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How to deal with difficult people

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion." - Colossians 3:12
Last night I shared a necessary venting session with my beautiful wife.  Like anything of importance in my life, I need to express myself through writing.  Thus, I am sharing with you a very disturbing event that recently took place recently in my life.  

Some of you may know that I am a graduate student in a MBA program in Memphis, Tennessee.  I attend Union University, a private, Christian-based University.  Thus, the students and professors are expected to behave in Christian-like behavior.  Currently, I am taking an Operations Management course that meets for eight-weeks, one night per week. The scheduled class time is 6:00 P.M. through 10:00 P.M every Tuesday.  This class has been going for four weeks now.  The major complaint that I and some of my classmates have is the excessive story-telling that the professor uses during every meeting.  

On this particular night, the professor had a short chapter to discuss and teach.  The class already read the chapter before class as assigned.  Thus, the only duty of the professor is to add to the chapter and clarify any confusion.  Nonetheless, the material could have been thoroughly covered in about two hours time.  How do I know this?  Well, first, I read the chapter.  Second, I possess a master's degree in teaching.  Third, I taught for two years, which required extensive lesson-planning and quality instruction.  Thus, I understand how to instruct a classroom; I can not say the same for this particular instructor.  He literally wasted two hours of the instructional time with superfluous stories about his professional experiences as a consultant.  

I regress.  I recognize that every graduate student is different.  We have different expectations and toleration for frustrating circumstances and boring material.  For me personally, I felt insulted that this instructor choses to waste valuable class time and our time as adults by telling us stories I personally consider superfluous.  I recognize that not everyone feels the same way.  Moving forward, the cohort MBA class is suppose to have one break for 15-minutes and we would be dismissed 15-minutes early.  This time arraignment came directly from the professor's mouth.  Besides wasting a large portion of our lives with his "old-war" stories in manufacturing and business operations, he waits until the last minute to give us the most important information of class.  Why?  Where is the logic supporting this practice?  As a teacher of working adults taking a long night-class, why would you delay the most valuable information until they are sleeping, hungry, and barely focused?  It makes no sense.

Subsequently, as I anxiously wait for him to discuss the mid-term exam (coming next week) and team presentation (week seven) information, he continues to babble with long, boring, often off-topic stories.  As times elapses, I glance at my watch, it is now 9:45 P.M.  At this time, I am hungry, anxious to see my family, and frustrated at the lack of on-topic information presented.  As he finally discusses the exam, he does not tell us what will be on the exam specifically, but like a high school teacher, he informs us of the actual exam structure such as multiple-choice questions, essay questions, etc (which is already listed in our syllabus and has been previously discuss on the first meeting of class).  As quiet as a mouse, I grab my things and silently move towards the door.  Suddenly I hear, "Where do you think you're going?"  I stop, turn around, and respond "It's 9:45, I have to go."  His response is "We still have to talk about team stuff."  I shake my head, "It's 9:45, I have to go."  

Disgusted and slightly embarrassed that he interrupted my quiet exit, I walk down the hall when suddenly I hear my name being loudly yelled with anger (what the heck is this old guy angry for?).  Next thing I know, this guy is literally running down the hall towards me.  My fight-or-flight instincts kick in.  To abbreviate the rest of the story, he asks me if I talked to the dean.  I state I did.  He informs me that class ends at 10:00 P.M.  I repeat that I have to go.  He asks me if I have to go to work.  I respond "sure."  

As I drove away from campus, I felt seriously angry, embarrassed, and insulted.  Was I being too sensitive?  Did I do something wrong?  Then reality set in, I am a grown man, an adult with a wife and child, and years of professional and academic experience.  I am a child of God attending what is supposed-to-be a Christian University.  Why did he yell my name like that?  Is this a White versus Black thing (I strongly dislike racists)?  Does this University expect me to act like a child in elementary school obeying my instructor's every command?  If so, I am done.  I can get a MBA from anywhere.  Regardless of those questions, let this be a lesson in humility.  

When you encounter difficult people, control your anger.  You should refrain yourself from cursing, fighting, yelling, etc.  By stooping down to the other party's emotional level, you are denying yourself an opportunity to grow.  I could have knocked that disrespectful professor down (Floyd Mayweather-style).  I could have verbally assaulted him loudly to affirm my genetic prowess as a man.  Instead, I stopped, answered his questions respectfully, and kept it moving.  Time is too valuable to be wasted.  As a professional and human being who wants to reach holistic success and happiness, you do not have the time to sweat the small things (God will handle your enemies and problems).  However you feel at the moment of confrontation, do the exact opposite and keep it moving.  Remember, this life is a test and God is looking for opportunities to trust us more and bless us.  Be the bigger man or woman.  

"Do not let your anger linger." - Ephesians 4:26
If you were not aware, I thoroughly discussing improving your personal and professional life in my recently published book, My Flexibility Manifesto: Following Your Passion 2 Success, available on this blog, my website, or Amazon.com in Kindle or paperback.  Thank you and email me if you have any suggestions on future article topics.

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Comment by LEONARD WILSON, JR. on August 22, 2012 at 3:03pm


I hope so too. He was so mean. I am sure that he and I will need to talk to get our professional relationship in a better place. Right now, I am still confused on why he was so angry. Anyhow, thank you for reading and commenting.

Comment by Ann Musico on August 22, 2012 at 12:52pm

You had every right to feel as you did and you handled a situation that could've escalated and become very nasty beautifully.  While my daughter is 21 and a senior in college she has run into similar situations with certain professors and she also attends a Christian college.  People are people - none of us is perfect and as hard as we may try to behave as Christian people, sometimes we just don't which may be what happened with this professor.  I hope you get the information you need for your group presentation and final and do not have to take any more classes with that particular professor!

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