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What do a Psychologist, a Hypnotherapist and a Mediator have in common?

They all have great insight into how you can best manage your response to difficult people

A Psychologist’s point of view…


Dr. Amanda Jefferys.

Registered Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist
B. Psych (Hons). M Health Psych
Doctorate of Clinical and Health Psych.
MAPS. Fitness Professional

The issue of dealing with others is complex and is often the highlight or the low light of our daily interactions. Indeed, when we are having difficulties with a bully or even the newly popularised narcissistic boss, we are facing a challenging relationship.

Worthy of mention is the recent popularised psychology term of a person being of a ‘narcissistic personality’. You will be relieved to know that most of us do not function from this characteristic; rather, we have moments in our life which highlight some characteristics of the narcissist due to our life circumstances. As such, often the narcissist characteristics are amenable to change rather than fixed personality traits.

That said, if one is dealing with a person with ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ you will face many challenges, and this situation can become very unamenable.

In terms of offering a very cryptic synopsis remember there are cognitive strategies which may assist in early management of interpersonal conflict involving a person exhibiting narcissistic characteristics.

1) Work towards meaningful outcomes: be brave by having authentic conversations and address the poor behaviour (if you feel safe to do so). Importantly, implement effective boundaries to avert any unwarranted behaviours being mis-directed.

2) Apply mindfulness: mindfulness is the applied practice of being in the here and now, and the ability to sustain this focus for periods of time. This allows you to be both open to life’s experiences while being present in day-to-day experiences. This may offer the potential to switch-off from the cognitive demands of our days. For example, when you are not in the vicinity of an aggressor, you have the ability to redeem your true quality of life in other life domains, such as engaging in home activities with family or your hobby, sport or interest.

3) Use a growth mindset: a growth mindset is the belief that you can develop your talents and abilities through hard work, good strategies, and help from others. It stands in opposition to a fixed mindset, which is the belief that talents and abilities are unalterable traits, ones that can never be improved.

This translates to being psychologically flexible – functioning from personal strengths and adapting a framework of positive self-talk.

Each of these strategies are relatively easy to implement with a little focus, but if you need some guidance in managing a difficulty seek suitable support to guide an action plan that fits for your particular situation.

A Hypnotherapist’s point of view…

Sonja Bollnow

Clinical & Alchemical Hypnotherapist
Systemic Constellation Facilitator
Regression Therapist
Equine Facilitated Learning Coach
Reiki Master

When dealing with difficult people it’s important to be in the wisest part of yourself. Your Wise Self can see the person and situation from a non-judgmental and even compassionate perspective. With this change of perspective you have access to more peaceful or empowering thoughts and actions… and difficult people may still be difficult but no longer for you.

Your Wise Self has all the answers and we all have accessed it intuitively many times. The trick is to engage it more consciously. Then you step out of unconscious reactions, feeling triggered or helpless and into a knowing of safety, love and of resources for you to use in any situation you find yourself in.

So how do you access this wiser or higher perspective? It’s as simple as taking a few deep breaths and asking yourself “How would my Wise Self see this situation?” or “What would my Wise Self say or do right now?” and trust the first thought and awareness that comes to you.

For example: You may become conscious that this person is like the bully you had to endure in school but you are an adult now with resources. Maybe this person is struggling with a terminally sick spouse, opening you up to greater compassion and kindness. Or you may get a vision of them as a little child, insecure or in a tantrum. Or you receive an image of a beautiful place in nature or someone you deeply love. All these can shift and subsequently lift you out of your fear reaction (e.g. hurt, righteousness) into a love response (e.g. understanding, compassion). Your Wise Self always knows a thought or action that gets you back to a love response. In that state you are empowered and empowering and life can only flow in greater harmony within and with everyone around you.

A Mediator’s point of view…

Nicole Cullen

Managing Director & Founder Cullaborate
Nationally Accredited Mediator

Having mediated hundreds of workplace and business disputes, I have seen that there are 2 types of conflicts. One where there is a conflict between 2 or more people which can be resolved if they have full and frank discussions, and the second where it seems no amount of conversation or discussion will resolve the issue. This second type of conflict generally involves one or more “high conflict personalities” who are rigid and uncompromising, fixed on the past, see things in black and white and generally don’t see the other person’s point of view. This type of behaviour has a negative effect on the other person and generally renders them less resourceful than usual to respond to the issue. They retaliate, become frustrated and defensive and ultimately behave in a way that makes matters worse.

In situations like this, mediators need to change tactic as “allowing people to vent” is unlikely to be helpful.  Spiralling backwards into the past is counter-productive. The mediator can support an easing of the conflict by supporting the difficult person to access the left side of their brain (the rational side) by requesting a list of priorities or ideal outcomes. Another strategy is to keep the conversation future focussed by asking for proposals and supporting the parties to have discussions about ideas that could work. It is important for the mediator to support the other person just as much as the person with the difficult behaviours. The other person should be commended for their patience, willingness to listen and their ability to adapt to a changed pattern in the relationship. Finally, the mediator needs to look after him or herself as dealing with difficult behaviours can be exhausting. It is important not to take the behaviour personally or to get drawn in to the conflict drama. Experienced mediators will step back to keep perspective.

Nicole Cullen is a nationally accredited mediator. Based in Melbourne, she manages a national team of conflict resolution experts and delivers services to a wide range of organisations.


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