would you describe some of your relationships as difficult? I suspect the answer to these questions will be a resounding yes! It is no surprise that we often must deal with “difficult people”, for “difficult people” are simply human beings behaving as human beings sometimes do. We can all be difficult, in different ways and at different times.

How can we deal helpfully with these situations? Developing better human relationships is at the heart of the teaching of many religions, including Christianity. Jesus Christ, through his teaching and the way he lived his life, provides us with many suggestions as to how we might improve our human relationships.

One practice which was at the heart of Jesus’s life was the practice of listening to others. It was one reason why Jesus liked to ask people questions: he was genuinely interested in the answers which people gave. The answer could then generate a further question, and so a conversation might develop.

When we are stressed, tired or anxious, we can find listening to others difficult and burdensome. But it is precisely in these situations that listening is so vital. We can find it far too easy to go and “give someone a good talking to”. But how about going and giving them “a good listening to”?  In many situations when we are annoyed at someone it is because we feel that they don’t understand and haven’t given us an opportunity to speak. Knowing that we’re actually being listened to can go a long way towards healing a difficult relationship.  Of course, listening by itself is not always enough - often, some definite action has to be taken as well. But the listening is a good starting point, and it can be profoundly therapeutic in and of itself.

Listening to each other - really listening, not just pretending to listen - is about more than healing our relationships. It is about opening ourselves to the possibility of discovering something new about ourselves and our world. It’s about being open to the possibility of seeing things differently, to the possibility of receiving new hope and purpose in our lives. In short, it’s about discovering God at work in our world, sometimes in quite unexpected ways.

Fr Jason