Prickly people resemble porcupines with sharp quills pointing in all directions. Get too close and you might get poked, so you may spend your time dancing to avoid the stab. The verbal jab, disapproving glance, demanding tone, unreasonable expectation, and lose-lose communication style fill the prickly person’s hand. It’s easy to see how they can throw you off your game.
That’s why ”clarity” is the best first defense against the tactics of the prickly person. Why are you in relationship with the prickly person? Is he or she your boss, a relative, a co-worker, a person in the parish? Are you required to be in relationship with this person? If so, what is your role? Do you have appropriate boundaries with this person? Were those boundaries violated?
Limiting or eliminating prickly person contact reduces the sting, but sometimes that isn’t possible. For the encounters you can’t avoid, you must be clear on what you will and will not accept and what strategies you will employ to have the most positive interaction.
Even though you might get a backlash, accelerate the conflict, get emotionally cut off, or even risk losing your job, you must have a bottom line of what behavior you absolutely will not tolerate. When the prickly person crosses the line, you must have a plan for communicating or reinforcing your boundary.
For the other kinds of less serious infractions you can determine how you plan to handle them, i.e. ignoring the behaviors, having a sense of humor, sucking up, etc. You may decide you like your work position enough to tolerate 10-15 minutes a day of negative prickly person behavior from your boss or co-worker, rather than put up a stink about it.
The bottom line is that until we are in heaven, we will still have some exposure to prickly people. It’s best to have a skill set on how to handle them. Next time, we’ll talk about the second defense against the prickly person.
The Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships Tip: Do you have a prickly person in your life… and a good plan to deal with him or her?