Why You Should Surround Yourself With Difficult People

The longer I blog, the more I interact with other bloggers. The more I interact with other bloggers, the more I do cross-promotion with them and work with them. And the more that the cross-promotion and working with other bloggers happens, the more I recognize that I don’t always agree with other bloggers.

Pretty much this. Image credit: xkcd.com

I’ve come across advice blog after advice blog in recent weeks, only to find I have mixed opinions on the blogging advice being shelled out in such posts. On one hand, it’s great that I don’t agree with some of the advice being offered to other bloggers. By not agreeing with someone, it forces me to analytically think about why I don’t like their opinion at a level beyond calling the person a stupidhead who is incapable of writing an article with any original thought (even if it is true). On the other hand, it’s disappointing to see bad advice and misinformation make their way onto the internet, because there are people who will blindly follow the first thing they see that even remotely conforms to their preexisting opinions.

I love thinking analytically. I love being challenged with a difficult problem. I love learning. To do any of those thing though, I have to keep people who don’t agree with me around me. There’s a common saying that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. There’s a lot of basis in that theory — after all, it relies on the Law of Averages to succeed — however I choose to look at that saying a bit differently.

For the majority of my childhood, I spent a significant amount of time around both my mom and my dad (albeit in separate locations thanks to their divorce when I was very young). There was quite a bit I learned from them, however the items that stick with me the most today are what I learned not to do thanks to them. My mom hasn’t had a job since she was 19 (she’s in her 50s now) because she feels it’s a man’s responsibility to provide for a woman in all situations. Her insistence on this being a part of her life taught me that this kind of unfair thinking was not only sexist in many situations, but also set standards of what a very unfair relationship would look like. My dad, on the other hand, had a bad habit of spending money frivolously on things he didn’t truly need. While many times my brother and I would have a nutritious* dinner of ramen noodles and kool-aid, he continued to compile guns for his collection, while spending more money on cigarettes than food.

Apparently someone thought this was an adult lunch too. Huh. No shit. Image credit: justustakeson.blogspot.com

If anything, being exposed to behaviors like these reinforced the fact that I didn’t want to be like either of my parents. The same goes for keeping difficult people around you. Part of their involvement in your life is to make your opinions and arguments stronger by challenging your preconceived notions as to how something should work. When the difficult people around you fulfill this need, it’s a wonderful thing. Sometimes, those difficult people will do nothing more than teach you how not to act (or how not to write in the case of bloggers).

The demoralizing thing is that in some situations, there will be more people who agree with the difficult person than with you — even if you’re the one in the right. There will also be difficult people who refuse to recognize your input, no matter how valuable it is, just because they don’t agree with you. While these people are (obviously) a bit more of a nuisance to deal with on a daily basis, this doesn’t mean you completely remove this person from your life. If anything, keep this person around to serve as motivation to do better. Even if their shitty, crowd-sourced blog post is drawing hundreds of hits and tens of comments per day while the post you spend four hours working on is barely noticed, you’ll be the one setting yourself up for more long-term success.

What’s the most difficult type of person for you to deal with? How do you use difficult people for motivation in your own life? Sound off in the comments.

Front page image credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy on Flickr

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8 thoughts on “Why You Should Surround Yourself With Difficult People

  1. It’s really disheartening to see so much bad advice on the internet. Before I started blogging I did a hell of an amount of research to figure out what I should do, what I shouldn’t be doing etc. There are countless blogs out there telling you how to blog. I kept running into one blog telling me to do one thing and another blog telling me to do something completely opposite. Anyway, i’m rambling. The most difficult type of person that I have had to deal with would be the type of person who refuses to admit that they’re wrong, even when they are. (*cough* My ex-boss *cough*).

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  2. Hmm, oftentimes the difficult individuals are those we deem incompatible. As simple as this sounds, this is the very reason why people can’t simply get along. Their views and beliefs shape their behavior, and there are times when clashing views prevent the parties from reaching any conclusion. :/

    Having said that, I have difficulty singling out difficult individuals — just neurotic ones or adamant ones or excessively passionate ones…See what I mean? Fortunately, much of their difficult attributes enable certain redeeming qualities that would not have existed otherwise. This one passionate person I mentioned, while he doesn’t know when to stop talking and how to go along with the joke without ruining it, is very knowledgable about certain topics that pique his interests. Sure, he has biases. But he’s always open to hear dissenting opinions. Let’s just say that you’ll always walk away from a conversation having learned something new.

    When it really comes down to it, the only thing I can do is limit my dose/exposure to these “difficult” individuals. If we are completely devoid of drama, we’ll end up creating them internally anyways. Might as well offset that urge with external stimuli while learning new things. 😛

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    1. Your last paragraph about using external stimuli to create drama rather than creating it yourself is a key point as to why I wrote this piece way back when. I’m the type of person who hates when other people create frustrations in my life. Yet, without those other people to create frustrations, I find myself making my own. That’s a much less fun thing to deal with.

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  3. I don’t know if I would say surround yourself with difficult people, but certainly surround yourself with people you disagree with. I’ve found, especially through blogging, the people I’ve come to respect and follow the most are ones who share views much different than my own – at least in certain major areas of their lives. Because it does create a challenge – not just to make sure that I am super well informed and educated on what I believe/am talking about, but it also gives me perspectives that I might not otherwise hear.

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    1. I think that’s a good way to look at it. I think that many people see those who naturally disagree with them as difficult people, however I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I have a lot of respect for those people who are willing to debate me in a respectful manner more so that those who blatantly disagree just for sake of disagreeing.

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