I have a sister who is very difficult to deal with. She has decided that my parents and I treat her badly and are terrible people. She talks about us behind our backs and tells people how horrible we are. The thing is, we haven’t done any of the things she says we did. She has created a reality in her mind that never happened. We have tried to reason with her but she says we are just trying to manipulate her. She is the manipulative one, but refuses to see it. Do you have any advice on this situation?
The human mind is truly an amazing and frustrating thing. It can literally alter reality so we can see things the way we want to see them.
Dealing with someone who has created their own reality is tricky. Once the mind creates these alternative realities, it becomes absolutely committed to being right about them. It must believe its perception is accurate and cannot be wrong. For a person who has done this, it may feel like their very existence depends on their reality being the truth.
The more insecure or fragile one’s self esteem is, the more the ego works to protect itself by believing the reality it created. It is important to understand how these thought processes work so you can see your sister and this situation accurately.
Your sister is a scared, fragile person who has created an alternative reality that makes her feel superior or better than you — because that is the only way she feels safe and good.
Being wrong about the story she created is not an option for her right now. Her victim story is giving her a sense of identity and value.
Those who are comfortable with who they are aren’t worried about protecting themselves, nor do they need to be superior to others. They don’t need to create an alternative reality to feel safe. They don’t need to be right about their perceptions in order to feel of value.
They understand that being wrong does not diminish them. This vulnerability actually makes them powerful,that because they know nothing can take away from who they are. Being OK with vulnerability actually makes a confident person stronger.
Confident people understand we are all infinitely valuable, unique, irreplaceable human beings in process, doing the best we can with what we know at the time. They have a sense of self-worth that allows them to be human and fallible, and still have value. In this frame of mind it is easy to forgive other people and have compassion for faults and weaknesses. This is where real emotional strength and maturity come from.
Those with a fragile self-worth must make others wrong or bad in order to feel good. If they construct a story where you are the bad guy, they can assume the role of the victim or good guy.
This is one of the most prevalent and dangerous tendencies of thinking in our society today. This “Us (the good guys) vs. Them (the bad guys)” mentality is behind every war, hate crime and marriage problem in existence.
Now that you understand the problem and see it accurately, let me give you some advice for dealing with it.
Love is the answer. It always is. Because this person's problem is based in low self worth, we know they are starving for validation and love; all bad behavior is a request for love.
Behaving this way is not a good way to request love, but it is the only way some people know how to cope with their low self-esteem and get attention.
When children behave badly they are trying to get attention, which to them means love. If you could see the situation accurately you could give the validation they really need in that moment.
Unconditional love and kindness while completely ignoring the bad behavior as much as possible is the only way to deal with someone who has lost touch with reality and reason. Just because they believe the stories they have created doesn’t make them true. Just smile and send love and blessings their way.
If you need to stand your ground (which you will on occasion), don’t be a door mat, though — speak your truth, say no, enforce your boundaries but do it with a smile on your face and love for them in your heart, even though they are confused. They can’t help it — they can’t see it.
Do not get defensive. There is nothing to defend, because no one can hurt you. You cannot be diminished. No one can change you or take away from your value. You are bulletproof. You cannot experience pain from their bad behavior unless you decide to let it sting.
Avoid them altogether. George Bernard Shaw said, ”I learned long ago, never wrestle with a pig. You just get dirty, and the pig likes it.”
It is perfectly fine and mature to avoid toxic people as much as possible, but don’t avoid them because you are scared of being hurt. Stay firmly rooted in the knowledge no one can’t hurt you or diminish who you are.
If you decide to be bulletproof, then you are.
When you see a story of tragedy and loss on the news, it can touch your heart in a profound way. When you know the people involved, the tragedy and the pain become very personal.
These experiences of loss change your world. The world is a different place without that person in it, and there is great pain associated with that reality.
Along with the pain, during these times of grieving, you will also experience tender feelings of love, both toward the people who are gone and toward the people around you.
Your feelings of love for family and friends will be more poignant and heartfelt than the love you usually feel. You may feel prompted to express these feelings more freely.
This heightened sense of love, which follows experiences of tragedy, is an amazing and beautiful thing and it can often change how you feel about many of the people in your life.
Many people find that forgiveness is easier while they are experiencing the unique love associated with losing a loved one. Things that mattered before may not seem to matter any more. People may seem more important than issues and it may seem easier to see the good than the bad in the people around you.
Tragedy brings with it deep feelings of love for all the people in your life.
Think back to the months following 9/11. Do you remember how connected you felt to your fellow Americans? Do you remember how suddenly our differences seemed smaller and the things we had in common seemed bigger?
Think about the sense of connection you felt toward the miners in Chile or the people of Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. We all experienced a deeper love for our fellow human beings during these events.
When tragedy strikes, you experience more love for your fellow human beings. You are reminded of the connection we share and the value of your relationships in general.
When someone you know dies, even if it is just an acquaintance or someone you met only a few times, it is still a deeply personal loss and the feelings of love for that person and others are very real.
You may experience feelings of love toward this person you didn’t realize you had. You may be puzzled at the depth to which the loss is affecting you. You may be curious as to what this poignant emotion is all about.
It is about the expression of the love inside of you.
The raw emotion you feel while grieving is an expression of your love for all the people in your life.
Pay attention to this feeling — it is amazing and beautiful. Remember that the pain of loss is tied to the wonder of love. If you didn’t love so deeply, it wouldn’t hurt this much.
Celebrate the love.
Celebrate the fact that you can experience love in this way.
Funerals can be a wonderful experience because we gather in sadness, but also in love for the deceased and each other. The power of our combined love and heightened sense of connection create an amazing spirit there that heals us and comforts us like no other experience can.
When you are in this place, pay attention to what you are feeling.
Sit with your emotions a bit, and let yourself feel the wonder of love.
In Russ Njust’s new novel, "The Alabaster Garden," he writes, “In our struggles to know, to obtain and to become more than we believe we are, many of us have lost sight of our kinship to all life. We have thereby lost touch with the one thing in our beings that truly sees everything in the light of love.”
We often get so busy with the duties and obligations of life, we forget about the deep love that connects us. It often gets set aside.
Tragedy, though terrible and painful, can bring these feelings of love back into your life.
My suggestion, in times of tragedy, is simply this: Focus on the feelings of love and love deeply! Love everyone in your life, in whatever way you can. Treasure every moment you are alive and able to love. Make sure everyone in your life knows how you feel about them and be the love everywhere you go.
In honor of those whose lives have been cut short this week, let’s make the most of ours and fill the world with love on their behalf.
This article is dedicated to Chad Wade and Justin Yates, who died in a tragic plane crash this week. Thank you for giving us a chance to experience love at such a deep and tender level my friends, we will never forget you.
Kimberly Sayer Giles is the founder and president of LDS Life Coaching and www.claritypointcoaching.com and was named one of the top 20 Advice Guru's in the country by GMA. She is a popular speaker and life coach who resides in Bountiful, Utah.
Is there someone at your workplace — a critical manager or a trouble-causing co-worker — who drives you crazy? Dealing with these difficult people can turn a great job into a nightmare, but don’t be discouraged. Here are some creative, mature and loving ways to deal with these difficult situations:
Make absolutely sure you aren’t the problem. Evaluate your own behavior objectively. Ask others to give you some feedback. Are you doing anything to contribute to the problem? Do you get offended too easily?
Look for the lesson. This experience can teach you something. What is it showing you about yourself? The easiest thing to change in this situation is you. Is there any way you could behave differently to improve this situation?
Don’t react impulsively. An emotional reaction when you are annoyed never produces the best results. Give it a little time to make sure you see the situation accurately. Don’t let the problem fester too long, though. It’s better to tackle the problem while it’s fresh than to dig up something that happened weeks ago.
Try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. What is going on in their world? Are they dealing with a family issue, a divorce or health problems? Are they struggling with their job or clashing with the boss and taking it out on you?
Most bad behavior (though it may be directed at you) is not really about you.
Their bad behavior is usually an expression of their own inner state. The problem is usually about fear they are experiencing. See if you can identify what the real problem is. Is there anything you could do to help with or show compassion for that issue?
Be forgiving. Seek to understand and have compassion toward this person. Choose to see them as the same as you … a scared, struggling human being in process.
Your ego may be quick to make them the bad guy so you can be the good guy, but this is rarely accurate. Let go of the need to be right and try to ignore the problem as much as possible.
Stop talking about it. If you are talking about this difficult person with everyone who will listen, you are adding negative energy to the problem. Are you doing this to get validation or feel important? Consider focusing on finding solutions instead of complaining.
Treat them with respect and kindness even if they don’t deserve it. This is the best approach because they will never expect it! Kindness throws them off completely.
Nothing changes a negative situation faster than refusing to participate in it.
It takes two to fight.
Look for good and compliment them. Dig deep and find something in this person to appreciate. The more you thank them for good behavior, the more they will behave that way toward you. Kindness will make it very hard for them to treat you badly in the future.
If you decide you must have a conversation with this person about their behavior, follow these steps for best results:
1) Focus on the outcome you want. How can you create that outcome? Focus more on where you are going than where you are now with this person. Be solution-focused — not problem-focused.
2) Choose the right time. Make sure you can have a private and uninterrupted conversation.
3) Be calm. They can read your emotions and your energy. If you are angry or upset, they will get angry and defensive before the conversation even starts. Set your hurt feelings aside and focus on understanding them first.
4) Ask questions about how they feel and what they think about the situation. Listen to how they feel. Do not get defensive or upset about what they say. Validate their right to see and think the way they do. Be open to hearing some ways you could improve. Make sure they feel heard and understood before going to step 5.
5) Ask permission to share your solutions. Ask if they would be open to hearing your suggestions on ways to improve your working relationship. Focus on the positive as much as possible, but speak your truth.
You have more power to change this situation and this person than you think, but a scared, angry, victim mentality will rob you of that power. Your power comes by choosing to act in love, wisdom and maturity.
In other words, take the high road.
Handle yourself professionally, and if that doesn’t work, take the problem to a superior.
Tristen Loo, an expert in conflict resolution, says when you are having problems with a co-worker or employer, you should document everything. “This will become your main ammunition should a complaint ever be filed down the road.” He recommends only going to a superior as a last resort, but if you need documentation, you’ll have it.
Your ability to respond to these difficult situations maturely may even get you noticed at work. Management is always looking for people who can handle conflict with grace, and they are the people who get promoted.
Rudyard Kipling wrote, "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you … yours is the earth and everything that's in it."
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.