Sarah Boyd


The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation

Are You Tired Of Talking About That ‘One’ Person?

One name can bring anxiety in the pit of your stomach when you see their email.

One number can make you want to throw your phone out of the window when you see their call.

One client can cause you to have to take an hour of preparation just to interact with them.

(Image credit @jshnaa)

(Image credit @jshnaa)

Do you ever come home from your day to debrief about this one individual?

You feel silly because someones they’re really nice to you but other times you feel really hurt.

They’re paying you, but are have higher expectations that you feel like you never meet.

Are you just being over-sensitive or is it actually their behaviour?

Were they like this when you first started working with them or have they changed?

Do they make anyone else feel like this???

And you loose hours of your time, sleep at night and peace in your day, as you keep going around and around in your head trying to process the situation.

You feel tired of talking about them. 

We all have a range of different people in our world.

Some are positive and encouraging, easy to work with & our biggest cheerleaders.

Some are constantly negative and draining the life out of us.

And then some are inconsistently encouraging and then demeaning; positive and then undermining.

It is this last group, the inconsistent ones, that leave doubt in our minds as to where we stand with them & use the most emotional energy to work with.

Are they friend or enemy? safe or unsafe? supporter or underminer?

In one study, Psychologist Bert Uchino, found that ambivalent relationships (those that are encouraging sometimes and undermining other times) are actually the most unhealthy relationships for us (even more than consistently negative relationships).

Having more ambivalent relationships in ones life, predicted higher rates of stress, depression & dissatisfaction with life. And particular when these relationships were at work, it was linked with higher amount of sick days taken & fallout from jobs.

One main reason is confusion – we never know what to expect with these individuals.

At least with consistently horrible people we know what were getting & can prepare ourselves accordingly.

But when you don’t know whether you’re going to get a sweet supporter or a demeaning one-upper, it creates an anxiety that you have to constantly manage.

Another reason is that this approval / disapproval cycle actually hooks us strongly into the relationship dynamic, almost the same way an addiction hooks someone into gambling or alcohol.

If they were negative all the time, we would have no problem creating some space from them in our world, but the occasional message of encouragement confuses us and leads us to doubt ourselves, thinking that maybe the issue is with us, rather than with the individual.

The truth is that we all have ambivalent, inconsistent individuals come into our lives at some time, and learning how to deal with them is important to maintaining our own sense of self esteem, & protecting our mental & physical health. 

Sarah Boyd


1 Examine The Personal Cost

The first step is to honestly look at the personal cost of interacting with this person.

If you are constantly talking about this individual & needing to debrief after every interaction, it is likely they are affecting you a lot.

Be honest about its effect on you – rather than telling yourself what you “should” feel.

2 Create A Strategy

What can you change about the situation? 

Could you adapt the situation to have less interaction with them?

3 Stay Clear

The issue is with them & not with you.

Repeat after me – The issue is with them & not with you.

Once you start going down the road of believing it is maybe something you have done or could do better, you enter the unhealthy dynamic that actually hooks you deeper into the relationship.

4 Hold Your Value

Often the negativity that comes from these interactions and the inconsistent encouragement causes us to seriously doubt our value with what we’re bringing to the table.

Remember to hold your place, remind yourself again of the value you bring to your work & in your relationships.

Remind yourself of who you really are.

5 Is It Really Worth It?

Sometimes we believe if a client is paying us our fee we should put up with any type of behaviour, or if we’re employed in a job role that we should push through any negativity around us.

Is it really worth the money to have to keep dealing with this client over and over again?

Is it really worth the promotion if you have to work one on one with this colleague?

We often never take a moment to consider if all the emotional energy used is actually worth the cost. And many times it is not.

Even more than negative individuals, it is actually these inconsistent or ambivalient relationships that we should seriously consider removing from our lives.

The nature of inconsistent individuals often create so much stress and anxiety, that the cost of maintaining a relationship with them can be damaging to our mental and physical health.

We need to be strong enough in our personal value that we can recognise the behaviour for what it is & create a positive strategy moving forward. 

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The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation.