Prison brings a whole new level of difficult personalities. People who have been incarcerated for long periods have special personalities, not all, but many. You can tell those who beat themselves up the most, who had challengingly upbringings because the are the most difficult, in prison.
While this assessment is not cast as a law, it is a rule and those who are happy when no outsiders are present are the exception. Even the growliest, if that is even a word, can pretend happiness for a few hours.
I know that outside of prison this is no different. Some people who have been in the same job are caustic and can be real tyrants when no bosses are around. These folks are extremely frustrating because as soon as the boss shows up they are little angels dont’cha know. Ugh!
So what can we do? Here is a few tips that I use here in prison to keep my sanity when dealing with difficult personalities.
1. Limit interactions to strict professionalism
–Why: This sets a standard for them to follow. It will be much harder for them to be verbally caustic, or difficult in general, if they know that you are all business
2. Simple greetings will do, be highly regimented with them, simple but genuine smile, never deviate. under no circumstances should you show any emotions other than pleasant consistency
–Why: Again, consistency. Like everyone else difficult personalities build little neurological files on everyone around them. You want to make sure that your file in their head says consistent, professional, and courteous. This makes it harder for them to justify negativity towards you or to smut you up behind your back to the bosses.
3. Keep your personal stories to yourself. Stick to necessary facts and volunteer nothing unless it is necessary
–Why: Because unless you are OK with hearing their criticism on your personal life, which will be just as harsh as their personality, keep it to yourself and save yourself the drama. Besides, that little file in their head on you will remember your drama and you best believe it will be used as ammunition.
4. Be direct, not confrontational. State what it is you need, precisely why you need it and leave no room for personal discussion. If they are the office supply manager and you need pens, but they seem to be this persons prized possession and they take their job way to seriously, as if every saved piece gives them a bonus you would simply state “So and so, I need a red correction pen.” if there is any resistance to this, politely remind them that you are very busy and if they cannot supply it, you will need to move to the next avenue.
–Why: You do not want them making your life unnecessarily difficult because they are miserable. By being direct and polite, not giving them personal discussion, they will more than likely respect the boundary you have set.
The point here is these people have had challenging lives, that’s why they are so difficult in many cases, nothing has been particularly easy or pleasant. When they were babies they giggled and laughed and wanted love and wanted to be accepted by their peers. There is no need to add to their stress. So you be consistent so they do not have to guess what is expected of your interaction.
If you have feedback on this, tips, exceptions, questions, contact me.