Struggling to get along with someone at home or at work?  Learn how to separate the people from the problem.


They’re separate.

If you were to close your eyes right now, and imagine a problem you’re having with someone at work or at home, chances are you’d see the face of the person you’re in conflict with. But the person you’re struggling with isn’t really the problem. And I know that may sound weird, or at least counter-intuitive. But if you’ll stay with me for three more minutes, you’ll be glad you did. Because the person isn’t the problem. The problem is the problem — with someone’s face on it. So think about the problem again that you’re having with someone. And then, think: what is the real problem? 

For example.

For example: let’s say that you have an employee who isn’t pulling her weight. And you don’t know how to get across to her that you don’t agree with her work ethic. But you really need for her to get the work done. That’s a problem, right? But it would be the same problem if it wasn’t her. Because the fact is, whether it’s her or not, you need the person in her position to get the work done. And that’s the real problem. . 

So separate the people from the problem.

And this is the challenge. Because from the example above, you’ve been thinking that the person is the problem. Let’s call her Angie. So you’ve been thinking that Angie is the problem. When really, you just need to get the work done. So take Angie’s face off the problem and get to the real issue. Because chances are that you’ve got a role to play here. Because if you’re Angie’s supervisor, you need to level with her and let her know that she’s underperforming, and that there will be consequences if she can’t get the work done. And it’s the same principle if the problem is at home.

Your turn.

So take a minute, right now, and apply this principle to someone that you’re struggling with. You’ll want to untangle that person from the problem. And ask: what is the real problem? And it might be you that you’re struggling with. Or it might be someone else. But in any case, deal with the problem, instead of making it personal. And yes — it takes some discipline to do this. But you can do it. And when you do, your life will get so much better.


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