Why difficult people don’t exist

Sometimes you would doubt it, but everybody has developed at least a few positive qualities since they were born. It colors their behaviour and the way they interact with other people. Just ask yourself what it is that people have always appreciated in you. Always, because your core qualities have always been with you, all your life. But since we live in a world of duality, there must also be a shadow side. There is no light without darkness. Therefore, every quality can get distorted, because every quality can be taken too far. Decisiveness can become pushiness, flexibility can become volatility and caring can become smothering. Every quality can become too much. That’s when we become annoyed by someone else’s behaviour. We may think other people are difficult and we may feel that they should make an effort to change their behaviour.


But is there really a reason not to get along with someone, based on their characteristics? Do difficult people really exist? According to Daniel Ofman who invented a model to analyse core quadrants, the answer is no. A core quadrant does not only provide information about your own behaviour, it’s also helpful in understanding other people’s actions. Core quadrants consist of four concepts: core qualities, pitfalls, challenges and allergies. Searching and strengthening your core qualities is called empowerment and that’s exactly what core quadrants try to do.


A core quality is your personal strength, something you’re good at and other people often praise you for. For example, I was taught to be modest and humble. When I was a kid, I was told that it wasn’t nice to flaunt what you had because there are many people who are less fortunate. I learned that having money was a circumstance and not a value judgement. That we should be grateful, work hard and share with the ones close to us.


Unfortunately, you could take your core quality too far and turn it into a pitfall. But a pitfall is just a natural result of your core quality. This can help you to deal with criticism, because criticism is often feedback about your pitfall. A few years ago, I couldn’t remove my sofa from the flat I used to live in, because it was too big to pull it through the front door. So instead of asking for help, I announced that the person who could pull the sofa over the roof with a rope, could have it. What I didn’t consider was that afterwards, I had to go back to the store… to buy a new sofa.


Having identified your pitfall, you can start looking for the challenge. Your challenge is the positive opposite of your pitfall. The positive opposite of being too generous, could be to take more care of yourself, while carefully balancing the needs of others.


A challenge can also be taken too far and this brings us to the most revealing insight of the core quadrant, the allergy. When I take the challenge of taking care of myself too far, I may end up being selfish and arrogant. I have an allergy for people who take the whole pie, who don’t share or don’t consider other people’s needs. But I know I can learn the most from these people, because they have a lot of something that I need, in a more balanced way. That’s my challenge.

When you have completed your quadrant, look once more at your core quality. This quality should be the positive opposite of your allergy. If this is true, you have succesfully completed your quadrant.

Because many people have a hard time coming up with their own positive qualities, it’s sometimes easier to go through the quadrant starting with an allergy you have for someone else’s behaviour, and then think of something that’s the positive opposite (your core quality), something that you would do if you take this core quality too far (your pitfall) and finally think of something that’s the positive opposite of your pitfall (your challenge). So it’s best to go clockwise through the quadrant, but you can start wherever you want.


The core quadrants can give you an insight in your personal pitfalls and challenges you can work on, but it’s also helpful in getting a better understanding of other people’s behaviour. The image below makes it easier to understand that someone’s pitfall can be perceived as an allergy by someone else.

Therefore, next time we feel like judging someone else’s behaviour, we could just as well take a piece of paper and try to deepen our awareness and understanding of other people’s actions. That’s of course also beneficial to you, because it can help you to be not stressed out by someone else’s behaviour or certain circumstances, and to feel healthier and more whole!

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