We can all think of a few people that we would describe as being "impossible." These are individuals who push the wrong buttons, irritate us to no end and annoy us whenever we talk to them. These are the people that we find arrogant, critical, and negative or possess some other character deficit. How do we handle impossible people?
The interesting thing is that we don't all find the same people hard to take. The guy that annoys me, doesn't bother my wife and the neighbor that she dreads talking to, I can communicate with easily. Why do these difficult people clash with some but not with others?
The Baal Shem Tov explained this with the "mirror theory."
Why do these difficult people clash with some but not with others?
He taught that when we look at others we are looking at a mirror. When we observe and analyze the behavior of other people we actually discover ourselves in them. The profile we create for others is shaped by our own personality.
None of us are perfect. We all have our deficiencies and areas of personality that are underdeveloped and need work. But we are often unaware of these deficits. Self love often causes us to be in denial, preventing us from resolving and correcting these weaknesses.
When we observe character defects in other people and criticize them, it is really the undeveloped parts of our personality that are showing up. We are only so irritated by these blemishes because the very same issues are unresolved within ourselves. My spouse might not have the same area of weakness, and therefore does not notice it in others.
When we see faults in others it can be used as an opportunity for self reflection. If we think someone is arrogant we can examine our own egos. If we describe someone as being unkind we can examine on our level of kindness, compassion and empathy. If our friend's judgmental nature bothers us we should think about how we view other people.
We should always endeavor to look at people in a positive light. But when it becomes difficult, it is an opportunity to look inwards.