Dealing with Difficult People

We all have dealt with difficult people. Early in my training I encountered a doctor who triggered a tremendous amount of stress in me. I found him arrogant and smug. He also had a condescending and patronizing manner that I found offensive. It was bad enough that I had to periodically encounter him in my training rotations, but when I was assigned to his service for two months, I couldn’t imagine how I’d get through the ordeal.

As we started working together, I found him less irritating than I’d expected. Then something amazing happened. He requested my assistance on a case. During our collaboration, I found myself warming up to him. He responded in kind.

As I got to know him I enjoyed him more and more — he wasn’t smug at all. In fact, he was extremely shy and soft-spoken and what I had taken to be arrogance was a combination of shyness and the way he compensated for his social unease. His behaviour and mannerisms didn’t change, but my view of them did.

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Dr. David Posen
Dr. Posen is the author of the best-selling books, Always Change a Losing Game, Staying Afloat when the Water gets Rough, The Little Book of Stress Relief, which has been translated into seven languages and Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress.