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I know a guy whose little sister was quite the troublemaker. But her trouble made trouble for him.

After she’d get into a scrap on the playground, his Dad would step in from the sidelines. He’d give him a playful smack on the head, asking, “Why didn’t you take care of that?!”

He would fire back, “Me? Why are you mad at me?”

“Because you’re the biggest kid in the sandbox!” his Dad would insist.

That may be a nice idea for a 5 year-old, but is it reasonable when you’re 35?

Yes.

Because the real lesson is how to course correct using emotional intelligence. That kind of insight is invaluable at any age, but especially when you’re dealing with difficult people, the subject of the May series, Coping With Crazymakers.

Vik devoted his retirement time to being President of the Neighborhood Watch. Their “meetings” were pretty loose, usually turning into an excuse for coffee and cookies at the local library after 10 minutes of discussion.

Then their new neighbor Chris joined.

Every encounter would stretch for hours – Chris would complain, Vik would try to explain. Why didn’t a neighbor cut their hedge shorter? When was the City going to upgrade their street? What about the people behind him who played music at their frequent barbecues? Wasn’t there a local ordinance against noise pollution?

When Chris couldn’t get the answers he wanted from Vik, he’d turn to other members. He alternated between getting them as worked up as he was and aggressively playing one off against the other. Within months, every meeting ended with someone upset.

The light bulb went on for Vik one day when his grandkids were over. He said, “As they fought outside, they sounded like Chris! I finally understood that tantrums were his favorite way to communicate. Of course! Everyone has to pay attention to a screamer.”

“Chris had an outburst at the next meeting, but that was no surprise. He had a long list of grievances, but this time I stayed calm and just let him talk. Two screaming people in the room is one too many!” Vik laughed.

“His antics broadcast the message, “If I’m not raging, people won’t hear me. They’ll think I’m a pushover.”” Vik shook his head. “That’s a pretty heartbreaking sentiment.”

“I’ve given up trying to have the perfect answer, but there’s no way he can get his way every time. What I can do is try and make Chris more comfortable with what’s worked for the group to date. Hopefully he’ll see the wisdom of working neighbor-to-neighbor instead of defaulting to the nuclear option.”

Crazymakers will probably provoke you this week with outrageous behavior, but striking back only takes you backwards.

Do you want to instantly be the biggest kid in the sandbox? Listen deeply and show compassion. That’s when real answers appear.

Make it your mission to bring kindness and insight to every room you enter. Not just for the sake of a crazymaker.

For you.