Difficult People are Our Emotional Tough Mudder


Every weekend people participate in marathons, mud runs, cycle races, and other physical challenges. They train for months, sometimes years, to be ready for the challenge.

Most motivational messages about success and goals use visual images of people doing challenging sports and activities.

When we reference overcoming fear and difficulty and pain, we focus on physical limitations and challenges, not on the relationship dynamics we all face between ourselves and others.

I’ve come to realize we don’t regard emotional strength and determination and skill as much as we do physical strength and focus and determination. We also don’t regard our capacity to make things work with others as much as we do the achievement of our own, individual goals.

So, it gets me thinking….Why aren’t our difficult people and conversations also our Tough Mudder or Iron Man?

When it comes to physical challenges we see it as us against us, so there’s an end point, a finish line.

When we’re challenged by others we tend to feel helpless and believe the only way through to a positive outcome is if they change. Or if they go away.

But what if that difficult person or employee was simply your Mount Everest? How might you think differently about learning new skills to better negotiate their personality and behavior? What might you ask of yourself that is different in order to prepare for success? How would you train your mind and your emotional strength, for weeks, months or years?

It’s funny, isn’t it? How we lock in and believe they should be the ones to change and not us? Maybe. Maybe not.

What I know for sure is them changing is their business.

You deciding to change your approach to the challenge of relating to or working with or managing them, is up to you … THAT is your business and there is always something else available to help you achieve that challenge.

But like all challenges, we must learn and train and practice.