How to Deal with Difficult People: The Steam Roller

Jen Otero joins us this month on MercyTalk as we discuss how to deal with
difficult people. In this series, we’re looking at 5 difficult, yet common, behaviors we
often encounter in relationships and how to deal with them in healthy ways. In this
episode, we’ll discuss the “Steam Roller” and why avoiding confrontation may not
be the most effective way of addressing this type of behavior in a relationship. Also,
in this episode…
  • Why tolerating certain behaviors says more about you than you think
  • How to have healthy conflict resolution conversations
  • How self-awareness impacts those around you

We’re so excited you’ve joined us for the 3rd week of our series, “How to Deal with Difficult People”. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the first 2 episodes, go back and listen because there are some really practical tools you can use in your own relationships (as well as utilize for your own self-awareness). But todays behavior is gonna be a little different because this behavior is much harder to tolerate. The other 2 issues we’ve covered (“The Know it All” and “Friendly Sniper”) can for the most part, be ignored or “tolerated”. However, today, we’re going to cover a behavior that is not only incredibly obvious but also destructive…we’re talking about, the “steamroller

So, most of us can relate to having someone like this in our lives or having had experienced with someone like this at work, school, etc. However, just like the other types we’ve talked about, there’s always more underneath the surface than what we think. Going back to the tree and its fruit and the roots that we discuss in KTF, environments/experiences and hurts can all lead to these types of behaviors in others and even ourselves.

Here’s the million-dollar question (and whole point of this series btw) …how do we deal with this type of behavior? Especially when it can be so aggressive in nature…how do we respond to someone who’s belittling us, bullying us and wielding their power to influence our behavior to do what they want us to do?

The best place to start, is with a deep breath (Proverbs 17:27 He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.) Yes, breathing deep and staying calm is the best place to start. Raising your voice, interrupting and getting visibly upset, only excites the “Steam Roller” and they aren’t afraid of a fight. The key here, is to stand firm, calm and confident. If they’re bent on berating you, wait until they’re finished and then say something like, “when you’re ready to let me speak (without interrupting), I’d be happy to finish”. Or phrases like, “when your voice is as calm as mine, I’d be more than willing to finish our conversation”. Peaceful, yet firm statements create safe boundaries between you and the other person because you are no longer willing to yield to their threats or intimidating tone. Also, never feel guilty about leaving the scene until the other party can speak cordially.  Just remember, staying calm doesn’t mean you have to put yourself in an unhealthy/unsafe position.

It’s also important to note that ignoring or accepting the other persons behavior, isn’t going to work either. It we never communicate our boundaries; it sends the message to the “steamroller” that they can treat us anyway they’d like with no responsibility. It also fosters anxiety, low self-worth and a victim mentality that does not serve us well in addressing the issues at hand. All this to say, learning how to calmly, yet firmly handle oneself in the face of confrontation, is something we need to cultivate. Running away or screaming in retaliation, just doesn’t work very well.

As we close out today, most of the conversation has centered around the “steamroller” in the verbal sense (especially at work).  However, we also want to point out that these types of behaviors can easily cross over into abuse. If you or someone you love is in a situation that is emotionally or physically unsafe, please do not suffer in silence and seek help immediately.

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