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How to Deal with Difficult Situations

We face difficult situations both in our personal and professional lives all the time (although remember to not think of them as hard). It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by what you perceive to be solutions to those situations, especially if you find yourself in more than one at a time.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by the multitude of individual solutions, start to see the solutions in buckets. The way I see it, there are three responses or solutions to difficult situations: change, accept, and leave. It’s what I refer to as the C-A-L principle.

In this post, we’ll dive into each response, how they work, how they don’t, and how you know to move to the next solution choice.

Change Your Situation

The first step when you find yourself in a difficult situation is to change the situation. The most important part of this step is to be able to recognize if you even have the power to change the situation.

Start by asking is the situation one that I directly control? Does it have to do with how I work, how I interact with others, etc. If the answer is yes, you can change the situation.

Let’s move one layer out to what you can think of as your “influence” layer – you might not be able to directly control what happens here because you’re not directly involved in what’s causing your sticky situation. However, you might have a good amount of influence by being tangentially involved in what caused your situation or you have meaningful influence and rapport with individuals who do control the situation. Ask yourself if you can leverage your sphere of influence to change the situation.

If what’s going on is far beyond your spheres of control and influence, then it’s time to try to accept the situation.

Accept Your Situation

When you can’t change your situation, you should try to accept it. I don’t mean accept in a grudging manner where in actuality you haven’t accepted. That’s not accepting the situation, that’s fighting it.

Fighting situations is exhausting for you and everyone around you, so you’re better off making peace with it than continuing to say you accept it in a passive aggressive way.

How do you make peace, exactly? There are a few steps you can take. First, you’ve presumably already identified what you can and can’t change about a situation. Identifying what you can’t change is an important step in accepting your situation because it will help you whittle down the time you spend wishing or willing it to be different.

Second, develop and practice coping skills to help process your feelings around this unchangeable situation. This might take the form of simply jotting down how you feel when you’re faced with this unchangeable situation and reflecting on those feelings. The more you recognize and process what you’re feeling about your situation, the better you’ll become at dealing with those feelings in the moment and moving towards acceptance.

Third, figure out what you can gain by accepting the situation. It can be as simple as you’re now in better touch with your triggers and can process your emotions better. Or maybe you’ve realized the situation has caused you to want to move into a position where you can make change.

Leave Your Situation

If you just can’t accept the situation you’re in, then it’s time to resort to the L in our C-A-L principle. In my opinion, leaving a situation should be a last resort after you’ve tried to change and accept the situation.

Depending on your scenario, this might involve a drastic change like leaving your job or deciding not to interact with someone. While this may seem like a scary change, you should feel confident by this point that you’ve tried everything you can to change and to accept the situation. Staying put while not being able to change or accept your scenario will only lead to further heartburn for you and those around you about where you are.

So, remember, when you find yourself in difficult scenarios, think about the C-A-L principle to determine what your next action should be.

Do you have other advice to share about dealing with difficult situations? Leave the advice in the comment section below.

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