Ready for some bad news? If you’ve been trying to rid your life of difficult people, your negativity purge might have some scientific limits. Unfortunately, the folks who are probably triggering the most stress are also the ones you can’t say goodbye to for good. Why? Well, research shows you either need them, or you can’t avoid them.
A new study published in the American Sociological Review surveyed 1,100 adults about their social ties, identifying the people with whom they spent time, trusted most, could always count on, and found the most difficult. It turns out the most demanding or hard-to-deal-with people were close family members—particularly female relatives and aging parents—and coworkers.
“Many are close family whom we need and even love; others we just can’t escape. Social norms do not allow us to simply walk away from them, however much this might be tempting to do sometimes.” —Shira Offer, PhD
“The results suggest that difficult people are likely to be found in contexts where people have less freedom to pick and choose their associates. These are people with whom our lives are so complexly intertwined,” said study co-author Shira Offer, PhD, in a press release. “Many are close family whom we need and even love; others we just can’t escape. Social norms do not allow us to simply walk away from them, however much this might be tempting to do sometimes.”
So what’s a girl to do? Basically, just deal as best as you can. And on those days when you just can’t, grab your essential oils, sneak away for a quick meditation sesh, and sweat it out on a walk or a run. Difficult people might always be in your life, whether it’s a toxic boss or your rude great-aunt. Just think of this reality as another reason to imbue every single day with a hearty dose of mindfulness.