How Do You Respond To Challenging Behaviour?

How Do You Respond To Challenging Behaviour?We are surrounded by different personality types.  Some individuals we enjoy, while others we struggle to keep our emotions in check.  They seem to bring the worst out in us.  How do you respond to challenging behaviour?

“If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding.”            Dalai Lama

A married couple reached out to a counsellor seeking guidance.  Their union had been strained for some time and they were seeking solutions.  The husband says, “if only my wife would change our lives would be better”.  The wife says, “our lives would be happier if only my husband changed”.

It’s an unrealistic expectation to demand that others alter their behaviour in order to suit our requirements.  Most people aren’t mind readers so it is near impossible for this to occur.  We maintain our equilibrium when we accept individuals for who they are, not how we expect them to be.

We maintain our equilibrium when we accept individuals for who they are, not how we expect them to be. Click To Tweet

A Tale Of Growth Without A Happy Ending.

Years ago a middle aged man (45) was transferred to the team I was working in.  Within days of his arrival, it became apparent that he was treating me differently from the rest of the unit.  He would tease and attempt to get a reaction out of me.  The first time it happened, I was a little annoyed and uncomfortable.  I went home that night rather disturbed, repeating the situation over and over in my mind.  However the next morning I woke refreshed and let it go.

Within a two week period the same behaviour had repeated itself on several occasions.  He taunted me and I felt shocked with negative emotions surfacing.  I was beginning to dislike this man.

I was becoming annoyed and feed up by this challenging behaviour.  How on earth was I to perform at my optimum capacity in such an unpleasant work environment?  This had to stop!  The next time he repeated this behaviour, I responded.  I yelled at him.  I am not talking a stern warning, the whole office had heard what I had to say.

I was a young adult who had never experienced this type of behaviour in the work place.  It becomes blatantly obvious I did not know how to manage the situation properly.  His behaviour was out of order, but now so to was mine.

The following morning I thought everything would go back to normal.  He knew where my boundaries were, as did everyone in the office.  But now he was cold and distant.

That evening I went home disturbed again.  It appeared that this guy was to give me no reprieve.  Had he not behaved the way he did, I would not have reacted the way I did.  I felt as if he was playing the victim and taking no responsibility for his actions.

After a while I accepted that our working relationship was never going to be the same.  Once I let go of how I expected this man to behave towards me, my work environment returned to a point where I could once again excel.  We would communicate on a professional level, but that was where the line was drawn.  I gave up trying to engage with him in other circumstance.

How Could I have Dealt With Challenging Behaviour Differently?

First and foremost we have to acknowledge that people have a pre-set default to a particular kind of behaviour.  In other words we have our own unique styles of behaving and interacting in the world.

  • The first time he pestered me; I was shocked.
  • The second time he repeated the same behaviour, one could be fairly sure that this was part of his character.  Although it had only happened twice, no firm conclusions can be made here.
  • The third time I was affected by his behaviour, one could presume that this was the way he would continue to conduct himself in my presence.

We all pick up on behaviour patterns with those closest to us.  If you have to deliver some bad news to your partner, parents or friends; we generally have some idea of how they will reply.  As we have history with these people and shared many factors of life together.  When similar circumstances have arisen each individual has dealt with the matter in their own fashion.  We pick up on peoples pre-set defaults whether we are conscious of it or not.

This was a great lesson in hindsight.  I did not approach this situation as well as I would have done ten years into the future.  Our learning processors begin with success or improvement stories.  It was only when I learned to take responsibility for my own words and actions that this lesson resurfaced.

How could I have handled it differently? Firstly, I had to acknowledge that his challenging behaviour affected me.  My motivation was to stop what I thought was harassment.  I should have been looking to create a win-win situation.  A suitable outcome would have been that I no longer felt pressured and our working relationship continue in a pleasant manner.

One could be grateful that an opportunity like this presented itself in order for me to grow.  When it became apparent that this behaviour would continue,

I could have:-

  • had a plan of action ready for when the situation presented itself again.
  • requested that I see him in a private room and discussed my concerns.  I would never have known the outcome to his response.  Read my post on Saying NO, It’s only being assertive, for more information on preparing to address an uncomfortable situation.
  • written him a detailed email documenting the situation and how I felt about it.
  • sent a copy of this email to my supervisor.
  • changed my attitude towards this situation and teased him back (this is a risky approach.  As he was blind to how his actions were affecting me, his behaviour could take a turn for the worst).
  • ignored him, done nothing and not acknowledged his words.
  • spoken with my supervisor and asked for assistance in dealing with the matter.  Explaining this man’s attitude towards me was having an impact on my work performance.  This would have motivated management in finding a solution.

There are also actions that will not fix the issue, but create additional problems.

I should not have:-

  • yelled at him.
  • arranged for a group of my friends to wait for him after work with the motivation of beating him.
  • cranked called him.
  • done anything underhanded or sneaky.
  • got a cake and thrown it in his face.

Learn to embrace difficult situations.  People have patterned behaviour so we can be sure that another opportunity to grow will be offered down the track.

One of my practiced rules is, if a person disturbs my head, heart or stomach, three times with similar issues, I have no choice but to address situation.  Once I become aware of the pattern, I contemplate several options and prepare my strategy.  I only have to wait for the situation to present itself, before I take the planned action.

In these times I have become nervous, anxious or even jumpy because I am about to practice a new response.  I have no idea how the individual I am addressing will receive my information, however I can’t be responsible for their behaviour.

 “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry.  If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying.  There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”            Dalai Lama

There are many solutions to one problem.  What annoys you may have no baring on me.  What I consider an issue, may not have even registered as a concern for you.  We can be alerted to areas in our lives that require attention by the way we feel about the situation.

We have two choices when unpleasant feelings arise.  Work on accepting the situation or work towards addressing it, when the time is right.  If you agree that humans are patterned in their behaviour then you can plan your response ahead of time and put it into practice when the situation presents itself.

The Serenity Prayer captures the heart of the post.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  Our energy should only focus on what is fixable”.

Over to you.

How would you have dealt with this situation?  Have you been in a similar situation? 




Posted in Behaviour, Change, Self Development and tagged , , , , , , , , , .


  1. Very good situation to discuss.
    Thanks for sharing your opinion, what solutions you could think of.
    Now I am a middle aged woman and my solution would be to find something I could love in him before I tell him anything and keep that in my mind while communicating with him.
    It is an excellent technique that I did not know when I was young.
    Klara Hoss recently posted…Treat this like a Business not a HobbyMy Profile

    • Hey Klara,

      I see this is the first you have visited my blog, so welcome and thanks for leaving a comment.

      I agree with you Klara, years into the future I too would have found something good to focus on rather than holding onto to the negativity I felt. However being young and experienced, I was not very good holding my tongue, it has taken years of practise. I too am a middle aged woman who now enjoys humour and I don’t take myself to seriously.

      I appreciate that you understand that when we are younger we don’t come with all the skills we do as we get older. But that comes with experience. I will visit your blog in a couple of days and look forward to reading some of your work. Talks soon.


  2. Hi, Rachel,

    Your story happened to each of us. Yes, I agree the challenging characters or circumstances are here to develop ourselves to be more mature or better person.

    I like your point that we don’t expect them to change. This already solves half the human relationship issue particularly in husband and wife relationship. In addition to that, I will do my part not to be offensed by his actions so that I will not react to him. For working situation, I don’t mind to go to upper management to solve the issue if it is becoming too much(to the point of “abuse”).

    When I was a new believer, I accepted the serenity prayer 100% – we accept the things we can’t change. But as my walk with the Lord getting deeper, I can’t accept serenity prayer into my daily life. In every situation, I can ask the Lord to provide me His wisdom to solve the problem. He loves me so much He will not allow me to be in unhappy situation for ever ; He may able to relocate the challenging person to other department if you can believe it.

    Enjoy the article a lot, Rachel, have a nice week.-stella
    Stella Chiu recently posted…Parents, Please Stop Doing These in ParentingMy Profile

    • Hey Stella,

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Great to see you. What an exciting outlook you have and I really appreciate your belief system.

      Responding is very different to reacting and has a far better outcome. When you talk of personal relationships we have to be even more tolerable because it is there where the most stressors can occur. But it appears you really have a handle on how you deal with challenging behaviour.

      Even now I too would go to upper management with a compliant in the workplace if it was serious enough, however that said, I am more tolerable and have a lot of experience up my sleeve and feel confident that would not occur.

      I truly believe that god is on your side and if challenging behaviour presented itself to a point where you felt uncomfortable I agree, the big boss up there will change the situation. A circumstance may change, or something happens where he leaves or even you are promoted. You just never know do you. Talk soon.


  3. HI Rachel

    I can relate to this story.

    One thing that I have noticed is that managing people isn’t an easy skill which is why there are so many issues in marriage and relationship.

    It is strange that people demand their peers to alter their behaviour in order to suit their requirements.

    As you brilliantly highlighted, one must understand that each and every individual isn’t the same and the way we communicate differs. This is also why it is wrong for people to give others a hard time as it is taking advantage of one’s weakness.

    Also as you pointed out, there are ways to avoid confrontation and you have listed some cools tips. Thanks for the mention. Have a swell week. You Rock
    ikechi recently posted…Stop Doing This To Your DreamsMy Profile

    • Hey Ikechi,

      Welcome back and thanks for the wonderful comments.

      I wrote the story confident that nobody has ever really escaped a hard time by someone. Because we are dynamic bunch, us humans full of different personalities there is always potential for things to get out of hand. Managing some individuals is smooth sailing and then others leave you a little shell shocked as to what happened.

      When I see that others have expectations for everyone else to change in order to meet their individual needs, they become very interesting to me because it highlights lack of wisdom to deal with individuals just as they. I have always enjoyed others for their own personality types, but that does not mean some have not been hard to deal with. When we have a number of tools in our communication tool kit we get to generally manage each person with ease.

      Oh yeah, I forgot to let you know of the link, I had been meaning to write to you – I will be more onto that in the future.

      When I saw your name I thought I am going to say have a swell week but you got in before me. Big smile. Talks soon.


  4. Hi Rachel,

    The story you shared happens every day, it is one level of life that everyone of us must pass through as we quest for a new level in life.

    In school they call it exams, in life they call it trials, in destiny they call it temptation; they are all the same thing designed to take you to te next level mentally and otherwise.

    Remember, how we react to someone’s mistakes can become worst than the mistake such a person made.

    We therefore need the instrumentality of wisdom and grace.
    Emebu recently posted…By Redemption you are a godMy Profile

    • Hey Emebu,

      You look like a new face to my blog, so welcome, thanks for stopping by – big smile.

      Yeap, I agree with you, we all experience this in our lives. It was an easy one to write about, knowing others would identify with my situation not necessarily my actions. But being young, I have forgiven myself, but also learnt a great deal from this one interaction. And because it gave me such grief I seriously was not prepared to go through that with someone else. It really did make me grow.

      I thoroughly enjoyed how you put it ‘In school they call it exams, in life they call it trials, in destiny they call it temptation; they are all the same thing designed to take you to the next level mentally and otherwise.’ What a great way of putting it. Can’t wait to visit your blog and see what you have written about. I will get there in a couple of days and look forward to it I might add.

      Yes, an individual who creates a situation can be wronged by us if our actions are not held with tolerance and understanding. I attempt to leave that to others now, experience and age do make us utilise other the skills we have gathered along the way. Talk soon.


  5. Hi Rachel

    Thanks for sharing this story – it happens to all of us at one point or the other. We have to understand that we all are different and while I may respond to a situation with absolute calm, another person will go off on a tangent and cause the whole thing to escalate into something far worse.

    I think it is about self-control and learning to manage our emotions. Many persons do things to get the attention of others. Sadly that came from childhood days with them into adulthood. It is how they got their parents attention when they were a child but it is about getting them to unlearn the behavior.

    Now as to how I would have responded:
    I would say nothing at first
    I would probably try to avoid the person the next time (go the other way)
    Honestly speaking, the third time I would say a prayer for that person which is my way of surrendering something that I have no control over.

    Have a great weekend. Great post.

    • Hey Yvonne,

      Welcome back good to see you.

      I absolutely agree that we all send and receive messages and managing emotions is extremely important. Being fuelled with anger achieves nothing but can create a number of situations that blow everything out of proportion.

      Sadly people do carry their childhood dramas around. A little bit of self development would help eliminate such behaviour and make life a whole lot easier for them. But that is what we are here for, to lead by example and guide when required. How exciting.

      Thanks for answering the question and I truly enjoy your style of communication. Especially the third time when you would pray for them. It makes complete sense to surrender. What a great outlook. That strength always inspires me. I have a tug of war with surrender.

      Talk soon.


  6. Hi Rachel
    I really enjoy reading your post. First of all, I love your cute featured image. You have again chosen an interesting topic.
    The married couple story talks out a very serious issue. We find it very comfortable to play the blame game. It is very easy to pass the ball in other’s court. But, we need to accept our responsibility in the act. We can’t face the challenge by loading all the charges on other people. It is always better to accept the challenge and face it.

    Felt sorry for your incident. You have learnt a lot of things from this irritating moment. Ya, there is no need of yelling. It is a complete waste of time. There is no need to spoil our mood due to other’s odd behavior.
    Have a lovely weekend 🙂

    • Hey Yatin,

      Welcome back, I do enjoy your comments.

      It is easy to blame others, so so easy. The work only begins when we start to recognise we must be responsible for our words and actions. Then all of sudden we have different practises and styles to find in our communication style. I still tweak everything and watch my actions and I always reflect on how I could have done better. Because I am always looking to represent myself in a fashion that communicates my point. That fuels my confident. But I do appreciate harmonious relationships, much preferable to mood zapping anger.

      Thanks for your empathy, it is a story now armed with well learned lessons, it has no emotional attachment to it. But it was a great story to share to get the point across – that yelling (like you said) achieves nothing. If anything it works against us. People become fearful of us, because it is unpredictable behaviour. Talk soon.


  7. Hey Rachel, I’m glad to read that you have forgiven yourself for this incident. It would have been the easy route out to blame the co-worker for making you angry and for whatever consequences resulted in the yelling.

    It’s inspiring that you chose to use the incident as a learning opportunity and a chance to look into yourself more deeply.

    I’m glad it’s in the past!



    • Hey Jenn,

      I have been wondering where you have been and was going to give it another week and check in. Looking forward to reading your posts.

      Most of my very valuable lessons happened over fifteen to twenty years ago and they are very much a credit to who I am and how I behave today. I was a very angry young adult. For me being in my 40’s is the most comfortable I have been in my life so those lessons were stepping stones in learned behaviour. I wear my lessons as a badge of honor, even if they do not show me in the best of light because they were the learning curves I had no choice but to harness or remain in a cyclone of torment.

      That is why I share them – because I could not be happy with who I am. That does not mean the works stops. Thanks for your comments.

      Talk soon.


    • Hey Jenn,

      Thanks for the feedback. Showing the error of my ways was initially confronting for me – but once I decided that a self development blog required lived examples – I became immediately driven to ensure I remained as real to a story as possible. I grew because of my lessons and hope that others don’t have to make the same mistakes.

      Talk soon.


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