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Thread: How to deal with a difficult person

  1. #1

    How to deal with a difficult person

    Gassho brothers and sisters,

    I wanted to ask a question. How do you deal with a difficult person?

    My mother in law lives with us and is a very difficult person to deal with. As a person who is striving to become more compassionate and even with their thiughts, reactions, and emotions, it is very difficult to be un affected by this.

    I feel guilt and shame because she does help with cooking and cleaning, and watches our kids while we work, shes just very set in her ways, and those ways clash with the family constatnly.

    Any advice is welcome, and thank you for listening.

    Sat today. LAH
    Steve

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Nengei's Avatar
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    Hello Steve,

    Please take anything I might say with a grain of salt. I am only a priest-in-training, with no qualifications or credential for teaching the Dharma or Zen Buddhist practice. And please forgive the length of my reply.

    This is such a difficult thing, especially when it is a part of your day-in, day-out life. For myself, I find it helps to remember the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. I often want to reach past the basics when it comes to complex struggles of the now, but when I remember that all sentient beings experience dukkha most of the time, and that my most basic role as a Zen Buddhist is to help them move toward being free of that, I usually can see the situation in a new light. It is, of course, hardest to remember that when I am head-to-head with people I am most familiar with. Most of the time, helping them isn't a direct action toward a particular thing, but only remembering that they are suffering, and opening space for them to tell their story, to feel heard, valued, and appreciated.

    If you want, here are some links to take a look at the Four Nobel Truths: https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...7-Noble-Truths

    and the Eightfold Path: https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...Eightfold-Path

    and there are many, many other sources about these important Buddhist topics.

    Gassho,
    Nengei
    Sat today. LAH.
    遜道念芸 Sondō Nengei (he/him)

    Please excuse any indication that I am trying to teach anything. I am a priest in training and have no qualifications or credentials to teach Zen practice or the Dharma.

  3. #3
    Hi Steve

    Stepping outside of Zen, though Zen very much encompasses these ideas, I find the principles of 'non-violent communication' especially helpful in my work with difficult people, and those within my family as well. You'll find plenty of good resources on youtube or google about it. Also, the book Zen in Challenging Times that the sangha has been reading also contains some useful advice in this domain. If you don't have a copy, Jundo attached a pdf version...

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...those-who-need

    Of course, as a novice-priest, you must take anything I say with a grain of salt.

    Best wishes and gassho

    Tokan

    satlah
    平道 島看 Heidou Tokan (Balanced Way Island Nurse)
    I enjoy learning from everyone, I simply hope to be a friend along the way

  4. #4
    Hi Steve,

    In addition to the very good advice above, I like some 'tried and true' old Zen standards ...

    -- Bow to her as Buddha offering you a teaching on dealing with difficult folks, for it is an "opportunity to practice" ...

    -- Smile on your face, even when parts of you wants to scream ... laugh as best you can at the comedy and absurdity of it all ...

    -- Find your own Shikantaza still, still place within, and be there even when chaos is happening all around ... (and, heck, maybe your own still still place to go in your house, like your own room, when she is being difficult ... I bet that even monks in monasteries do this when some other monk is driving them bonkers ... ) ...

    -- Forgive yourself for getting mildly annoyed, frustrated, angry sometimes, for that is human and we are wired so ... but avoid to fall into extremes of rage and frustration, and recognize that there is a big difference between a little anger, rage, saying harsh words (let alone doing something worse! ). I think, reading the old stories, that even the Buddha and Dogen got a bit 'ticked off' at some of the annoying or bad behavior by their monks sometimes.

    -- Recognize the difference between 'tough love' (talking a bit strongly and with an angry face at, for example, a child playing with matches), and actually acting toward the other person in rage

    -- Put expectations on the person to improve behavior, explained with gentle speech, and remind them again and again that they promised to improve (understanding and accepting deep down that it may be fruitless) ...

    -- This advice applies mostly when, for example, somebody in our family ... even a child or sibling ... has issues with addiction or the like but (1) demand that they get treatment for it, (2) offer to help them get out of trouble a proverbial dozen times when they get in trouble, (3) do not offer to help a 13th time as they have abused your help, remove them from your life as best they can until they clean up themselves, they need to take care of themselves.

    That is what I would recommend, and other folks here will have more good advice.

    Gassho, Jundo

    stlah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    I have some experience with this. First I needed to learn to respond and not react. So listening with full attention became very important. This created a space to respond which sometimes is no response. Itís still difficult and sometimes id like to scream lol

    Sat/lah


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    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

  6. #6
    Could try sending her metta everyday.
    It softens the heart.

    Gassho, Hōzan
    Satlah

  7. #7
    Wow! Just Wow! I am completely humbled by the help and sage advice. This helped me so much! I felt as though I was being a bad buddhist because I wasn't able to accept without reservation. It turns out that we all have this issue at some point, with someone.

    Thanks and blessings.
    Steve SAT/LAH Gassho.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Rossiter View Post
    Wow! Just Wow! I am completely humbled by the help and sage advice. This helped me so much! I felt as though I was being a bad buddhist because I wasn't able to accept without reservation. It turns out that we all have this issue at some point, with someone.

    Thanks and blessings.
    Steve SAT/LAH Gassho.
    Most of the priests in this Sangha have this issue ... with ME!

    Gassho, J

    stlah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9

    Wink

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Most of the priests in this Sangha have this issue ... with ME!

    Gassho, J

    stlah
    I refuse to believe that Jundo! Lol!!

    Sat, Gassho
    Last edited by Steve Rossiter; 02-12-2024 at 04:30 PM.

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