Dealing With Difficult People
A couple of weeks ago as I was taking my daily walk to my home-town of Kiserian, I suddenly heard a commotion on a road leading from the town. Several people were running towards a man who had disappeared behind a line of lorries parked by the roadside. Then I heard one policeman with a pistol shout to another in Swahili, "Shoot him!"
After a short while, I saw a man in handcuffs emerge behind the line of parked lorries. He was being escorted by a small crowd which included a policewoman carrying a gun. I didn't bother to hang around the interesting scene and inquire what was happening; I just continued with my walk while assuming the man in handcuffs was a gangster who had been caught by the long arm of the law.
When I remembered that incident today, I found myself thinking about this world and the difficult people who live in it. As in, the people who are unkind or steal things from us. Personally, I have had my own encounters with such difficult people in my life so far. Allow me to tell you about three. Only three.
Sometime in 2007 when I was at the university in JKUAT, I bought a phone with a salary I had been paid for teaching piano at Wynton House of Music in Nairobi. One night a few days later as I was sleeping, a thief stole the phone from the windowsill of my room. Oh, how I came to hate that thief!
Then when I matriculated at the University of Nairobi (UoN) around September 2010, I found myself dealing with another difficult person. This time it wasn't a thief but a lass called Ivy [not her real name] who was rude to me at every opportunity. I remember politely asking her a question one evening only for her to give me an arrogant reply. Another evening, I wrote on a piece of paper the address of a blog I used to run, and when I showed it to her while requesting her to visit the blog, she shot an angry glance at me and threw the paper at me, all the while talking to me in an arrogant manner.
Because I never did or say anything hurtful to Ivy, I don't know what prompted her to treat me with such arrogance from the very start after we met at UoN. All I recall was how I came to silently resent her for treating me unkindly.
The last difficult person I will tell you about today that I have had to deal with was an ice-cream vendor I met at Uhuru Park in Nairobi one Sunday in 2013. That Sunday as I was heading to church at All Saints' Cathedral which is next to Uhuru Park, I heard the vendor shout, "Ice cream 10 bob! Ice-cream 10 bob!"
Pleased to hear that I could buy an ice-cream that cheaply, I stopped by his cart and ordered one. Guess what! After he served me the ice-cream and after I had already began licking it, he told me it was worth 50 bob (not 10 bob!). I complained a little on why he was claiming the ice-cream was worth Ksh. 10 but being the peace-loving young man that I was, I gave him Ksh. 50 and continued with my walk to church.
Then when I was in church, I remembered buying a similar ice-cream at Ksh. 30 a few years back. It occurred to me that I could have been cheated. And after the church was over, I confirmed from a few other vendors at Uhuru Park that the ice-cream cost Ksh. 30. So that blood-sucker had not only misled me by purporting the ice-cream was 10 bob but also inflated its cost by Ksh. 20 after I ordered one. I felt very bitter at having been so easily tricked.
Yes, this world is full of difficult people. Even Marcus Aurelius, one of the wisest rulers of the Roman Empire, said so when he wrote in his diary:
I am going to meet people today who talk too much, people who are selfish, egotistical, ungrateful. But I won't be surprised or disturbed, for I couldn't imagine a world without such people.And because this world is full of difficult people, I have asked God today for two things. First is a spirit of discernment so that I can tell from people's faces which ones are hard to get along with. I believe possessing a spirit of discernment will save me from the trouble of being rudely spoken to.
Secondly, I have asked God for courage to stand up to difficult people. And why have I prayed for courage? Because I have discovered that if I don't speak out against bullying and intimidation, I will end up nursing hatred and resentment. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on dealing with difficult people, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Getting Rid of Resentment". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Reacting to Setbacks
When I was applying to top colleges in the United States a decade ago, I noted the colleges were not only interested in knowing a student's academic record and extra-curricular involvement but also in such personal qualities as maturity, integrity, creativity, self-confidence, sense of humour, warmth of personality, concern for others and reaction to setbacks. I am really working hard to cultivate those qualities in myself these days.
Yesterday evening, I faced a disappointment, which I wish not tell you about, that forced me to do a self-evaluation on how I react to setbacks. And from the way I have successfully dealt with that disappointment to the point of feeling at peace a day later, I have come with the following game-plan on how I will be reacting to setbacks in the future:
- Trusting God: After facing that disappointment yesterday, I reminded myself that God loves me and that His plans for my life are better than mine. Just thinking that way filled me with some peace. I also remembered the wonderful, old hymn His Eye is on the Sparrow whose first verse goes as follows:
Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely?
And long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion,
My constant friend is He,
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.
- Taking a rest: Yesterday evening after I suffered the setback I've mentioned to you, I went to bed and fell into a deep slumber till today in the morning. As a result of that restful sleep, I have been feeling refreshed and clear-headed today.
- Going for a jog and a walk: After waking up in the morning and taking a shower, I went for a jog and a walk to my home-town of Kiserian which is about three kilometres from where I live. That physical exercise was therapeutic because it energized me. And I have now come to agree with Nelson Mandela that physical exercises are not only the key to good health but also to peace of mind.
- Re-reading a favourite book: When I came back from my jogging and walking to Kiserian Town, I turned to my favourite books which I found a good refuge from the feeling of disappointment following yesterday's setback. Would you be interested in knowing which books I read? Well, I browsed my Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary in search of ideas and expressions, then re-read some pages from Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
- Counting my blessings: I did this exercise today afternoon and I am now feeling blessed to have good health and to be surrounded by a supportive family. The good thing about counting blessings is that it fills us with peace and love. It also makes us feel elated to be alive.
- Writing about the setback: This is what I am doing now. And I am finding that the process of writing is helping me reflect on the experience and put things into perspective. It is also bringing my zest for life back. As I edit this story, I am feeling at peace with myself and the world as if nothing negative has happened to me in the past one month.
That's my game-plan of how I will be reacting to setbacks in the future which I have come up with following the way I successfully handled the disappointment I faced yesterday. And we all face setbacks once in a while as we journey in this grand adventure called life. So I beseech you to also come up with your own mechanisms of handling frustrations and disappointments. Over to you!
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