I always read that the toughest people to deal with are actually the best teachers. They teach us about ourselves. What we like, dislike, how we react, and our overall perception to life.
Our ego usually gets in the way of learning, and that is why it is hard to learn from these encounters with difficult people. The ego immediately bring insecurities, fears, and phobias we have into light, and tells us we need to be hurt because our weaknesses have been exposed. So, we get blinded to the truth of the situation, which is there is something in the situation that is telling us something about ourselves.
For example, if you are a tall person, and you realize that fact, you would not be intimidated by someone calling you “shorty.” Not because what he said was not demeaning, but because you know that what he says does not change the truth of who you are, and it does not expose a weakness; you know you are not short, and everybody else knows that. So, you might even laugh instead of getting offended.
Another example. If a crazy person called you names: idiot, stupid, crazy, etc. How much weight would you give that? how much would you be hurt? most likely not much. Because he has no credibility. he is a mad man.
So, we get intimidated by what others are saying when:
a) We are insecure about what the person is saying to us, or
b) We are insecure about the power the other person has over us or others
So, where does that leave us?
We need to start paying attention to what makes us feel insecure. Then, ask where did this insecurity come from? What is the origin? Do we feel insecure about this because it is true? or because someone or something convinced us that it is true? Most of the time it is the latter.
Once the ego gets engaged, our chances of learning about self are reduced.
So the trick lies in our ability to keep the ego disengaged. The key is to stay awake and aware. Our subconcious mind always wants to jump on problems and solve them for our conscious mind. As if it is saying “relax, let me handle that.” For example, many things we do we do sub conciously: like breathing, eating, and sometimes even driving. You need to start taking over control over some of these activities and train yourself to be fully aware of when your subconcious takes over. Once the subconcious takes over, your ego feeds it queues on what to do, and it accordingly gears the whole body to follow.
Let us use an example. Let us say that someone attacked you physically. Your subconcious mind will take over and immediately either avoid or block the attack. It gives immediate direction to your body to move the hand or the leg etc. The concious you is completely out of the picture. Your subconcious does the same thing when it perceives a verbal attack. It takes over, tells the body, this is an attack, get scared, get ready to fight, so it stresses the body and forces the mind to start thinking about how to deal with the attack. But the attack is not real. And there you are sweating and fretting over something that is not a real threat. Because your subconcious wants to protect you and deal with the situation without involving “you.”
So, to solve the problem, one needs to be more aware of his actions and reactions, and where his subconcious is trying to take him. Watch the whole scenario. play it back and try to understand and see what is going on. After a while, One will start wanting to control the situation with the concious mind and give direction to subconcious to disengage and not take over, overriding the ego commands. After a while the ego will stop giving orders when it comes to verbal attacks. It realizes that you do not want it to interfere and you want to handle this yourself, so to speak.
This takes practice. Prayer, meditation, breathing, yoga, sports, and any other activities that build discipline and confidence will help. The important thing is to keep trying. Not give up too early. Give this time. For some it might take days. For others it might take years.