How to Deal With Difficult People
By Drenda Keesee
Let’s talk about sharks…
Hang with me, this is going somewhere!
I’m not talking about the kind of sharks you see on shark week. I’m talking about the kind of sharks you meet in the workplace, in relationships, and even at church. (Yikes!)
Have you ever met a difficult person?
Somebody who was hard to please, critical, controlling, negative, or even rude?
Did a few people come to mind as soon as you read that?
When we meet sharks (note: they generally don’t look like sharks), we often try to jump through hoops to keep them happy. Been there, got the shirt, went back and got five thousand more. Ha!
Gary and I have had to swim with many, many, MANY sharks in business, ministry, relationships, and friendships. During the first few years of running our business, our life often looked like…
…a shark feeding frenzy!
Honestly, a lot of it wasn’t their fault; it was mine.
I used to be a serial people pleaser. I hated making people unhappy.
Saying no was hard for me… Disappointing people was hard for me… That made running a business and ministry REALLY hard for me! When I met somebody who wasn’t happy with me, it became my personal mission to make them change their mind.
Hello, can you say disaster waiting to happen?
I was performing for their approval.
It was like dropping blood into the middle of the Pacific ocean.
Sharks were swimming from every direction to get a piece of me. As an insecure, timid leader, I was the perfect shark bait!
Gary and I agonized over putting our trust in the wrong people. We faced betrayals, accusations, and let people manipulate us out of time and money.
One day Gary came to me with tears in his eyes. “I wrote my resignation letter today,” he said, trying to fight back the crushing disappointment in his voice.
We were so close to giving everything up because of sharks!
That is how CRITICAL it is that we understand how to deal with difficult people.
You may feel like quitting today, but I want to encourage you; there are answers!
I know I’m preaching to somebody here!
Redefine Your Role
As a Christian, I used to think it was my job to make everyone happy…
NEWS FLASH: it’s not your job to make everyone happy. Only God can do that—He’s their answer, not you!
Through the years, I’ve learned a powerful secret about sharks…
Sharks don’t eat fish because of anything the fish do. They don’t eat fish because those fish aren’t good enough fish, or because those fish aren’t nice enough to the sharks.
Sharks eat fish because they’re SHARKS!
I learned this lesson the hard way! I didn’t know how to separate somebody else’s reactions from my identity.
Jesus was a perfect leader and friend, and even He offended people! John 15:18-19 (NIV) says,
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
There are people you will meet in life who will get offended with you no matter what you do. If you exhaust yourself trying to please them, you may delay it for a day, but the inevitable will come.
Romans 12:18 (NIV) says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Pay special attention to the middle of that Scripture: “As far as it depends on you.” Peace in every relationship is not always within your power. People have a responsibility too. Do as much as you can to live at peace with everyone, but don’t live in a state of people pleasing, fear, or intimidation.
You have to learn how to separate other people’s actions and reactions from YOUR identity.
And for the record, we can all demonstrate sharklike qualities from time to time! Especially when we’re hurting, tired, or operating out of our emotions.
Keep the Vision Ahead
When dealing with difficult people, you have to remember…
You can’t make everyone happy, and that’s okay. God never asked you to!
You’re on a mission.
You’re on assignment.
You can’t compromise your destiny to please people.
Jesus gives us an example of this in Luke 4:42-43 (NIV):
At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
How someone reacts when your obedience to God and the priorities He has placed in your life interfere with what they want from you isn’t a sign of your failure or unworthiness. It’s simply an indicator of immaturity in them.
You have to stay obedient to the will of God anyway!
Give people grace, patience, and love, but don’t take false responsibility for other people’s offenses.
You have to keep swimming!
ps…You can pre-order Drenda’s new book, “Shark Proof” here!
Listen in Now to Faith Life Church!
Drenda Keesee’s contagious zeal and humorous personal experiences help make her ministry of spiritual, emotional and relational wholeness one that will bless your life and spark a new fire in your spirit.
A wife of over 30 years and a mother of five children, Drenda has ministered at churches, seminars, and conferences, and through the mediums of television and radio, for more than 20 years.
Her books, The New Vintage Family, Better Than You Think, and She Gets It are available wherever books are sold. In these heartfelt books, Drenda shares her personal journey and the life lessons that have brought her to where she is today, as well as practical answers that all people need to live a joyful life.
Drenda and her husband Gary founded Faith Life Now, a ministry designed to spread the message of freedom in the areas of finances, faith, marriage, and family. Tune in for their weekly messages here. Faith Life Now hosts conferences worldwide, and sponsors both Fixing the Money Thing, which Drenda co-hosts with her husband Gary, and Drenda.
Through their own life experiences, the Keesees have found the principles from God’s Word to be powerful and effective. At one point, Drenda was a young, suicidal feminist with no hope of ever being “good enough” for her own standards of perfection. She never wanted the “inconvenience” of a husband or children, and she was on her own path to success. But the stress of trying to achieve perfection and perform for love left her broken and used. She had success, but it was nothing compared to the pain and loneliness it had also brought.
That’s when God got a hold of her heart. It was there—at her lowest point—that she found the One who accepted and loved her, faults and all. Since that transformation, Drenda has had a passion to reach women who find themselves where she once was.
She married Gary after attending college, and there she found herself in a personal boot camp of sorts. She says, “I cried and told God, ‘I can do anything but be a wife and mother.’” She committed to learning how to do it God’s way. Through the many years of raising their children and struggling to make ends meet, Drenda learned from their mistakes. “I didn’t know how to be a wife and mother, but God saved our marriage, taught us how to parent our children for success, showed us how to have financial success, and then irony of all ironies, He called us to ministry.” It’s truly because of these life experiences that Drenda can now share so many insightful principles for people who are now going through the same struggles.