by Lisa Lane Brown
Q. “I would like to have a better relationship with my father, but even though I’ve always been kind and supportive to him, he’s still critical and not supportive of me. It makes me so sad. What can I do?”
A. Excellent question. How do you deal with moody or difficult people?
I’ve always disliked the phrase “difficult people” because it seems a bit silly. I mean, is there anyone on this planet who considers himself a “difficult person”?
But there ARE people who confuse us, because when we are nice, supportive, and encouraging, they don’t respond very well.
There are two types of people in this world: those who respond to nice love, and those who respond to tough love.
People who respond to nice love tend to pursue people who give them kindness, compassion, and support.
About 15% of people fall into this category.
People who respond to tough love tend to pursue people who are hard to get, critical, moody, and even aggressive.
About 85% of people fall into this category.
You can easily spot what kind of person you are dealing with.
Just think about his or her closest relationships.
Who gets the most out of this person?
People who give him consistent, nice love or people who give him tough love?
Your Dad sounds like a tough love kind of guy.
Assuming that’s the case, here is exactly what to do.
It’s a strategy recommended by author Homer MacDonald in his book, Stop Your Divorce called, ‘Avoid the cold person and embrace the warm person.’
Whenever this person becomes critical, depressive, self-absorbed, or unsupportive, you must remove yourself from his or her presence IMMEDIATELY.
Let’s imagine you go for dinner at your father’s house, and he is being moody.
Maybe he’s sulking or maybe he takes a sarcastic jab at you.
Normally, you take it personally and feel down.
In this situation, most people will try hard to please their Dad when he’s in a bad mood.
They’ll go out of their way to be friendly and nice.
Or they’ll try to have a serious talk with him and beg him to be nicer or at least explain himself.
This is an excellent approach to try the first time he is moody.
Always assume the person is a ‘nice love’ kind of person.
If he doesn’t respond, though, you must abandon nice love demeanour.
When someone is cold towards you and you are continually nice back, you are saying that you want someone to be cold to you.
This is the wrong move.
You’ve got to avoid the cold person if you’re ever going to get the warm person.
Keep your contact with a cold person brief. If necessary, look at your watch and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize it was so late…must get back to that deadline.’
This way, you’re not creating a reason to become angry and resentful of your Dad, because you didn’t let him destroy your day.
But here’s the most important point: Tough love people do not respond to negative words, complaints, or criticism, but they DO respond to no contact.
When you accept others for who they are using these methods, you communicate self-esteem and flexibility.
You’re saying, ‘I don’t need you to be any particular way at all.’
Avoidance is not manipulation. It is acceptance.
Avoidance works because you are not doing it in an attempt to manipulate your Dad.
Instead of trying to change him by being super-nice (or getting angry), you are merely bowing out because it is unpleasant for you.
You’re saying, “This isn’t interesting to me.”
Using avoidance and indifference with people when they are unsupportive is a radical concept.
Most of us need to be in control.
If a person is not giving us the support we want, we try to control him.
We go back and forth between being angry vs. nice in an attempt to get our way.
This never works, because the person we are dealing with senses what we are doing and rebels even more.
So get out there and try, “Avoid the cold person and embrace the warm person.”
It will raise your confidence in relationships immeasurably.
People will start responding to you differently.
You’ll start getting the love, appreciation, and respect you deserve.
Success in relationships really is as easy as knowing which strategy to use with your friends and family depending on what’s going on.
That’s why I strongly recommend my CD, The Courage to Win in Relationships: How to Make Yourself Irresistible.
What’s unique about this CD is that it goes beyond traditional rhetoric about ‘trust’ or ‘communication’.
It will teach you exactly what to do and say to the important people in your life to succeed with them.
Lisa Brown is the founder of the Courage to Win and is considered the world's leading expert on deep mental toughness for success in career, love, and sport. She has personally coached over 7,200 achievers to new heights and conducted over 1,300 live seminars on mental toughness across North America. She has been featured by major media including the New York Times and Entrepreneur Magazine, who called the Courage to Win “a straight-forward guide to success, highly recommended.”