How to cope with "that arsehole" in your life

Everyone has had one at some point right? Maybe you have one now – That one person (or more) that drives you insane, who grinds, grates and picks on you at every given little opportunity and has no justification to be like they are other than graduating with honours from the university of being a total ass! Maybe it’s a boss, a colleague, a family member, a “loved” one, or someone in your friend circle.


During one of my personal therapy sessions, I once said to my counsellor “I always seem to find a way to get on with the unpopular ones” to which he said “Whats your secret?” Following, a short pause of consideration I relayed my strategy of how I try to get on with most people I meet, and the opportunity I see in all interactions – even the bad ones.


Before the key ingredients & methods are divulged, it is always important to determine your “Why?” before you take something on – why would you want to feel better about someone who treats you or others like dirt? Maybe as a result of how they act, you feel dejected and hurt. If your "why" isnt strong enough then change will be limited.


Everyone has their own individual reasons as to why they may want to get something out of a relationship or perhaps not to, and its often the ego that offers us a negative why? – “Why should I make all the effort with someone that has done nothing but hurt me?!”. To that the answer is simple: It’s a choice, you don’t have to, nobody is forcing you and if you truly don’t want to take any of the steps by reading to the end of this article then nothing is lost by inaction, and only knowledge has been gained.

If however, you saw the headline to this article and started reading, then there is something within you that is steering you to want to develop a couple of life/coping skills and to do that you hold a belief that there is a possibility to change your situation.


Here’s some benefits to addressing yourself in your relationship with the person(s).

· Right now you may feel stuck with the person(s) in your life due to circumstance. If its someone you work with or go to school with (unless you are willing to walk out on your job/school now) then you may have to foster a relationship for the time. Someone in your personal life, may be there because of the ties you have to other people or finances – Again, unless you are willing to walk away from all of that it may feel necessary to take steps to manage yourself a little better in a fraught relationship with this person.

· It is not physically, mentally or spiritually healthy to have someone in your life that you feel nervous, stressed, angry or frustrated about seeing. Holding these feelings about coming into contact with this person are likely to cause an anxiety that affects you just as much when they aren’t around as when they are. At times it can become all consuming and prevent you from enjoying all areas of your life – Is that a life you want?

· That person really is a great opportunity for your self-development – As this article will demonstrate, this can actually be a chance to learn a lot about yourself too and to develop new tools that will serve you well in all areas and relationships within your life.


For this to be as effective as possible, it requires the acceptance and understanding of some basic concepts about the approach, and as a friendly warning there are some perspectives in here that you may find difficult to swallow. They aren’t said to offend, and are offered to bring something into your consciousness that you can use later on.

1. You only hold a responsibility to change yourself and the way you respond in any given situation. When you carry the burden of trying to change others, then the challenge will always be insurmountable leading to greater distance and damage to a relationship. You only have total control over you, so liberate yourself from believing or thinking you can change others. People only change when they are ready to change. You have to do this to improve a situation for yourself, you are so deserving of a more positive outcome, and to do that – do this work for yourself.

2. You have both been operating from a place of vulnerability. People put up their barriers because they feel its necessary to protect themselves. THIS IS NOT TO EXCUSE BAD BEHAVIOUR! Those barriers can be seen in all sorts of ways – standoffishness, rudeness, offensiveness & aggressiveness are just a few and don’t necessarily make for a pleasant interaction, however, they are there because of a perceived threat by that person, consciously or otherwise. It is very common when you are on the receiving end of any of these traits to want to defend yourself also, thus exploiting your own vulnerable states meaning that….

3. You have both played your role in where this relationship is now. This can be quite uncomfortable to acknowledge at times! It is not a case of pointing the finger or to say who started what. That is merely a form of sibling squabbling in front of the parent trying to get the upper hand in justice so that is not necessary to do. If you hold any feelings towards someone who is in your life right now, whether you think of them as an angel or the devil then that belief will be based on a version of that person that you have created. That person could have acted abysmally towards you, and that’s their role in this. How you responded was your role. There is an empowering concept within counselling that “Nobody MAKES you feel anything”. You react and respond to what someone says or does to you based on your nature, experience, thoughts and beliefs. Each interaction that you have with a person enables a new foundation for the next. If bad behaviour goes unchallenged the first time, it enables the offending person to believe they can do it again.

4. Going through this may not improve the relationship, and it will improve how you respond to it. This is about developing a greater understanding, a different perspective and what you do with this.

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.- (Viktor E. Frankl)

5. The other persons acceptance of you is not, in any way a reflection of your worth. Read that again and please let it sink in. Do not chase something that may not be available. Your worth is conditional and determined only by you.

6. At some point in your life, intentionally or otherwise, someone has been upset as a result of something that you have said or done. Maybe you meant it or maybe you didn’t, yet it is likely to have happened. Why was your role in that circumstance as the bad guy? Because you are human.

7. The person that you have defined as the asshole, is also a human. You may give them tags such as “the bitch” , “the asshole”, “the monster”, or one of a thousand other terms to illustrate their role in your life, but yep that’s a human, and when we accept that it opens doors to realise that we are dealing with an equal.


What can you do to manage the undesirable relationship with this fellow human being who is also capable of feeling vulnerable? Now you can start the work:


When you know something has a negative effect on you – you have three choices with it – Avoid, control yourself, escape. Avoidance is quite self explanatory – work out where and when they will be somewhere and make sure you are not! Alternatively you can leave (escape) when they show up. Its important to realise that you cant run or hide forever, and this is where control of yourself in the situation is integral. Controlling yourself within the relationship is a form of acknowledging that person is going to be around at the same time as you. You will cross paths and this is what we are going to look at to hopefully make it a little more bearable for you:


For when they lose their temper around you

Be an observer to that person’s emotions - Stop being at the mercy of how other people behave, and acknowledge yourself as your own entity. People with higher levels of empathy will find this a greater struggle. When someone loses control of their emotions in whatever form, they are sending out lots of emotional energy as it escapes from their body. What that situation needs right there and then is for someone else present to remain calm, to take control and restore order. You can do this by acknowledging that your involvement in that situation is optional. You can also lose control and react to match their emotions or you can observe them as if they were on television. Two people in the same emotional energy is no more productive than one person, so being the observer gives you a better shot at getting through this.


When they act like a child, see them as one

Does this person throw tantrums, sulk or refuse to listen when they are getting tired or hungry? Cool that’s fine, visualise them as a small child aged 2-7 doing that - it is the state they are in after all. It’s a way of empowering yourself within that circumstance, and toning down the effects of their behaviour upon you. Regardless of levels of maternal or paternal instincts within us, we see children & adults differently and treat them accordingly. Almost all of us go into a child state every once in a while and again this a vulnerable state to be in. To that we can ask three questions - How are you feeling? What do you want? What do you need?


For when you cant understand why they are being like this?

This is a visualisation technique. Recall the last time you had a negative interaction with one another. Firstly remember what you were feeling, seeing, hearing, saying and doing, replay the experience in your mind. Now, reset yourself, then next imagine being them in that interaction. See the incident from within their body and imagine saying the words they said and how they said them. What are you feeling? what are you seeing? How is that experience when you put yourself in their position? Lastly, recall that experience again but this time imagine that you are sat up on a stand looking down seeing both you and that person going through that interaction. Again, what are you seeing of yourself, and the other person, what are you hearing? Does this offer you anything that you couldn’t see when you were within the experience itself?


Finding the positives from the negatives you have experienced?

When we find another person challenging it means that they test us on levels that we are not always comfortable to otherwise explore. That part where we are uncomfortable in our resilience, tolerance and endurance being tested, that part right there my friend has been development. Has it been fun? Probably not! Yet you’ve survived it and you’ve exceeded a limit that you had already set yourself.

“Harder than you think its a beautiful thing” – (Public Enemy. 2007)

Harder than you think

Use that person as your own mirror of self reflection within this?

If someone does or says something that you absolutely hate, then they are on the opposite end of scale to you for that thing. For that scale to exist in the first place, then that requires you to be just as much an extremist of the point as the person doing the thing you hate, except you balance up the other end of it. Take your rightful place, own that and be comfortable with it. As passionate as they are about their thing, you are equally as passionate on the other side. Take some reflection time, and determine what it is exactly that the person is saying or doing that you really don’t like? Now what is it about those words or actions that you don’t like about yourself? For example, in sessions with clients, a common area that people find when feeling victimised by a perpetrator is that they hate to feel disempowered, weak or vulnerable. It’s a primal dominance battle that they feel they are losing or have lost, and that’s really unpleasant to feel that way! From this we do work to identify its origins and carry out various confidence & solution focused exercises to build the esteem. Developing self-awareness is no pleasure cruise, although it can help form a richer foundation to grow from and move forwards through life with greater confidence.


A warning about seeking revenge!

If we are wronged we may deem it necessary in the moment to try to hurt that person like they have hurt us. Revenge and punishment will only serve the ego, and potentially the immediate short term. Psychological studies have shown that “getting revenge on someone” prolongs the unpleasantness of the original offence. Doing something just as bad in return, will leave you realising that you have another thing in common with that person – you are both capable of intentional bad acts. Further, the situation between you is likely to escalate and continue as you then enter into a cycle of retaliation.

“A man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal” – (Francis Bacon. )

Communication techniques - If you are likely to engage with them

If you are seeking out ways to communicate with that person who always seems difficult to interact with then there are still some things you can say to reach better potential outcomes. The language we use is not a case of one-size-fits-all, yet certain language patterns we use are likely to disarm or encourage someone more than others.


As a warning and a condition please note: Trying to knock down someone’s boundaries when they have knocked down yours will only enter you both into a negative cycle – it is this cycle that you are trying to avoid. Constantly trying to get someone to talk about what is going on for them when they don’t want to speak to you is an ineffective and frustrating situation for you both, so don’t make this a thing! If this is the case, there is nothing to take personally, maybe they don’t like talking about how the feel full stop, or perhaps they have someone else they feel more comfortable talking to.


If someone is quiet and withdrawn – ask once, ask a second time then leave it if they don’t open up. For example:

You: “Hi are you ok, you seem a little quiet?”

Them: “Yes I’m fine”

You: “Are you sure? I’m asking because I care about you”

Them: “Yes, I’m fine, please leave me alone”

You: “Ok, I will do, and if you want to talk you know where I am”


Offer neutral observations:

When someone is oppressive towards us, it can sometimes feel like we are gagged and cannot respond through fear of escalating the situation. If you are perceptive of someone’s emotions, then this is something you can offer to encourage them to speak about it if they choose.

When on a receiving end of abuse, it often says more about the abuser than it does about the receiver. If you find yourself as the receiver of an angry or frustrated confrontation from someone, the art of your response is in remaining neutral and at zero throughout. Do not step into that emotional energy. Just because their intention is to deliver it, doesnt mean you have to sign and receive it! You can politely and calmly hand it back to them:

“You seem angry/frustrated/upset/down/quiet today, would you like to talk about it” – This could prompt them to expand on their feelings in their current state meaning that you may have to ride out a couple more interactions in their heightened condition. Bear in mind however, that emotional energy is draining and cannot be sustained, especially when its not being fueled!


Use collaborative solution focused questions

“What can WE do to make this situation better?” “Is there anything WE can discuss to get to the bottom of this?” - All of a sudden the conversation has changed from You against me focusing on a problem, to a joint effort to find a solution.


Disengagement statement

If the situation is escalating then for your physical and mental safety its time to disengage: “I can see you are really frustrated at the moment, and I do want to support you with this, so we can sort this out in a while when we are both calm”

– You may already be calm of course, and by using “We” again its not accusing the other person to stoke the fire whilst explaining that the door is open to resolution on the condition of calmness.



From this article there has been a lot to take in. At the heart of it, you are dealing with a human being that is like they are as a result of the experiences that they have had. We are all responsible for the way we act and treat others. A bad past may provide an a greater understanding as to why someone acts a certain way, but it does not bear the badge of an excuse. We all have a choice in how we respond in a situation.


This person who challenges you with the projection of their own insecurities, offers you an opportunity to develop & understand more about yourself to grow. Maybe you have learned that you really are stronger than you thought!


Give these techniques a try, and if you feel it is necessary to communicate with that person, there have been some tips towards the end of the types of language to use to support this person who is struggling or how to cope and communicate during confrontation.


This article is here to support you, and not necessarily to repair a broken relationship – that takes a commitment to change from both sides. We don’t have to get on with everyone we meet, and it is no reflection upon us if we don’t – I’ll leave you with the Gestalt prayer:


#selfhelp #blog #abuse #mindset #bullying #harassment #mentalhealth #selfesteem #trauma

This article is written and bought to you by counsellor Adam Coombes from Dynamic Therapy Club

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