Dealing With a Difficult Person? Try This Exercise

Take a few moments and think about someone who is causing stress in your life. It could be a family member, irate customer, someone who cut you off in traffic, or maybe even a coworker. Have you identified this person? I am sure it didn’t take long. Ok now you have the person in you mind, what I am going to show you could transform the way you view them.

Compassion Exercise

I learned of the Compassion Exercise from a Professional Development workshop by Dr. Aili Pogust. She was presenting to our staff about stress management. In the exercise, she asked us to identify someone that was a trigger for us and causing stress in our lives. She then had us spend some time writing about the person and reflecting on the impact they were having on our lives. Then she handed us these cards:

Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness in their life

Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in their life

Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair

Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill their needs

Just like me, this person is learning about life ~Dr. Aili Pogust

We read through the cards and then she asked us to go back to that person who was causing the stress and anxiety in our life. We were then directed to read the statements while thinking about this person…… Wow, what a simple exercise with such powerful results.

Personally, I walked away from this exercise hopeful of how I could use this in my life. I began to integrate this into my daily morning exercises as I saw how it could complement my work on gratitude and mediation. This daily work on my personal triggers was transformational. I began to see others in such a different light.

On Being Triggered 

Something I have learned from this work is that our triggers are very powerful. If we take responsibility for them, we can stop giving others all of this power over us. Let’s face it, as people trigger us they walk away and keep going with their life. We are left holding that baggage that manifests in stress, anxiety and frustrated. So stop giving these people all of this power!

Reflect on this….

  1. We all get triggered
  2. It is not the responsibility of the person who triggered us, it is our responsibility
  3. We have to deal with what is in front of us whether we caused it or not
  4. Our triggers are our responsibility

Important Note: This is not about forgiveness or condoning other’s behavior

Please be clear that this exercise is about you, not the other person/people. There are some people out there who have done awful things to us. In fact, this exercise is not about forgiveness either. You do not need to forgive or forget things that people have done to you. I recommend in dealing with trauma in your life to work with a certified therapist.

Changes to come 

These changes will not come overnight but I can tell you from my experience they will quickly cause you to look at people (and situations) very differently. This is why I wanted to share this exercise. If I can implement it and change the way I view those who trigger me, you can too.

Let me know how this helps you. Comment below. I am looking forward to learning from you 🙂

About the Author 

Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away; Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the popular PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. He is featured in Twinkl’s 30 Education Influencers You Need to Follow and Klear’s Top Ten Middle School Influencers. Dr. Cook is also on the Education Advisory Board for Whole Health Ed. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.

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