Ding-dong bell, Donkey in the Well

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One can’t get rid of difficult people from life.  You keep finding them along the way.  Throughout my consulting career, I have come across many people who ask me how they could deal with a difficult boss, colleague, spouse or family, or even client.  I keep thinking about ways in which you could navigate those difficult phases when you are confronted with difficult people.

As I ponder, I am reminded of the old Buddhist story of the Donkey in the Well.

The donkey in the well.  Dealing with difficult people

It so happened that a Donkey that was happily grazing the fields of his master – a farmer, accidentally fell into an empty Well, that was lying abandoned for a long time.  Fortunately for the Donkey, it didn’t get injured and had only minor bruises.  As he stood at the bottom of the Well, he gathered himself and started braying as loud as he could to get the attention of his master.

After about an hour of relentless braying, the master heard his cries and came looking trying to find from where all these cries were coming.  “There you are, it is you who has been creating such a racket. You deserve this” said the farmer to the donkey.

He was not just a cruel man but was long contemplating how to get rid of the old donkey as he felt he was no longer useful to him.  He found this to be a great opportunity.  In fact, he was also thinking of getting the dry well covered as that was of no use to him as well.

“Why not fill the well with mud, so that I can get rid of both the problems in one go?” thought the farmer.  He started to pour mud and dirt into the well with the idea of burying the donkey alive. 

We mustn’t underestimate the intelligence of the donkey though.  Initially, he was shocked at the way he was being treated by the person whom he served tirelessly for so many years.  He began yelling err.. braying louder and louder pleading with his master to spare him his life.  The farmer however didn’t pay any attention to the donkey and continued pouring mud into the well.

The donkey realizing that all his pleas were to no avail, paused and decided that it is best to deal with the situation by himself.  He gathered himself and the next time the farmer poured some dirt into the well, he calmly stepped aside and stomped his feet on the dirt.  He moved one inch above.  Each time the farmer poured mud into the well, he did the same, moving aside, shaking the dirt off from his body, stomping on it, and gaining about an inch in height.  Eventually, he rose enough to reach the top and jump out of the well.  And yes, before running away, he bit the farmer on his bum, just to remind him about how karma will catch up with him one day and bite him back.

This story spoke to me in many ways and more importantly how we can effectively deal with all the difficult people in our life.  The fact that you will always have someone who is ready to throw some dirt on you and make life difficult for you, it is the way you respond to the situation that matters.

Like the donkey in the story, it is best to shake off the dirt, stomp it under your feet and keep rising above.

And don’t forget that bad karma will eventually catch up with difficult people. 

Difficult people are not just difficult on others, but they are the ones who find it equally difficult to deal with themselves. 

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