We all have at least one difficult person in our lives. The Dalai Lama says this is good, because “We don’t learn tolerance from our friends.” It doesn’t mean that the practice of tolerance is easy, though. Today I visited a Difficult Person. As they were talking and behaving in their usual way, I consciously remembered the Buddhist wish for others: May this person be happy. The person talked and I nodded, listening. Inside I was saying: May this person be happy. All I can tell you is that it softened the encounter. There was a small but important shift.
There is an anomaly about Difficult People that I have observed: they are not empathetic to others, not sensitive to others, but are hypersensitive to being slighted or judged. At a subconscious level, they instantly pick up when they are disliked or judged and proceed to behave even worse than usual because of it. So, as usual, the Buddhist idea is of sound psychological value, because the Difficult Person picks up that they are not being judged. The Buddhist Loving Kindness recitation has many versions but here is a simple one: May I be happy. May this person be happy. May all sentient beings be happy. Try any or all of it out and let me know how it goes for you.