Elliston is a highly successful workshop leader and trainer, who offers wisdom learned the hard way—by experience – as well as through rigorous study and certification in many areas of professional training that aid her in her work -- Values Realization, Parent Effectiveness Training and Reality Therapy. She is a faculty member of the William Glasser Institute. Glasser is an internationally recognized psychiatrist and developer of Reality Therapy, a method of psychotherapy that teaches people they have a choice in how they choose to behave.
The methods Elliston offers in her book end the trauma and the drama, and minimize the possibility of confrontation. She gives YOU, the reader, the ability to take a strong, positive, confident—yet compassionate--stance with the “difficult person”—whether that is a relative, coworker, friend, one of your children or anyone else for that matter.
Elliston demonstrates how to:
• Identify the ways to talk to a “difficult” person
• Incorporate true incentives to help people change
• Make real the consequences of the “difficult” person’s action
• Increase success through acceptance and belonging
• Avoid being triggered by the “difficult” person allowing you to neutralize those hot buttons and communicate without judgment
Elliston lays out a proven script for peacefully transforming the difficult person’s behavior and the environment. She gives you the tools for successfully initiating and engaging in a conversation with a difficult person that would lead to change.
Sarah (Sam) Elliston is an expert in the art of Dealing with Difficult People. She is a top workshop leader and a member of the faculty of the William Glasser Institute, which espouses “Reality Therapy” to foster behavioral change.
But her instructional career began long before she even became aware that she was herself a “difficult person,” traits that began in Lincoln MA, where she grew up. For more than 30 years she has been teaching and training, first as a high school teacher in Ohio and Cincinnati—and then as an administrator in the not-for-profit sector.
Interview with Sarah H. Elliston, author of
Lessons from a Difficult Person; How to Deal with People Like us.
1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I have always been an expressive person; an extroverted thinker as one Meyers-Briggs trainer described me. It means I think out loud. While others think about what they are going to say, I say what I am thinking. When I was in school I was lucky enough to be required to write an essay every weekend for four years and my mother helped me. She found challenge in helping me figure out what I really wanted to say and how to structure the content so it would make sense. We had hard backed Thesauruses in those days, not a quick click of a mouse and word choice was very important. So, I had lots of training and help and I enjoyed it.
My grandfather wrote Geography books that taught how the physical geography of an area impacted the development of a culture which was a new concept at the time. I don’t know if I wanted to be like him but I liked having his books. At some level, he probably inspired me.
2. What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I am drafting ideas about how I became a less difficult person. Many readers have asked how I actually changed and how they can change themselves. I was startled to discover that many of my readers saw themselves in the difficult person I described in the book so I am making lists and writing down experiences that I remember. I don’t know if they are reproducible experiences and I think there are a lot of books about change already written so I don’t know how it will turn out. I know it will have exercises for the reader to complete as the first one does. I’m a teacher by trade and can’t stop inviting people to get engaged themselves.
3. Why should we make an effort to have a relationship with a difficult person when they already drive us crazy?
The simple response to this is because the difficult person isn’t happy being difficult, it is all they know how to do. Difficult people can be argumentative or clingy, they can be pushy or always quiet. They may not know how to be otherwise and if we don’t make an effort to have a relationship with them then not only are they missing out, we are missing out of having a real relationship with someone who, believe me, wants one but doesn’t know how to get it.
It is always a surprise to others when I suggest that difficult people really don’t know what they are doing that annoys others- they know that the others are annoyed but they don’t know why or if they have been told why, they don’t know what to do instead.
Difficult behavior is a habit and it needs to be discussed and changed with the help of someone who is willing to take time and make an effort.
4. Is this a Self Help book or a memoir of your life?
It’s a little bit of both. I explore my childhood and growing up as an attempt to show how one difficult person evolved. I describe how others managed to work with me, be married to me and not be able to tell me, in language I could understand, that I was difficult. There is no blame here, just a collection of my experiences.
My purpose is to invite the reader to face the issue of the difficult person in their life and discover what could be done to have a conversation with that person. Most of the book is a series of concepts and exercises in self-exploration for the reader. In order to have a successful conversation with the difficult person the reader needs to reflect on his own judgments and attitudes and decide if it really is his business. There are strategies for practicing the conversation as well as examples of some and reports of some of my coaching clients.
Finally, there is an outline of how a conversation might flow, with potential choice s of what the reader might say.
5. Who inspires you as a writer?
I suppose the writer I emulate is E. B. White who wrote Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little and coauthored Elements of Style with William Strunk.
Mr. White wrote in clear language with simple descriptions that were as crisp and lively as they were clear-cut. My training was to write as distinctly as possible while also being vibrant and pure.
“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that he make every word tell.”
"Elementary Principles of Composition", The Elements of Style
This way of writing urges writers to eliminate unnecessary words. I find myself deleting the word “so” because it waters down the emotion (“so” glad to be here – being glad to be here is joyful enough) and growling at people who describe something as “very” unique. Unique is unique, there is nothing like it or it wouldn’t be unique. It does not need a modifier; a modifier insults the word and the reader (or listener).
I worked at diligently editing and restructuring my book so it would be as close to this as possible.
Prize: One winner will receive a copy of Lessons from a Difficult Person and a $10 Amazon gift card (open to USA & Canada)