Real Life Game of Thrones

How to deal with difficult people (and don’t be surprised to be surprised)
Photo Credit: Jennifer Coolidge for Bazaar Australia
June 20, 2024

The other day, I stumbled upon some notes I’d jotted down years ago when I stumbled upon a Youtube video that unfortunately I’m at a loss to identify and thus credit. My stumbling was surprisingly humbling, and I do hope it will be just so for you in reading this. Happy stumbling and humbling, my real-life gamers of thrones. 

My notes were titled “How to Deal with Difficult People.” Initially, as I was going through the list of types and traits that designate a “difficult” person, I was confirming in my head the people in my life who were all those things… and how I, pure-hearted, virtuous and innocent Me, have been prey to. Initially, it felt very validating indeed and my 😡 was escalating when, suddenly, a question cast me from my iron throne: might I, could I, am I perhaps guilty of many of these🪞🔎??! Turns out I’ve been something of a perpetrator myself—a gentle White Walker, if you will—just as these other difficults have been something of my victims. [I suppose I, the student, was ready, so luckily the teacher emerged.] Perhaps we’re all these to some dregree, after all.

And since “Winter is (always) Coming” in the game of real-life thrones, let’s analyze and break “Difficult People” down into six types:

DEMANDING. Here is our illustrious dictatorial Queen Cersei Lannister, the one and only Mx. Bossy and Controlling – the undisputed maestro of mandates! 👑

DISAPPROVING. Meet Tywin Lannister, Mx. Nitpicker, the aficionado of critique and maestro of pointing out our mistakes. These ones always make us feel we are never good enough. But hmm, 🙄 methinks my angel’s halo wobble a bit. 👉🏻👆🏻👈🏻👇🏻☝🏻

DEAFENING. This one’s loud. With their mouths but also with their energy. Our very own King Robert Baratheon. Heavy-blooded, or “sangre-pesado” as my mom likes to put it. This Difficult wants (or more precisely, needs) ALL the attention. They talk over you. They think what they say is more important. They fill silence unnecessarily. 🎧🙉

DESTRUCTIVE. Behold Dear Westerosi. Here is our living smokestone—a walking eruption of uncontrolled, unpredictable, angry emotions. And let’s be clear, it is usually with themselves. 🌋 Hello Daenerys Targaryen.

DISCONTENTED. Enter Littlefinger. The touchy, thin-skinned virtuoso in the art of whining, but also manipulation. This one’s not just a complainer, but a maestro of lecturing monologues— a sanctimonious martyr to everyone’s poor behavior. Where’s my mirror and magnifying glass again? Well yes, acknowledging is in fact the first of 12 steps. But I am definitely not powerless here. 😒😤😣😠😜

DEMEANING. Last and ANYTHING BUT least, is our classic bully. Our Joffrey Baratheon. The petty, belittling and mean smart-mouth. This one reaps joy in all the ways we don’t measure up in their eyes (though they might likely play the saint or charmer in public). Brace for their condescending look, for their invalidations and minimizations of your feelings. All this complete with a surprise side of manipulation and a drizzle of threats. 😈

So now that we know the types, how do we deal? Not just with the “Difficults” out there, but also 🪞🔎🕵️ (with ourselves)?

I’d like to start by saying that when we see “difficult” as “BAD,” this builds a wall between supposedly “Mx. Difficult” and “Mx. Not Difficult.” When we stop labelling things as “BAD” then can we immediately open ourselves to understanding, to empathy, to self-awareness, and to change. This is when we gulp 😳, circle our wide angelic eyes around 🙄 and realize we too contribute to the pool of “difficult” 🫣 in our land of Westeros.

And now some pointers on just HOW to mitigate all those ways we show up as “difficult”: 

Refuse to be offended. Lay down your dragonglass. Fundamentally, how emotionally (spiritually) mature we are depends on how we treat those who mistreat or misunderstand us. No 👁️ for an 👁️. No 🦷 for a 🦷. No tit for tat. Just ✌🏻. [Does it really have to be “easier said than done”??]

Don’t wait for an apology before we forgive the other. We don’t have to be so proud. It’s just our ego. And our Brienne of Tarth need for Justice. But we’re likely to be the only ones really suffering and who wants to suffer willingly? [Does it have to be “easier said than done”??]

Don’t gossip and call and tell someone else about it. Defaming can feel good. But… [Isn’t NOT feeling guilty so much better??]

Refuse to play their game. The Difficults love our attention. We think we can reason with them. We think explaining to them why it’s not reasonable behavior will make a difference. But IT DOESN’T. There is no use in Wargame. If we can take ourselves out of the position of defense, then we win their game. Sometimes this may mean withdrawing ourselves from the room or going for a walk. Other times it may mean just giving them the damn attention they are dying for—eye contact without responding. And sometimes, when they push us to a limit, it may mean drawing a serious line or ultimatum after withdrawing ourselves and really thinking out our strategy and how we’ll peacefully verbalize that strategy to them through a Raven’s Message. 

The Difficults use conflict to get our attention. Everybody has a deep need to get approval and be loved. If they can’t get someone’s approval, they can get their attention. When they try to get our attention, they’re just trying to hook us! We can try telling them “You’re better than that” or “You’re above that behavior” which is a win-win for everyone. It demonstrates that we see the better version of them while also demonstrating how petty we see their behavior without demeaning them. It’s like “holding the door” for them and softly opening a new perspective to them. 

Let them find someone else who’ll play their game. Refuse to cave in and give in to their demands, criticisms, etc. Make your forgiveness to them INSTANT. We can avoid antagonizing their—or our—anger. Here is where I love the motto: Wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook. This is what being a peacemaker -a Non Difficult- looks like.

Always (try to) take the high ground. And refuse to let the other make you an enemy. Be gentle, be courteous. TRY.

The things I do for love”  -Jaime Lannister

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