5 Ways to Show Love to Difficult People

I love the people I work with at ESPN. I’ve been an NFL analyst with the company for a few years and feel blessed to sit on the set every day with Laura Rutledge and the rest of my TV teammates (speaking of Laura, send your wife this iMOM podcast episode). But not everybody is easy to get along with. We are all different, and it can be difficult to get along with people who may not think like you.

But I’m a big believer in showing love to difficult people, even the ones who are hardest to love. It’s estimated that we each meet 80,000 different people in our lifetimes. You won’t get along with some of them. That doesn’t give you the green light to be inconsiderate toward them. Here are 5 ways to show love to difficult people.

1. See them as more than colleagues.

I had hundreds of different teammates during my years in the NFL and didn’t get along with all of them. One guy I loved was Jon Kitna. He was like an older brother to me and made me a better man, not just a better QB. He challenged me to see teammates as more than just linemen or running backs but as guys with wives, kids, and lives outside the locker room. Disagreements aren’t primarily problems to solve but rather opportunities to learn. When I started looking at guys as people and not just players, I was able to relate better. Prying back the colleague label from the people around you helps you see what’s underneath and cracks the door to showing them love.

2. Try to make their lives easier.

Our first instinct when dealing with difficult people is usually to shy away from them. Remove the source of friction, right? What if that friction is really just a cry for help? Instead of reflexively avoiding a difficult person, lean in. Try to make life easier for them by asking them if anything is bothering them and what you can do to help. Then workshop solutions. Sharing burdens is a great way to show love to others.

3. Prioritize teamwork.

NASA estimates that 400,000 people were involved in the Apollo 11 mission that put an American on the moon. There is no doubt there were some difficult people in the mix, but working together toward a common goal has a way of bringing all sorts of people together. When we prioritize teamwork, we signal to everyone around us that we are willing to put aside differences. That, in a way, is showing love to people because it shows you’re willing to find common ground and focus on that over any friction that may exist.

4. Praise their contributions.

Super Bowls are won by people all fulfilling their roles. Not everyone gets along all the time, but make it a point to praise everyone for doing their part. Give the high-five. Write the thank you note. Publicly praise people for their effort, even if you guys aren’t best friends (yet).

5. Commit to being approachable.

Maybe the reason people seem difficult around you is because you seem closed off. Are you available to chat? Are you a loner disinterested in getting to know people? It’s tough to break down communication barriers when you seem to be constantly building more. Consider how approachable you are and if your attitude draws people in or repels them. You show love to others when you’re open to connection. If this is outside your comfort zone, commit to having one new conversation with someone this week.

Sound off: Do you typically get along with people or find others difficult to be around?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you do when someone around you is difficult to get along with?”