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Chapter 3. What Makes Difficult People T... > You Don't Need to Be a Shrink - Pg. 29

What Makes Difficult People Tick ... and Tick ... Be alert to rewards or reinforcements a person might receive for bad behavior. People sometimes find odd things rewarding--for example, any attention (even negative attention) or getting easier assignments due to poor performance. Make sure your reaction doesn't turn out to reward the behavior you want to stop. 29 Where does all this leave you, the person having to experience all this? First, if you think of John as confused or not knowing what to do, you can be more positive and helpful than if you view John's behavior as evil, intentional behavior. Secondly, it helps you address part of the problem here; John just may need to learn more effective ways of expressing his concerns. It's Also About Emotion Difficult behavior is about learning and how people have been and are rewarded. It's about skill or the lack of it. But we can't complete the picture without talking about emotions. We are dealing with people here. Real people. And often the driving force behind difficult behavior is some sort of emotional state, usually one of anger or frustration, coupled with the other two elements. A number of times we've stated that most people aren't difficult all the time. Again, think of yourself. You have good and bad days, patient and impatient days. Most of the time you behave construc- tively, but not always, right? Think of the last time you can remember behaving in a difficult way, or in a way that you later regretted. In all probability, you were angry or frustrated. Remember? There is clearly an important link between our emotional states and our difficult behavior. This applies not only to ourselves, but also to the difficult people we deal with. Here's how it works. Most people are able to go through their days behaving cooperatively and helpfully. They have sufficient skills to do so, and generally are rewarded for doing so. So, why do people sometimes do dumb things to others? As a person's emotional state increases in intensity (for example, higher frustration and anger), the person tends to return to the ways used to deal with frustration and anger when he or she was much younger. In fact, the person returns to a much more childlike or childish way of dealing with his or her emotions. This applies to almost everyone. If you look at how an angry child behaves and how an angry adult behaves, you might be surprised to see just how similar the two are. Insider Secrets As people become more emotionally activated, they show less control over their emotions and do things they wouldn't normally do if they weren't so emotional. They revert back to the skills they have used longest. Un- fortunately, those are the skills of the young child, which is why the difficult behavior of adults can resemble the difficult behavior of children. What's interesting is that this childish behavior often draws an equally childish response from the other person as he or she gets angry. Or, the person facing the childish behavior acts in a parental, superior way. Both of these responses tend to make emotional situations worse. That explains why people who normally behave pretty well suddenly start behaving badly. It's be- cause their level of anger has reached a point where their skills don't function well enough to deal with situations constructively. They go back to the behaviors that did work (and were reinforced) when they were children.