The Oyster and the Pearl: 10 Tips for Dealing with Jerks!

Steve Arterburn

1. Realize that you can’t please everyone ‘ even Jesus had trouble with that. ‘And there was a grumbling among the multitudes concerning Him; some were saying, ‘He is a good man’; others were saying, ‘No, on the contrary, He leads the multitude astray’” (John 7:12).

2. Difficult people thrive in the center of controversy. ‘Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,’ says Proverbs 26:21, ‘so is a contentious man to kindle strife.’ Don’t be drawn into unnecessary situations. Misery really does love company!

3. Set clear personal boundaries for appropriate behavior with difficult people. Communicate with them in a gentle, but clear manner.

4. Never retaliate. In the mind of the difficult person, it justifies their behavior.

5. If you have a moment of rational communication with a difficult person, try to help them see how destructive their behavior is to themselves, their family and their career.

6. When a difficult person goes into attack mode or excessive defensiveness, recognize that it is useless to argue with them. ‘Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him’ (Proverbs 26:4).

7. Learn to recognize when your defense mechanisms come up. Realize that getting defensive will only exacerbate the process of dealing with difficult people.

8. A difficult person’s behavior is really out of your control. Pray for them and let God deal with them. ‘Love your enemies,’ said Jesus, ‘and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44).

9. When you’re facing on-going communication problems with a difficult person, it’s often helpful to invite the help of a neutral third party to facilitate the process of better communication.

10. Take advantage of the many books, tapes and helpful guides that deal with this common issue.

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