Sunday, January 17, 2016

It's Derby: Sometimes People Are Going to be Difficult

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I'm not going to be posting on a weekly basis anymore. I'm only going to post when I feel inspired to write, and that may be few and far between. Originally when I started this blog, I did it because I needed an outlet to express my thoughts and emotions about derby; I didn't feel like I had a voice with my league at the time, because I was a newer skater, and I never felt like I was going to be taken seriously by the veterans. Also, there were a few people in my league that I just didn't get along with, and sometimes I felt like my opinion didn't really matter, so I vented in my blog. I never expected that it would catch on, and others would read it! Thank you for reading! Over the years I've helped some people, and ruffled some feathers, but that's who I am, and I have remained true to my character, regardless of the popular opinion at the time, and that may be one of the most important lessons I've learned in derby. Sometimes you're not going to be in step with the rest of your peer group, and that's ok. It's about figuring out the important issues and coming to a consensus with your team or league. People are complicated, beautiful, wonderful, and at times, difficult.

You will have to deal with difficult people. Duh, right? Derby is made of people, so of course at some point some of them will be difficult to deal with or tolerate. As goes in life, goes in derby; people by nature can be obstinate jerks, or at least APPEAR to be obstinate jerks when they come in conflict with something you want to do. Not everyone is going to be difficult 100% of the time, but you probably know the people in your league well enough by now to know who is going to be problematic to a goal you want to achieve. Sometimes it's because you have a personality conflict with that person, or sometimes it's because you have baggage. History can accumulate between league members; people hold grudges, or they don't give others second chances because they're carrying the hurt from a prior blow ups. We're people, and we all have feelings and emotions, so they come into play with league politics and relationships. At this very moment, you're probably someone's "difficult person" to deal with, and that is absolutely normal. The question is, how do you deal with difficult people without completely losing your shit?

1.  Take a deep breath. If you're going into a situation where you may have to deal with a difficult person, the best thing you can do is stay calm. Many people make the mistake of getting amped up before talking to or discussing a topic with someone they feel is difficult, so already you're bringing energy and baggage to a discussion that doesn't need to be there. I don't know how many times I've seen someone sabotage an interaction because they're already emotionally wired up for a confrontation. Breathe! You're not going in to fight someone! Even if you have to have a discussion about a topic that is prickly to people, you can remain calm by remembering why you are both there; you love derby! At least that's some common ground you have together.

2. Take the emotion out of it. Some people have thicker skin than others, and they don't get their feelings hurt as easily; some people are extremely sensitive. When you get these two types of people together, feelings happen; as much as I hate to admit that I have feelings, it's a part of being human. The other part of being human is the ability to recognize when we're being emotional. Put that self awareness to good use, and keep your emotions in check when dealing with difficult people. Is it easier said than done? Absolutely, but I'm betting that you have to deal with difficult people at work, and you survive and actually get things done! Use what you've learned outside of derby to be successful in derby.

Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami
3. Use appropriate humor to diffuse a difficult situation. It's hard to be a jerk to someone when they make you laugh. You don't have to be a damned comedian, but cracking a joke when things are tense is a great way to relieve stress and change the emotional tone of a conversation. Humor can be dangerous, because of the varying degrees of what people find funny, but it's better than letting tension build and build until someone blows up and no resolution happens.

4. Listen to the person. Even if your leaguemate is one of the most difficult people on earth, listening to what they have to say might help keep them from being even more difficult in the long run. Listening is HARD. It's definitely a skill, and most of us are rusty when it comes to using it; practice listening to people. It might surprise you when you start to become a good listener, that you will be able to understand a person's motivations and drives much better.

5. Use better body language. Most of us sense when someone doesn't like us, merely by noticing hostile body language. Crossed arms, even though they might be comfortable, might make someone believe that you aren't open to what they're saying. Hands on your hips have the same impact. The best way to show that you're open to the other person is arms at your sides, with relaxed and open hands. Practice it, because it's way harder than it looks!

6. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, or some other bullcrap saying. Yes, it's bullcrap rhyming and annoying, but it might be true. Trust me, ANYONE can be difficult to deal with at any point. If you think everyone you run into is a difficult person, maybe it's time to turn the microscope on yourself. Are you confrontational? Are you listening? Are you doing the tasks you said you'd do? Nobody is 100% perfect at anything, and some of the difficulty happening in a relationship is yours.