Is Someone Driving You Crazy? Learn to Change Your Perceptions, Actions

Posted on in Growth Strategies

By Dorothy de Souza Guedes, VGM Education

Mary Jane Mapes
All people are not created equal; some people are harder to handle. That everyone has at least one person who challenges them is the likely reason so many were drawn to a Mary Jane Mapes’ presentation on June 14 at Heartland Conference 2016. She taught the basics of how to change perceptions and actions to improve interactions with the people who most drive us crazy.


Mapes, an author and leadership coach, refers to difficult people as “PIGs:” pompous inane gasbag, petty influential guy, particularly irritating gal, pain in general. You get the idea.

Asking attendees to focus on one PIG in their life, and discussing her own, Mapes outlined her six-step process for improving relationships. She based her presentation on her book, You Can Teach a PIG to Sing, available in paperback or audio CD set.

“…[W]hat most people fail to realize is that change in any relationship begins with the person who desires it most,” Mapes wrote. The goal is to turn conflict into cooperation.

#1 Identify Your PIG

Think of someone who rubs you the wrong way every day, all day. Perhaps you find a coworker particularly difficult, or your teen is making your home life stressful. Create a name for them. Maybe pampered inarticulate galoot.

People behave badly because, in some way, that’s working for them, Mapes said. To better understand them, think about a person’s history, their issues, what motivates them.

If there’s a person you haven’t been able to connect with, guess what? You’re probably their PIG.

#2 Create Your Vision

Change what you see and your behavior will follow. You can do this by focusing on three Vs:

  • Visual – what will you see when you interact? What will your relationship look like?
  • Vocal – what’s your tone when you speak? How do you want to sound?
  • Verbal – what words do you use?

Think about how these changes will cause your PIG to interact with you.

#3 Stamp Your PIG Exceptional

How we think about a person is reflected in the way we treat them. Just as no one will ever walk anyone else’s exact path, which makes each of us irreplaceable, Mapes said. This uniqueness makes each person exceptional – even your PIGs.

#4 Dine on Corn

What are you dining on? That is, what are you feeding your thoughts? Think about the books and publications you read and whether they help you to bring out your best. Ditto for music you listen to, shows you watch and conversations you have with others. As Mapes puts it: you’re the only person you can’t ignore. And, we internalize everything we read, hear, see. Whatever you internalize will surface when you’re under pressure.

#5 Push Pause

The PIG acronym takes on another meaning: Push Pause, Identify outcome, Get into Action. Human beings are the only creatures who can genuinely choose our behavior, Mapes said. We have the ability to push pause, identify the outcome we want, then act in a way to achieve that result.

Write down your goal and review it several times; you’ll be more likely to act on it. We have a tendency to communicate our thoughts to other people, and they react accordingly. If we change our thinking, our actions will follow.

#6 Don a Cape of Acceptance

Mapes has a superpower: a Cape of Acceptance. She explained that everyone could have this same power to use in transforming relationships by being present and free from judgment. The key? Listening for understanding. Transformation happens, Mapes said.

Mapes assured anyone can self-manage and choose their outcomes in difficult relationships. If they want a different relationship with a PIG, they must start acting like they already have it.

“It’s never about the other guy. I can’t change you; I just change me,” Mapes said.

Want to learn more?

Mary Jane Mapes is available as a speaker and executive leadership coach. Her latest book is The Unstoppables: Women Leaders’ Journey to the Top.