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The Power of Nicknames

Here’s a great tip for dealing with difficult people in our lives. Give them a nickname.

It really works! Often times we don’t have a choice about keeping these people in our lives. In those cases, we have to make the choice of how we deal with them, while keeping ourselves as unaffected, content, and sane as possible. I have found that giving these undesirable people funny, silly, or appropriate nicknames makes a huge difference in how I feel about our interactions. It doesn’t change them one bit, but it certainly helps me and my outlook on my life.

Here’s an example: For four years straight I had to deal with an extremely mean, cruel, insensitive, and disrespectful woman who was the head parent for my daughter’s marching band. As an active parent volunteer I had to interact with this woman on a regular basis. (Of course I could have solved the problem by no longer volunteering, but I did not consider that an option since I was doing it to share the experience with my daughter and to quit would have only made our lives ultimately worse by us missing out on them.) So I thought of one of the meanest characters I could think of and from now on, in our house, she is known as:

Nellie Oleson. From the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Nellie was mean, vindictive, and rude, and this woman embodied all of those traits. Interestingly, as soon as I bestowed that nickname on her, things changed. Not for her, but for ME.

I’d see her name in my inbox and when I clicked on it I could say to myself, “What does Nellie want now?” and kind of chuckle to myself. At an event I was sitting with another mom volunteer and at one point she leaned over to me and whispered, “Uh oh, Nellie at one o’clock,” and I was able to giggle to myself for a moment, instead of instantly getting upset and stressed at the thought of her entering the room. Honestly, it made all the difference in the world when it came to dealing with this person because even though I couldn’t change the situation and I certainly couldn’t change her, I COULD CHANGE THE WAY I THOUGHT ABOUT IT.

One more quick example - I worked with a woman years ago who was miserable and unkind and gave off an aura of unpleasantness wherever she went. People would turn the other way when they saw her coming down the hall and eyes were rolled whenever she arrived for a meeting. Unfortunately I had to deal with her fairly frequently so she got the moniker “The Troll.” I’m not sure why, it just seemed to fit. And then when she was grumbling down the hallway or doing her best to blame other people for her mistakes I could say to myself, “There goes The Troll!” Or, “The Troll is at it again!” Again, she wasn’t changing, but I was making the choice to make the best of a difficult situation.

So I would encourage you, for those people in our lives who just can’t seem to help trying to put us down and sabotaging our happiness at every turn, give them a nickname. It could make all the difference between choosing happiness and contentment, or choosing unhappiness and despair. The choice is yours.

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