Monday, July 14, 2008

How to Get Along with Difficult People by Florence Littauer

Everyone knows difficult people. People who you can't depend on, or those who barely seem to have any time for themselves, constantly running and doing for others, while acting the martyr. Or those who obsessively hoard their memories of being treated badly while trotting out the stories of those slights and insults to anyone who will listen. The gossip, who never heard a story she didn't like... or pass on, slightly embellished to make it better to listen to. The holier-than-thou, who has a Bible verse for every happening... all the better to point out what a horrible sinner you are. All difficult people. How can you deal with people like these?

These types of people and more are all covered in "How to Get Along with Difficult People". In the guise of workers and worshippers at a church, the book examines all of these types of people, and links their "difficultness" to one of the four classic personalities in medieval thought: Choleric, Sanguine, Melancholic and Phlegmatic, along with people who combine two of the personality types, and give tips for dealing with them: how to make friends with them (and how to be their friend), and what might have driven them to be this way.

The biggest problem with the book, is that it only comes from the Christian perspective. And while, yes, a lot of people are Christians nowadays, not everyone is, so giving a Christian perspective of dealing with them (which apparently involves calling on Jesus a lot and telling people to remember his life and be like him) isn't going to help someone who isn't Christian or isn't all that much of a fervent believer. While it's nice to have the whole Christian perspective, I would find it a much more useful book if Florence Littauer gave a secular, or non-religious way of dealing with the kinds of people profiled in the book. Because really, it isn't of that much use otherwise.

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