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Rhode Island’s Kenneth Petrucci Makes the Difficult Look Easy

By Paul Lonardo

Kenneth Petrucci’s book, What to Do When People Become Difficult: Even if the Difficult Person is You, which the author self-describes as an interactive, self-study, self-realization, self-improvement, self-discovery and life-changing book, is certainly a mouthful.

Boiled down, this is a self-help book, one of countless titles in the ever-expanding universe of books in this genre. While most of these are either forgotten quickly or get ignored, tangled and confused in the sameness of similar titles, some really resonate with readers, infiltrating the American consciousness and becoming part of popular culture. Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People was the first bestselling self-help book ever published, and it is still selling after 80 years. And the ubiquitous I’m OK – You’re OK: A Practical Guide to Transactional Analysis by Thomas Anthony, an American psychiatrist and author who became famous for his self-help manual, exploded onto the scene in 1969. The book became an instant bestseller and its name a cliché during the 1970s.

I’m not saying that this is one of those books, but Petrucci’s approach is in the same vein as these impactful self-help books with regard to the message he is imparting and the passion with which he delivers it.

Last month, Petrucci spoke at Greenville Public Library in Smithfield, an event that was more of an interactive workshop/seminar in which the members of the audience were encouraged to participate. With a physical appearance of Joe Pesci, infused with the enthusiasm of Richard Simmons and the flair of Tony Robbins, Petrucci engaged the intimate crowd at the library for the entire two hours of the program. Among the props and visual aids he had with him that afternoon was a small, but prominent sign that read, Change your thoughts and you can change your world. Petrucci believes that thoughts are a form of energy, that they are electrical in nature, and coming from someone who has plenty of both thoughts and energy, everyone who was in attendance that day was witness to a discharge you normally have to wait until the Fourth of July to see. One thing he never did, however, was lecture. He asked questions and listened to what the audience had to say.

“Why are listening skills so important?” was how he opened up the first topic of discussion. This set the tone for the interaction that the audience would have for the rest of the afternoon, not only with him but with each other.

Later on, he had everyone repeat a number of positive conditioning phrases such as, “Today, I choose to have a confident state of mind,” and “Today, I choose to be grateful for what I have,” and then discussed the benefits of each one.

His seminar/workshop concluded with a meditation exercise, complete with scented oil and relaxation music. Most people seemed to leave feeling better than they did when they arrived, and that clearly gave the host a great deal of satisfaction.

Petrucci is a unique and interesting individual as you will find, with a diverse background and credentials to match. Degrees include an A.A. in Liberal Arts from the Community College of Rhode Island, a B.F.A, with a major in Oral Interpretation from the Speech and Drama Department at the University of Memphis, and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Houston.

Professionally, he has a track record of being an entertaining and provocative guest on radio and TV talk shows, including here in Rhode Island, and has hosted his own self-development talk show in Houston, Texas. He has designed and taught classes at the Rhode Island Municipal Police Academy involving psychological principles to new recruits. He was a psychotherapist for over ten years in the Providence School System in Rhode Island. He has won awards as an educational salesman, and is the founder of the Kenneth Petrucci Seminars, which for two decades has been presenting at corporations, organizations, and colleges around the country. He had also been a stand-up comedian.

Petrucci’s book is as wide-ranging as he is himself. In What to Do When People Become Difficult: Even if the Difficult Person is You, the author provides useful and practical approaches to dealing with difficult people, while at the same time asking the reader to look into a mirror and not blame others, but rather accept responsibility for themselves. There are numerous self-assessment exercises and questionnaires readers can take, various lists and guides to follow, a bounty of insightful quotations, and suggested techniques in the development of necessary skills, such as listening, assertiveness and how to make an effective argument. There are also sections on the determining causes behind problems such as weight gain, anxiety, financial issues, gambling, smoking, compulsive shopping and alcohol or substance abuse. This eclectic mix makes Petrucci’s book part primer, part essay, part workbook, part memoir, but the focus is on imparting the most effective ways to handle difficult people in every situation, whether co-workers, bosses, employees, friends or families.

What to Do When People Become Difficult: Even if the Difficult Person is You has something in it for everybody. When it comes to difficult people, we have all encountered them, and at one time or another, you can believe that we have all been difficult ourselves.

Kenneth Petrucci clearly wears many hats, and at one point in his seminar he literally donned a fedora and did an impersonation of Joe Pesci; “What do you find me amusing?” He asked the crowd, roaring with laughter. “Am I a clown? Am I here to amuse you?”

Petrucci is no clown, but he is certainly amusing. And insightful. But if you missed his seminar, you will find the same principles in his book, which is available in print and electronic formats on-line and in area libraries.

For more information visit https://www.amazon.com/What-When-People-Become-Difficult/dp/069221187X/ref=la_B001KI3Z0I_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489171882&sr=1-1