Irrational behavior is one of the most difficult behaviors to deal with. When someone is being irrational, they don’t listen to reason, logic, or even common sense.
They are laser-focused on fulfilling a need.
And until that need is fulfilled, or they snap out of it, the irrational person can be unpredictable and sometimes even dangerous.
In this article, I’ll share with you ways to communicate and even “reel in” irrational people to bring them back to a calmer, more rational state of mind.
Important: If you’ve discovered that your own irrational behavior causes you to be emotionally abusive and you’d like to change that about yourself, sign up for the life-changing Healed Being program over at healedbeing.com).
If you are currently in a relationship with someone who becomes irrational and is hurtful to you, listen to my podcast Love and Abuse to help you navigate through the difficulties.
Everyone knows or has met at least one irrational person in their lives. Whether it’s a relative, a co-worker, or even a friend. Even people who are completely rational most of the time can suddenly “lose it” because something triggers inside them.
But unless they have some sort of psychosis, there are ways to bring an irrational person back to rational thought. For all intents and purposes, we’ll call rational thought “reality”.
When we confront an irrational person, the biggest challenge we run into is that the meaning they give to a situation is different from ours. Their meaning may not even be accurate, which offers them a much different perspective than ours.
For example, a restaurant patron could be yelling at the waiter about how cold his soup is, and most people would consider this type of behavior in this context to be a bit irrational (I know I would, as I would think about hungry people who’d love a cold bowl of soup).
But the patron could be thinking that the staff is incompetent or that maybe they have something against him, or who knows what? The bottom line is that his belief – the meaning he attached to the situation – transformed into his behavior.
If I saw someone yelling at the top of their lungs in a restaurant, I would certainly think it was irrational behavior. Perhaps the patron felt like he was being disrespected and cheated. After all, if he paid eight dollars for a bowl of soup, I’m sure he expected it to be hot. However, what we see from our perspective is someone yelling inappropriately and seemingly out of context.
In other words, if he were at a rodeo, his yelling would seem appropriate for the situation. But since he’s at a restaurant, where it is not that common to witness patrons yelling angrily about their food, his behavior would definitely be perceived as irrational.
There are a number of reasons someone would “go off” like that. However, in this example, what he’s really yelling about may not be obvious.
In this article, I want to give you some useful strategies that you can use to deal with irrational people.
- People acting irrationally will not usually listen to reason
- They won’t listen to rational explanations
- They want to fulfill a need right away so they behave irrationally until that need is fulfilled
The problem comes when they can’t fulfill that need, so they continue to act irrationally. And for some people, irrational behavior can sometimes go on for years. But after reading this article, hopefully, you’ll have some tools under your belt to be able to deal with irrationality and all that it entails.
It won’t be easy. Irrational behavior is called “irrational” for a good reason. You may need to get used to doing things a little outside your comfort zone, and maybe even show up in a way that is completely foreign to you. But if you want to get through to an irrational person, the techniques I’ll share will be very helpful.
I need to get off this plane right now
Before I started coaching and writing, I had a career in computers and technology. In 2010, I was fortunate to be chosen for an IT project that allowed me to travel all over the US to install computers for a major financial institution.
The work was easy and everything was paid for, including my food and lodging. I did have to give up a lot of family time for about a year, but the work was fun and it allowed me to make and save a lot of money to get out of some financial struggles.
During the project, I would fly a lot. On one particular flight, I sat on an aisle seat across from a very talkative woman. She started telling me all the problems she’d ever had in her life. I don’t mind when this happens normally (people tend to share a lot with me), but today, I would have preferred a quieter flight.
We talked most of the trip about different things, and she casually mentioned how she’s usually a little claustrophobic when she flies. Because of this, I made sure not to talk about things that would remind her of being closed in or surrounded. I emphasized words such as open, free, and breathing easily during our conversation. My primary goal was to help her get through the flight without making her claustrophobia worse.
Fortunately, the flight was smooth with no issues. As we started coming in for a landing, there was still no fear or anxiety on her face. Things were looking great.
We touched down, slowed, then taxied up to the terminal. People started talking, pulling out their cell phones, and shifting in their chairs, waiting to be given permission to get out of their seats. You know how it goes, everyone wants to be the first one in the aisle to wait even longer while standing.
As the plane came to a stop and everyone got out of their seats, the woman I was talking to suddenly appeared agitated and worried. She started to breathe faster and was clearly showing physical symptoms of fear. I asked her if everything was okay, and she said she was suddenly feeling claustrophobic and had to get off the plane now.
I said, “Alright, the good news is we’re safely on the ground, and we can just relax until this line starts moving. Everything is going to be just fine. In a few minutes, they are going to let people get off the plane and you’ll be great.” (The bolded words are the ones I emphasized to help her feel more calm).
She looked at me nervously. I could tell she was trying to comprehend what I was saying but couldn’t help but continue to give in to the fear she felt. She said, “I really have to get off this plane now.”
I asked her, “What do you think is going to happen?” She said, “I gotta go, I’m gonna die if I stay on. I really gotta go now.”
At this point, I could tell there was no turning back for her. She was becoming irrational. Her fight or flight response kicked in and nothing I said mattered. She needed to get a low-level, primal need fulfilled right away. And she made it clear that she needed to get off the plane immediately.
She became laser-focused on her survival and if she didn’t get what she needed right then and there, she thought she was going to die. I remember her telling me she would scream if she couldn’t get off the plane.
Knowing that a screaming woman on a plane might create panic, I decided to take action. I told her to look directly into my eyes. I said in a calm, assertive voice:
If you do exactly what I tell you to do, you will be able to get off this plane.
She nodded, waiting for her orders I said:
Alright, here’s what I want you to do. If you really want to get off this plane, I want you to calmly tap people on the shoulder and tell them you have a medical emergency.
Do this calmly, and give people the time to let you through so that you can move your way to the front of the plane. Once you get there, you’ll be first in line to get out. Will you do this for me?
I had already developed a rapport with her for the last couple of hours, so that went a long way in assisting me in “commanding” her to do something that would help her.
I gave her a mission that would fulfill her need.
Since her primary goal was to get off the plane, I gave her the exact instructions on how to do so without causing a scene. Or worse, getting arrested for an overreaction.
Because she was looking for any way to escape, my guidance to help fulfill her need to survive gave her the foreknowledge that she was going to be alright. She had a specific, logical process to follow that would allow her to focus on something else besides her claustrophobia.
And like a soldier who follows an order without question, she went on her mission, tapping on shoulders and moving up the aisle. One by one, each person let her pass. She broke free from the fear that paralyzed her and did exactly what I told her to do.
Why does irrational behavior happen?
We’ve all had to deal with someone who was irrational at one point in our lives. We all have the capability of being that way once in a while. And when we’ve been irrational, there was usually someone who told us to calm down or look at things a different way.
But a funny thing happens when you become irrational: You get focused. Your responses and reactions become more primal than logical. You start getting tunnel vision and doing things that you believe will fulfill a need.
And that’s what irrationality really comes down to:
Fulfilling a need.
Or something you think you need. After all, someone who is heavily intoxicated usually thinks they know what they want, but they are almost always just a little confused in some way. But someone who is more or less in a “normal” state and is acting irrationally is going off a belief system. They believe they know that what they want is rational, and sane. They usually believe there is only one way to get what they want and will do whatever it takes to get it.
Hence, the term irrational comes in. After all, if you’ll do anything to get what you want, then you’ll do things that others might find offensive, stupid, or just plain crazy.
What can you do if you come up against someone displaying irrational behavior? What’s the best course of action, especially if yelling “Stop, stop!” has no effect? Well, I will say this: If they’ve gone over the top, there may be no stopping them. Meaning, there is a point of no return.
Just think about someone who’s getting chased by the police. He drives faster and faster. It’s irrational to think he can possibly get away, as police officers can call ahead to their buddies and eventually capture the suspect. The irrationality goes into full gear, no pun intended, when the suspect drives faster and thinks he or she can keep control of the car while going way beyond the speed limit.
No matter what the police do to convince this person, they will not pull over. They are not listening to logic. They have crossed the line, and will not stop until they get away.
This is what I mean by over-the-top and beyond the point of no return. At that point, there is no communication.
You want to do your best to catch someone before they go over the top when there’s still a chance to communicate with them in hopes of bringing them back to a more rational place.
The first thing we need to do is define what “irrational” is. My definition is this: An overreaction.
When you are overreacting, that means you are making up stories about the situation you are in. You are fabricating your own meaning of something that is likely not at all what you think it is. Overreacting usually stems from letting emotion cloud your logic.
It’s okay to be emotional about something, but when it actually clouds your logic, and you respond solely from a place of emotion, you are closing off rational thought. I realize this skirts along the lines of gut instinct, but even gut instinct has a path of logic when you respond. Irrational behavior usually does not. The path that is followed is typically not logical, it is solely emotional, leading to any number of possible outcomes.
Logic usually guides us to a more beneficial outcome, with knowledge of consequences. But even logic has an emotional foundation because we won’t do something that isn’t driven by an emotion of some sort.
I know some of the analytical people are probably yelling at me right now, but it’s true: Logic is driven by emotion.
And the way you can test that is to think of something that needs logic in order to process it. Whether it’s a math problem, fixing your car, or even tying your shoe – all things that seem to be only logic based. But the “why” is the driver for the logic. Why you do something is the motivation for the logic, otherwise, you’d have no reason for the logic.
Without emotion, you would not need logic. Why solve a math problem if there’s no meaning in solving it? Even if just to prove to yourself that you can solve the problem, that is based on an emotion.
When someone becomes irrational, they are overreacting to an event or situation, causing them to respond from a place of raw emotion, what some people may label as the “Lizard Brain”.
Our lizard brain is the lowest level of behavior or the closest we get to responding to life’s events like an animal. Very survival driven. An overreaction can be seen as an attempt to survive.
We’ve all seen someone overreact. Just watch any road rage video online. Someone merges in front of someone else, and the person they “cut off” gets out of the car and wants to fight. It’s a reaction of pure survival: “You could have killed me, so now I’m going to teach you a lesson because I am in fight or flight mode.”
That’s not exactly how it goes, as there is usually a lot more swearing, but you get the picture.
Now that we talked about what irrationality is, let’s talk about how we can deal with people when they are being irrational, or when they are overreacting. There actually are proven techniques to doing this, though you may feel uncomfortable doing one or two of them.
Overall, there are really only two reasons you may need to learn to deal with irrational people, to begin with. Here they are:
1. You have to.
You might be in a situation where you must be involved in order for things to work out as you need them to work out. So you better learn to deal with it.
2. You want to.
You want to keep a friendship, you want to protect someone, you want to protect yourself, or maybe you just know that the person being irrational is not normally like this, and you are there to bring him or her back to reality.
And you remember what I said about reality, right? It’s when we can experience life without adding our own meaning to it.
And this leads us to the first step in dealing with irrational people:
Do you have to deal with this person? Or, do you want to?
That’s it. Plain and simple.
If someone starts overreacting in front of you, just ask yourself, “Do I have to deal with this right now? Should I just walk away and come back when things are better? Or, just walk away and never come back? Or do I really need to stay and make sure all goes well here? Or, am I sort of stuck here and must deal with it?“
The reason I start off with that question is to remind you that most of the time, you do have a choice. And if you don’t see a way out, then you must deal with it. But here’s the trick, if you believe you don’t have a choice, then you must accept it, and choose to deal with the situation and the person rationally.
What usually happens, though, is that someone overreacts, then we react to their overreaction. This is usually called arguing or fighting. And the toughest part about that is what leads to our second step in dealing with irrational people:
Don’t take anything they say personally
When they are being irrational, then basically anything they do or say is not personal. In fact, what’s coming out are usually repressed emotions of some sort. But, even if what they say hurts you, this is the worst time to respond to what they are saying. I realize it’s a challenge not to get triggered because the person could be saying some very mean things. But the time to talk about anything they say is when you can bring them back to a calmer place when the topic can be discussed more reasonably.
Of course, don’t confuse a raised voice or a highly emotional state with irrationality. Sometimes people just get heated or excited, and really need to discuss something. I’m talking about when people say and do things that seem excessive for what’s really going on.
For example, when I was a teenager, I had a friend who sold me some tires for my car. I remember he said he’d take ten dollars for each tire. The next day, he asked me when I was going to pay the forty dollars for the two tires. I said, “You said they were ten dollars”.
He replied, “No, I said they were twenty dollars each” I laughed because I thought he was joking. Then he ran up to me, with anger in his eyes, and his body tightened up, and said something to the effect of, “If you try to rip me off, I’m gonna punch you in the face.”
I stopped in my tracks, and the first thing I said was, “Whoa, we don’t need to do this. I remember you said ten, but if you really believe you said twenty, then I’ll give you twenty each. We’re friends, I don’t want this to come between us.”
He calmed down pretty quickly, then apologized for he got so angry. It doesn’t even matter who was right in that situation, because the point I wanted to make was that he was just under the line of irrationality, but his body and temper were on high alert. He was still listening and responding to reason. If he wanted to, he could have simply punched me right then and there.
And even though he was angry, he was still rational. If he had just swung at me, that would have been a different outcome for sure. But, he was just really heated and was still open to communication. And, it wasn’t personal. He was protecting a part of himself, but his anger wasn’t about me. Sure, I was there to trigger it, but his wanting to hit me was protecting himself, not a true assessment of who I was at that time.
Don’t take it personally. Keep your level head as long as you can to keep the peace as long as you can. All emotion is personal to the person anyway, not to you. Someone else’s emotions cannot define who we are. If someone gets angry at you, it is the anger they feel inside due to the story they convinced themselves of. If you take it personally, then you get sucked into that story and emotion.
I realize that’s easier said than done, but just hearing this now may help you the next time you are about to respond to someone else’s behavior. Someone else’s behavior is not about you, it’s about them. And when you see that exactly as that, you will respond differently. It may not work to say, “Well, this is about you, not me, so good luck with it.” But just being cognizant of this fact will help you to stay in a more objective place when they overreact to something.
Trying to figure out if someone is overreacting is hard when you get triggered and react yourself. But if you can learn to exhibit some self-control when someone gets into this more excited state, you can usually calm the situation and help them fulfill whatever need they have in them.
With my friend and the tires, since I preferred to keep the friendship, and especially not get into a fight, I chose to submit. It wasn’t a threat to my masculinity, it was a reasonable course of action to get to the best possible outcome.
And it helps to keep a level head in order to get the best possible outcome. Otherwise, you do more hoping that the situation will get better instead of doing to make the situation better.
Now let’s get into some more effective, practical steps that will help us deal with irrational people.
Step three is:
Don’t disagree with them
Yes, even if they are completely wrong. If they overreact and are now acting irrationally, don’t disagree with what they believe to be true. I’m not saying out and out agree with them, I’m saying don’t disagree.
Remember, we want to respond a certain way only after they’ve become irrational so that we can keep a line of communication open with the person. When they’re in an irrational state, reason is thrown out the window, and logic takes a back seat.
In an irrational state, a person has a need to fulfill, and they are beyond logic. If we don’t disagree with the person’s point of view, this will help us figure out where they are right now, and will also help bring them back to a more rational state.
There’s a technique called pacing and leading that I want to teach you. It involves understanding the person’s point of view first, then slowly guiding them to another point of view.
Pacing is when the other person knows you understand their world, and what they’re currently experiencing. If someone is angry at someone else, acknowledge that they are angry at them. “So you’re pretty angry with them, aren’t you? What happened next?”
Pacing is showing them that you are with them every step of the way. You aren’t judging what they’re saying, you’re just along for the ride. You’re letting them know you’re absolutely listening to what they’re saying, and you understand everything they’re saying. You might even ask them to tell you more.
“And after he said that, what did you say?”
The whole point of pacing is to be curious and act interested in everything they have to say. It shows that you care and want to learn everything you can about their situation.
Have you ever talked to a customer service agent who just didn’t understand why you were so angry? Or didn’t seem to care that you were angry? You know the type. They always answer with, “I’m sorry, that’s our policy. There’s nothing I can do.”
And you respond, “I’m telling you that your company caused the problem, so it’s not about policy, it’s about you correcting the issue!”
And they say something like, “I apologize, but there’s nothing we can do.”
If you’re in customer service, the first rule of thumb should be to first seek to understand the customer. That’s it. Just listen, and explore all the reasons they are upset. So many problems would be rectified a lot easier if you just sought to understand what is upsetting the person.
Stephen Covey talks about this more extensively in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Everyone who communicates (which is everyone) wants to be understood first and foremost. Otherwise, why communicate?
When you meet someone who makes it a priority to understand you, how you feel, and what your beliefs are, you connect with that person. You bond in a way.
Pacing someone means understanding them. Ask them questions. Really be, or at least act, interested in everything going on. It goes a long way, and it’s a great way to develop a rapport with them. Rapport is a shared trust in one another’s company.
When someone is being irrational, or even just really excited or agitated about something, it’s hard for others to communicate with that person because most people around them aren’t in the same space. When you come along and just want to know more of what’s happening inside of them, it does a few things:
- They feel like someone cares
- They no longer feel they have to tackle this problem by themselves
- They get to release some emotions. They get to vent
Pacing allows the other person to ease back a little because they get to release some steam on someone else. I won’t lie, you gotta be ready for it. You might take what they have to say too personally and won’t be able to handle it. But if you are resilient, and really want to help this person come back to reality, then listen to them and seek to understand them.
When you can tell that they’ve eased up a little, or that they now seem to trust you a bit and you have a good rapport, it may be time to start the second part of this technique called Leading.
When they feel understood, and know they aren’t alone in their struggles, and you can sense that you are now getting along well and have a good rapport, now when you say things, they may start to agree with you. You will notice that they are now unconsciously pacing you.
Leading is when you behave the way you want them to behave.
Just like the story I told of that lady who wanted to get off the plane. I listened and related to her. Then when she knew I understood her, I then helped her get back into a calmer state. But if I never first paced her experience, or chose to seek to understand her first, and just said, “You need to calm down right now”, she may have completely lost it.
Who knows actually, maybe if I had yelled at her, she would have been more scared of me than anything and would have acted differently from that point on. But I’m glad to choose the path I did for obvious reasons.
Another example is a time I worked with someone I didn’t like at all. He had a superiority complex and believed he knew what was best for everyone. Well, our supervisor yelled at him, really putting him down. He told me about it, and I did exactly what I’ve been talking about: I paced him. I listened to him and related to him. I really chose to understand his version of events. And after he shared everything with me, I started asking him questions like, “What do you think you did to make him so mad?”
At this point, we already had a rapport, so that question wasn’t offensive. To him, it felt like a genuine question that made him think about his own actions. He thought that maybe he could have acted a little differently. And realized that his own behavior might have been over the top.
In this case, even though I didn’t like the guy, I chose to relate to and understand him. By doing this, he opened up to me. By the end of the conversation, he wasn’t as agitated anymore. Though, I really wanted to say, “Why don’t you just quit?” haha, actually, I may have ended up saying something like that later on down the road.
There are other ways of pacing and leading, but when it comes to bringing people out of a hectic or frantic state, it’s a good tool to keep in your toolbox.
This leads us to the fourth step in dealing with irrational people:
Act more irrationally than them
Now we’re really diving into how flexible you can be. I recorded an episode of my podcast a while back where I talk about how the more flexible you are, the more you can control the system or situation. Well, when dealing with an irrational person, the more flexible you can be in your behavior, the more likely someone will snap out of theirs.
It’s like they become rational when you become irrational. It’s almost reverse psychology. The example I shared earlier with that coworker I didn’t like, I did this very thing. He was upset at our boss, and was saying things like, “He’s a nobody, he doesn’t have a right to talk to me that way.”
I came back and said, “I would totally go in there and punch him square in the face. Who cares about your job? Who cares about a stupid lawsuit? It’s worth the risk and it saves your dignity and respect.”
Well, now he had to calm me down! He became more rational, noticing how irrational I was getting. It’s a really neat trick, but you do have to be careful how you use it. Because if they are already in an excited state, it’s possible they would actually do the things you’re suggesting. In hindsight, I should have said, “I’m going to go in there and punch him in the face! He has no right to talk to anyone like that. I just paid off my house, but I don’t care. It’d be worth getting sued and going to jail just to see his face when I do it.”
Of course, I’m not serious about all this. It’s just an act! But to an irrational person that you’re trying to reel in, it could be what calms him down.
Act more irrationally, and they may just snap out of it and figure out a way to calm you down. Again, just be careful with it. In fact, you want to be careful with all of these steps because someone in this kind of state where they are acting irrationally has the ability to do irrational things.
They could be so upset or distraught that you may be in danger. And this leads to the final step in dealing with irrational people, which is:
If things are beyond help, get you and anyone else involved out of danger
Irrational behavior is brought on when something snaps inside someone. I know a woman whose husband got mad at her one night. She said she never saw him look at her that way before. Ever.
She saw him disconnect from her completely and became entirely engrossed in his own anger. He was livid, and also illogical. He let go of rationality and reason and grabbed a gun. Fortunately, he didn’t shoot her, but just the fact that he grabbed it was enough to send a message that this person has the ability to be a completely different person if he feels angry enough. You’ve probably seen this in people yourself: Someone gets pushed too far to the point they snap. They behave unconsciously and act out of pure animal instinct.
This happened to me when I was eleven or twelve. My friend and I were play wrestling, trying to push down and keep each other on the floor. When we were done, I sat at the table but he wasn’t ready to quit. He decided he wanted to keep wrestling so he said, “Come on, let’s wrestle!”
I said, “No, I’m done.” He said it again, “Come on! Let’s wrestle!” I said, “No, I don’t want to.”
“Let’s go, let’s wrestle!” and he started pushing me and lightly slapping me on the face. I said more emphatically, “No, I don’t want to!”
He persisted, “Come on, let’s go. Let’s wrestle!”
I was starting to get angry. And no matter how many times I said “no”, he was trying to force me into a “yes”. My blood was beginning to boil.
When I was that age, I had never gotten into a fight, nor had I actually ever gotten this angry. This was the first time I felt this type of intense feeling before. When he pushed me one more time, I suddenly turned into someone I had never known.
I snapped! It was almost a blackout because I don’t remember consciously making a decision to snap. But I did just that. Without thinking about the consequences of my actions, I stood up, swung my fist toward him, and belted him in the jaw. He fell to the floor, holding his mouth.
In that instant, I felt all my anger disappear. Then I calmly sat down and said, “I told you I don’t want to wrestle anymore.”
It seemed like an eternity before he got back up. But when he finally did I don’t remember if he looked at me or said anything, but I do remember him going home.
We all have this ability to snap. We all have the capability of becoming irrational. When you are pushed to your limits, you eventually snap and push back. I believe this behavior is hardwired in us. In fact, over the thousands of years of our adapting and evolving psychology, we’ve learned to repress our emotions and be more tolerant when people are pushing us beyond our comfort level.
This is actually a good thing. We can’t react hastily in every situation because we could hurt people when we don’t mean to. You have the ability to snap even if you are the kindest, most sincere person in the world. You can become “irrational” just like everyone else.
Surprisingly, the more subservient and submissive you’ve been in your lifetime, the likelier the possibility that if and when you do snap, it’ll be like a nuclear explosion. Submissive people can have a lot of repressed anger. This buildup of negative emotions over the years can become a ticking time bomb.
This is why it shouldn’t always be the hotheads you should worry about. The quiet ones can be a force to reckon with as well. You hear things like that on the news all the time: “Oh, he was always so quiet and nice. He couldn’t have killed all those people.”
I’m not trying to generalize quiet people because I enjoy my solitude. But be aware that some quiet people may not just be enjoying the present moment. Some might get wrapped up in everyday drama but aren’t saying anything about it.
A quiet moment for a generally calm person might mean they are swallowing anger or sadness in that moment. This will build inside of them, causing behaviors like those I talk about above. If the negative emotions are dealt with through introspection, therapy, or in many other ways, irrational behavior is less likely to happen.
There are, of course, quiet people who are quiet because they don’t have much to say. Then there are those that are swallowing their anger and feeling resentful and believe they can’t speak up for one reason or another. These are the ones that have a lot of power stirring up in them. But that might be a topic for another article.
Irrational behavior is nearly impossible to deal with when it comes down to it. Do you ever watch those cop videos where the officer is trying to talk rationally to a heavily intoxicated person? The officer is doing his or her best to communicate, but the conversation usually goes nowhere. Too much alcohol will create irrational behavior.
I know this first hand as one morning as a child, I woke up to find smashed eggs all over our kitchen. They were on the floor, ceiling, walls, everywhere. It was like a chicken exploded. In reality, it was just my stepfather being irrational because of too much alcohol.
When alcohol or drugs are involved, it’s almost pointless to deal with the irrational person. Either get out of the way or do what you can to keep them from harming anyone. It’s important to consider if you want to have people that can act this way in your life or not. After all, anytime a person is irrational, they can become dangerous.
There are different levels of rational and irrational behavior, and you have to judge in the moment if the behavior you see is actually irrational. But you’re likely observant enough to know when things don’t seem right. Just remember, irrational people are just trying to fulfill a need. Even in their irrational state, their behavior is still trying to serve a purpose.
Be curious, find out what that purpose is. Can it be fulfilled? Can something else placate them for now?
Irrationality really comes down to fulfilling a need.
If you’ve tried to calm the person down and it’s not working, remember that irrationality is a state one is in when they are overreacting to something. If a person is overreacting, then you know they’ve already gone beyond logic and cannot be reasoned with. It’s just not going to happen. Well, not easily, that is. Because you’ll find that “reason” simply doesn’t exist in an irrational person.
Irrational people let emotion cloud their logic allowing the lizard brain to kick in. Emotions are a great tool for decision-making but can cause havoc when they override rational thought processes.
Since we can’t always rationalize with an irrational person, use this summary as a reference to help you whenever you need it:
1. Ask yourself, “Am I dealing with this because I want to or because I have to?”
Remember, just because someone is “going off”, it doesn’t mean you have to be involved. Walk away or stay, but almost always, you have a choice.
2. Don’t take anything they say personally
We tend to remember the mean thing that some irrational person said or did to us more than a nice thing that some completely sane person said or did to us. Remember to consider the source. You are doing the best you can, and you are worthy. Anyone who thinks less is simply irrational. Period.
3. Don’t disagree with irrational people
If they are already irrational, then it’s time to get a little irrational yourself. Don’t disagree with what the irrational person is saying, at least verbally. This is where pacing and leading come in:
Pace their experience by seeking to understand where they are and what they believe right now. Once you do, they will tend to trust you. Then when you develop a good rapport with them:
Lead them back to reality.
It’s hard to get an irrational person to just listen to your commands but if you build trust with them, it will be less work for you to get them to follow you where you want them to go.
It’s good to remember that seeking to understand someone tells them that you care – that they are not alone. And it also helps them to vent a little. The goal is to help them feel a little less frazzled and a tad more in touch with reality.
And finally, when all else fails…
4. Act more irrationally than them.
This is where your true acting skills come into play. If they are so irrational they won’t listen to you or anyone else, be even more irrational than them. It may be exactly what’s needed to snap them out of their unconscious state of mind. If you don’t think you can do that or decide that it might be too dangerous, then just make sure to get you and anyone else involved out of danger.
When people snap it may seem hopeless. Sometimes you can reel them back in, sometimes you can’t. But maybe some of these tools will help you the next time you need to deal with that kind of situation. Or at least help you to communicate with them on another level in order to get through to them.
The Final Destination of the Woman on the Plane
As she tapped on shoulders, making her way through the aisle toward the exit, calmly telling people that she had a medical emergency, I eventually lost sight of her. We were near the back and it was a long plane. But I could see people allowing her to pass.
To most people, this may not be perceived as a real medical emergency, but it could have turned into something much worse. After all, a woman screaming uncontrollably on a plane could go terribly wrong. She might have gotten tackled by another passenger. Or perhaps airport security would have handcuffed her and dragged her off the plane. It could have been much more unpleasant if it hadn’t unfolded the way it did.
When I got off the plane and into the first hallway, I saw her standing there. She gave me a hug and said she felt so stupid but wanted to thank me for helping her. I told her how great she did and that we all have moments that pop up that we think we can’t handle. But I told her, “You did it. You handled it!”
I never saw her again after that but I’d like to think that in the future, if she’s ever in that kind of situation again, she will believe that she can get through it just like she did before.
We all know someone who can get a little irrational every now and then. The trick is to reel their irrationality back in so that it doesn’t escalate. And if you ever find yourself as an irrational person, it might be challenging to consciously remember these steps and perform them on yourself so share this article with a friend and perhaps they will save you from any future, embarrassing situations.
Thanks for sharing this Carrie! That can be very tough, because you never know how bad it will get, and you consistently feel unsafe. Hopefully he will be able to resolve some negative emotions from the past (where most anger stems) so that you can have a brighter future.
Listen to the episode “Angry Every Day! Couples Coaching Session with Michael and Daria”. It covers a similar scenario to what you explain.
I appreciate you!
Fantastic and greatly needed for me and family. Thank You.
Thank you so much for your comment. I wish you the best in your situation! I think we can all name at least one person in our family we could consider “irrational”. 😉
Wow Amy, I’m so glad this helped you. I appreciate you commenting and sharing this. That’s powerful! It’s so hard when you don’t know what to do but you want to do something!
Thanks again. I wish you the best!
Loved your article, gave me some great tips! However, how can I tailor these to fit an irrational husband who belives I’m his ‘trigger’ for everything? I must stay, for now, but the constant daily irrationality is tearing our family apart. Acts this way towards our kids, too. What advice do you have for married couples?
My husband is the same with me and ours kids too. I would love to get advise as well!
Well Monique, hopefully I’ve given you something to think about in the answer I gave above. But if not, let me know! Thank you for your comment.
Thanks for sharing Traci! I think it’s best to be away from people who make life miserable, otherwise, you find no “me” time, and joy doesn’t exist anymore. And without those, life is just a struggle.
I’m not saying that you should leave either. And sometimes, you don’t see a way out even if you could. So I get it, for sure. Family is one of those things that is a lot harder to rip apart just to find some peace in your life. Sometimes it’s necessary, if the situation is bad enough.
Though, from what you’re saying, the family is being ripped apart regardless of what you do, so it almost sounds like a good idea to plan the separation the way you want it, instead of waiting for the chips to fall as people are continued to harmed in some way (at least mentally).
If you choose not to seek a path away from the irrational person in your life, then the only other choice is acceptance. It’s full acceptance of whatever that person does, and knowing they will never changed. Ever.
It’s possible they will, but likely they won’t. And when you know that someone won’t or can’t change, what can you do? You either honor your boundaries and leave, or accept that things won’t change and allow the irrational behavior into your life.
By accepting, it means you no longer complain… you no longer hope things change… and you no longer try to change things. You just accept that this is the way it is. Once you do that, it becomes easier. I’m not saying you’ll enjoy it. In fact, you might hate it, but accepting what you cannot change makes life a little easier.
Now, of course, in any marriage, the most important component is to love your spouse by supporting them and wanting them to be happy, sometimes at a cost.
Does your husband want you to be happy? And does he do what it takes to make that happen for you? If he doesn’t, then I can’t even recognize that there is a marriage here. And the same question goes to you… do you support him and help him become as happy as he can be?
I don’t know your situation. For all I know, he could be doing some really bad behavior, so you may have tried everything and he’s still breaking all the rules. That’s when it comes down to, once again, pack up and leave, or accept and stay.
Without strong love and support for each other, there is no marriage. It’s just a legal contract. One who loves you will want you to be happy. That means they have to know what makes you happy. If they know, and they still don’t do anything towards that goal, or don’t even care, then the hard truth is that your marriage needs a lot of help.
If he won’t seek therapy with you, and he doesn’t want to see you happy, then some hard choices are ahead. But if you really believe he loves you and he’s just going a little insane everyday, maybe he’ll be open to making your relationship better. After all, if he hasn’t always been this way, then something has changed – and he’s probably a little miserable too.
I wish you the best. Good luck!!
I want to thank you for your super article. Our family really needs this advice and I will try hard to learn to support my irrational family members instead of just start by telling them to be nice so we can talk, which makes them madder. Avoiding talking, until they are calm, makes one madder, and honestly, I need to use this technique on myself. Some family problems are so annoying, that I get irrationally focused on fixing the problem and don’t cook dinner at all, and other neglect of my responsibilities.
But marriage is not just a legal contract, but promises of lifelong unconditional commitment that are not cancelled by the bad behavior of one. That’s what the promises are for, to keep the commitment going even though the relationship becomes super unhappy for whatever reason, be it emotional, financial, medical (physical or mental). Marriage is adopting another adult as permanent family, for better or worse, til death do us part. That’s it. I understand separation for severe abuse, but reconciliation is the only goal, not permanent rejection of the spouse, which is hardly loving of the other as promised. Separation can be loving at times, or even getting them arrested and visiting them in jail for 20 years, but there IS a marriage, regardless of the level of happiness or care between them. It’s a rotten unfun marriage, but still a marriage. Emotions don’t define a marriage, promises do, and you can’t undo the promises. Saying that if the mutual care is not there, that there is no marriage, THAT is irrational. The promises are there to eliminate irrational fear of breakup, which works if the people weren’t liars. How can someone feel cared about if the breakup factor is possible? You teach people that the number one thing to do is help them feel cared about, which calms them down. We almost got divorced 8 years ago, and my marriage was saved by reminding my husband I would NEVER give up on him, by the power of God to love him unconditionally, for life. Now he says he’ll never give up on me. Now we’re having fun, except our years of fighting created a rebellious irrational 18 year old that would be in danger to move out now. That is why God led me to your article. It in fact does line up with Jesus’ teachings I think, except in the permanent abandonment of an unfun spouse of course. There is a great cost in making a marriage commitment, few know in advance. They assume the fun of dating will continue, but parenting….. ah, parenting. Marriage means sacrificial love, not always fun, but always best. We can give up on acquaintances we don’t have to deal with regularly, or friends we never promised to be friends with permanently, but not close family. BEING committed and loving, especially to the unlovable, improves us greatly, and our rewards come regardless of the choices of our difficult spouse. Wedding promises do NOT include any IFs, regarding the behavior of the other. If a wedding vow exchange includes any IFs on promise day, THEN it’s not a marriage, but a joining of money of people that are not committed to love the other, but love only themselves by using the other for awhile, as long as the gettin’s good. That’s not love, but a business deal…. basically glorified prostitution. Compare “love” in the dictionary to love in the Bible…. see 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Love never fails. Love never gives up. Love can be tough, but not end. It’s not about emotions, God’s way, but about giving without limit. That’s a true friend. Anything less than unconditional love is merely like/lust, and cannot alleviate the fears of not being cared about. If the spouse says, “I only care about you as long as you give me enough of what I want.” How is that caring about someone? How is that love at all, even during their first years of happy marriage? “Hmmm…. you are giving me what I want, for now, but if you reduce this level of pleasing me, I will turn on you.” Imagine if divorce attitude people spoke their beliefs on a daily basis. “Good morning, remember to please me enough today, or I’m abandoning you tomorrow.” People aren’t stupid. They can sense this attitude without words, and maybe that weird vibe is causing some of their anger and irrationality that prompts articles like yours. It’s their job to love unconditionally if they promised that level of love (rare is the person willing to admit less publicly – that’s embarrassing, or should be), but some people just easily give in to the temptations that other people put in front of them like a stumbling block. It is not loving to make nice behavior harder for others, and a lack of permanent unshakable loyalty, IS putting a stumbling block in front of a spouse, or child, etc. People need to feel their family relationships are safe, that they are wanted. If they feel no more important to us than an employee who is supposed to work to please us or get fired, they get easily discouraged, and aren’t that motivated to please, especially if they feel we aren’t doing what we promised, except if they are motivated to please, by something more than getting a return on their investment. Nothing wrong with that in the business world, or with acquaintance friendships, but marriage is more than a business deal of positive emotional exchange. You’re family, adopted, worthy of love because you exist. Be careful who you adopt.
You are welcome! And thank you for sharing this. There’s a lot under the surface of what you’re saying, and I’m happy that you were able to express yourself here. 🙂 Lots of great points!
How would one handle the irrational “conspiracy theorist” who automatically tries to take the “victim” stance during an argument; everyone is apparently ganging up on this person, they haven’t been allowed to ‘explain everything’ despite being asked simple questions, and when given time to explain simply go through EVERYTHING. Basically dodging out of responsibility by trying to take the higher ground, and wasting time to frustrate people and throw them off, while they continue to stir things up around the house such that they can’t simply be ignored….it’s tearing a family already once separated by divorce and I hate the fact that I feel like I can’t do anything to stop it
Great question! And sorry about the hardship.
I would need to know more for sure, but I think with a person like this, I’d just ask “So what do you think should be done about the situation?”
It’s not telling them you agree or disagree, you’re just gathering data.
Then, whatever answer they give you, ask, “How can I help you get that outcome?” or something like that?
People like that typically want attention so that they feel loved or needed or significant in some way. When you offer to help them solve the problem (and sound genuine about it), it may squash the energy they are creating.
OR, they’ll reply, “There’s nothing ANYONE can do. It’s always going to be a problem no matter what we do!”
And if that’s the case, I’d reply, “How can I help you avoid the problem in the future?”
If they reply, “You can’t! No matter what I do, it’s still there.”
You say, “Okay. Well, if you can think of anything I can do, let me know because I really want to help. I can see you’re very distraught.”
This is all speculation of course. I don’t know the specifics of your situation and none of this might work depending on what’s happening. The bottom line is that however you’re responding now is actually exacerbating the situation.
People always behave the same way as long as they are getting the same response. Once you change your response, the behavior changes. If he wants attention and suddenly he’s not getting it anymore, he’ll have to do something different to get it.
Also, there’s a matter of personal boundaries. If he really is tearing up the family, then someone may have to step in and stop him. I don’t know if that’s a good solution or not, because I don’t know if he has a history of violence, but no matter what, family (people) needs to come first. If there’s a threat, the threat needs to be stopped.
Again, I don’t have all the details, but I hope this helps! Good luck.
Your ‘friend’ conned you out of $20. Why you would want to retain a friendship with someone like that is beyond me.
I’m also not comfortable with pretending to agree with people because it’s dishonest. A lot of these tips rely on you outright lying to people, which I personally think is immoral, even if you are doing it in the name of ‘helping’ them.
I appreciate the article but most of these tips wouldn’t help me with the kind of irrational people I have to deal with on a daily basis. The kind of people I deal with are people who simply cannot accept the fact that they are wrong about something. They seem to think their own feelings about their opinions are more important than actual FACTS. And when someone like myself – who actually cares about the truth – shows them how flawed their opinions are, they act like I’ve thrown urine in their face, accuse me of being ‘arrogant’ and ‘forcing’ my beliefs on them, and accuse me of being ‘obsessed with being right’. When all I’m actually doing is questioning their opinions, using logic and reason.
What I also find astounding is how many times these people accuse me of ‘never admitting when you’re wrong’, when in reality I admit I’m wrong all the fricking time. I’m always finding out new information that contradicts something I already believe, and when that happens I change my belief accordingly – because I actually care about what’s TRUE. It’s just that these people rarely ever manage to convince me they’re right because their beliefs and opinions are based on emotion and illogic.
Anyway, rant over.
Great Rant Jai!
Yes, if your moral compass is hardwired and immutable, you will have a hard time following these suggestions, I completely agree.
I approach irrational people with the philosophy of, “How can I create a better scenario for everyone involved?” And sometimes to create a better, safer scenario for all, I’ll exaggerate words.
For example, if someone was drunk (and was a somewhat aggressive or violent drunk) and picked up a baby, I would have no problem lying to them to retrieve that baby to keep everyone safe. What I’d really want to say is “Let go of that baby, you’re drunk” but if they got offended because they didn’t feel trusted, who knows what would happen.
As for my friend “conning” me, who’s to say he wasn’t right? At least, in his own mind. If he honestly believed that he told me that the tires were $20 each and not $20 for both, there’d be no argument, only resentment.
It was worth saving a friendship on what was probably an honest miscommunication, rather than be attached to being right. Yes, I remember it differently, but it doesn’t mean I’m right, because he also remembered it differently. We both went into the conversation knowing we were right… so defending my position would only have led to bad feelings.
My suggestions on dealing with irrational people are all personal choices. If morality stops you from calming a potentially harmful or dangerous situation, then you end up with the results you end up with because of that morality.
It’s not good or bad, it’s just the outcome that happens when you choose one path over another. Sometimes it’s a matter of making the choice that leads to the best outcome for all.
Thanks again for your amazing comment! Loved it.
Amazing! Reading through this thread I watched you pace and lead just like you said and it worked! incredible to see!
In fact, as a follow-up to my last comment: A better example of pacing and leading would be to meet Jai’s concerns. His need to be met is being truthful with others. A proper reply toi him would have to meet that need. So, you say “If you want to be honest with others, you have to honestly recognize where they are at. If they are in an irrational place, then responding to them with pure rationally is being deceitful, since it pretends that they are presently somebody that they are not. It would be like explaining calculus to a toddler and expecting them to understand. You’re being dishonest with them and yourself. Instead, to be honest with yourself and them, it’s important to meet people’s needs, first. And those needs might not be pure truth. Instead, a still-true, yet not quite as pure and harsh reply might do the trick.” And with this explanation, Jai’s needs would be met in a similar fashion to the lady on the plane (but please note that this does not imply that Jai is irrational… even rational people and rationally-acting people have emotional needs to be met).
Just found this comment now! What an excellent value add. Thank you for sharing this. I wasn’t intentionally pacing or leading Jai, I was approaching it from both sides of the coin. Of course, perhaps I do this naturally and I don’t even realize it. Thanks so much for the comment. Very unique: If they’re in an irrational place, then responding to them with rationality is deceitful. I won’t agree or disagree with that one, but it has made me think. 😉
1) Given that Jai never responded, it is rather debatable that pacing and leading actually worked in this scenario.
2) This comment implies that Jai was irrational, but we actually don’t know that… we would need more context to understand Jai’s situations and how they differ from Paul’s.
3) All of that being said, I totally liked both the article and his reply on their own merits. They’re both very helpful to me, and they’re even helpful to myself. I mean who doesn’t act irrational from time to time? I actually came to this article looking for how to deal with someone else’s irrationality… and I saw into my own irrational responses to their irrationality… which is, I think, Paul’s point. There are times where we need to pace and lead ourselves.
4) Given my third point, why did I even bother making points 1 and 2? I saw Paul’s winkey-smiley-face below this comment, and it bothered me slightly… be careful Paul! After writing such a rational article, you wouldn’t want people to have an irrational reaction to the article by viewing your interactions with Jai as a “test-case” on whether or not your method of dealing with irrational people works. If people think that Jai is rational or that your response didn’t work, then they might irrationally throw out your article!! How tragic would that be?
Oh wait, just figured it out. That wink was for Alex. You can see it was meant for him. Saved face! 😉
I don’t think the winky smile was for you. In fact, I LOVE replying to these. Again, I just found your reply today so I didn’t see this earlier, I apologize. I have no clue what that winky smile is doing there. I have a feeling is was meant for another comment.
I loved the breakdown you made here too. And no, Jai was not a test case. He was an equal to me in every regard and I appreciated his perspective.
Jai’s lack of response might be that everything was covered and he was completely satisfied with the perspective. OR it could have been that he found my reply ridiculous and didn’t want to continue the conversation (I’ve felt that before :D). OR he never got an email telling him I replied. Who knows. Either way, I am open to all perspectives, even ones that want to make you throw this article out as irrational. Thanks again pwned11.
Regarding the tire example… I would have felt taken advantage of and cowardly. A solution to where there are no losers perhaps would be to explain that you thought he said $10 and you would be glad to return the tires or meet him in the middle and do $15/each. Giving in due to a threat of violence will usually just assure future threats of violence.
It’s true there could have been negotiation, but at that moment, in the nanoseconds I had to think, I decided that it was better to err on the side that I actually could have been wrong and that the friendship, though soured a bit in that moment, was worth more than wanting to be right or opening negotiations that might further exacerbate an already sensitive situation. Not saying that wouldn’t have worked, but in hindsight it was a good decision. It would be interesting to have a time machine to test your suggestion though! Thanks for the great comment.
EXATLY the same with me all the time. I care about the truth and want to find the real truth. It is very annoying when people get all irrational and offended for nothing and try to argue without actually having any arguments at all and all they do is come with personal attacks and similar techniques like they think discussing is not something you do to figure out things but a competition that you must win at all costs.
[…] Colaianni at The Overwhelmed Brain blog published a mega-post about dealing with irrational people. The most important points: don’t take it personally, ask your ex questions, and try to […]
Hey I really liked this article I read the whole thing. I’m 16 and this girl in my class is very irrational and over reacts at almost everything. I’m trying to do my best to help her but it’s not going to well. I think I’ll be able to apply some of these tips to my situation– Thank you very much!
Thanks for your comment Jake, I appreciate that! Let me know how it goes. 😉
This may be one of the best articles I have ever read. Clear, concise, and accurate. Thank you soooo much!
You are welcome! Thank you so much for your comment.
What’s it called or mean when well lets just use my exact situation as the example… One of my close guy friends, he’d rather be a lot more than that & he’s very attracted to me & he gets angry that I don’t at all feel that way for him simply cause he’s my friend & that’s all its ever been but he’s convinced himself of all these made up crazy reasons for me as to WHY I don’t feel that way towards him. Like he puts words in my mouth constantly & repeatedly like I think he’s ugly or he’s not good looking enough or hell guilt me like I know u dint find me attractive at all its ok I’m used to it by now. Then when he starts acting real crazy hell come at me for what HE convinced himself of, none of which is reality tho. If I try & explain something or lay out the facts he’ll purposely yell over me or call me a liar. In fact in his eyes I lie about everything & he completely minimises & belittles my part in the friendship no matter what I do to be a good friend it’s never noticed cause he’s simply not getting what he wants. The most annoying part about his behavior is he constantly says things under his breath or purposely makes an immature comment in hopes to get a certain reaction or more so an answer of some sort. Like I saw him early in the day one day & I was about to take off & he said I’d say I’d head over to your place but I don’t want to intrude or be a burden more or less wants me to say no way yes cone over you’re never a burden blah blah but I don’t like that kinda childish strategy so I didn’t say anything I just said I’ll text u in a bit and when he was storming out the door throwing another little fit he said alright see u tomorrow in a sarcastic way. I know he was just hoping both times that he’d get the answer or response he was hoping for and nothing different. He does this constantly sometimes just for a reaction PERIOD such as slamming doors or cupboards or stabbing the fork into the plate when he’s eating lol so tell me if u read this that is, what is that behavior called & what does it mean ? Sorry for the novel 😉
I would call that obsessive infatuation! He wants you so bad, he can’t think straight. He’s waiting for ANY clue that you are going to leave the door open for him to walk through. How this continues will depend largely on whether you give him any reason to doubt there’s a chance or not. In other words, unless you say, “The answer is NO and will always be NO” then in his mind there’s a yes coming down the road somewhere.
This kind of obsession can lead to stalking and other behavior that you absolutely don’t want in your life. Say NO, Absolutely NOT EVER so he gets the message. Until you define clearly that there is no chance, he’ll cling on to the possibility that there is.
It sounds mean and cold, but it’s the only way to get through to infatuated people like this. They are always, ALWAYS, trying to see the possibility. They paint every situation as their next chance to hear a yes. If you are not clear, he will continue.
Now if you are clear and he continues, then you have to be even more firm. Tell him not only is it NO, but that he’s actually scaring you. You need to be firm or this will never end. Stop getting into conversations about the reasons. When he says, “You just don’t find me attractive”, just say, “The answer is NO, no matter how you try to paint this. It’s NO.” You could even go further and say, “If you respect me and care about me, then you’ll allow me to have my own reasons for saying no. If you continue pushing me, it feels like you’re trying to control me and that’s not what friends do.”
If after all of that he is still obsessed and acting the same way, you need to do what you can to break off all contact. A man obsessed is not someone you want around you. It’s cute, then annoying, then frustrating, then scary, then (sometimes) dangerous. The sooner you’re clear, the better.
Thanks for sharing this and good luck!
If hes stabbing anything with a fork I’d be afraid to be around him
What do you do when you are dealing with someone who is so mad that when you ask them what the problem is they tell you that they are not going to talk to you – though they are standing there yelling at you – or when you try to ask questions by repeating what they said and asking them to elaborate, they tell you that it is not what they said/ ( when it was) I asked them to come back to discuss the problem when everyone was more calm and they blew up even more and told me that ” I was not telling them what to do.” It was like about twenty years of anger that was boiling over and I felt very bullied by these people, but they would not explain what was making them upset. They acted like crazy people. I’m glad that I stayed relatively calm ( though I am still very stressed out) and did not yell and rant like they did. They are blaming me for things that I know nothing about and I am thinking that maybe I didn’t handle it like I should ( first thought was to walk away) After blowing up, they went around to my family members and started hugging them!
Now I am really dreading having to see these people at all – and they are family, unfortunately.
The good news is that if you see the crazy in someone like this, other people see it too. So no matter what they say about you to others, don’t worry about it. Most people can see crazy.
As for having to deal with crazy relatives / family, if you must, you just have to accept that they are not right. Don’t listen to their words. Seriously, don’t listen to what they say because you’ll get sucked into the crazy. In fact, sometimes it’s better to be curious and act as if you agree with them, even when you absolutely don’t. That way at least maybe they won’t be so crazy towards you.
An example of that is someone who believes he is being abducted every night by aliens. Just agree that it’s probably happening and they’re probably right and see what happens. People get very attached to being right and they won’t let go of it, especially when other people are in opposition. However, if you choose to agree, you might find them back off quite a bit and sometimes even reconsider their position. Either way, you stay out of the whirlwind of “crazy”.
The bottom line is that some people are just in their own world and it’s up to you how much of that world you want to get sucked into. If you want to disagree, you’ll get sucked in. If you agree, you might get sucked in too, but to a lesser extent typically (because more energy goes into getting people to agree with you, so once you do, they spend less time “working” on you so to speak). Once you’re at a point in life where you can decide what you want for yourself and who you want to be around, you may just have to deal with these people as best as you can. But disagreeing or trying to point out they’re wrong, when they won’t listen, can be a big waste of time and energy.
Just because they’re family doesn’t mean we have to be around them. We can love crazy family members from afar. If other family supports the crazy person, then maybe they’ll eventually come around or not. But either way, keep people in your life that are right for you. Jim Rohn said it best, “You are the average of the 5 people you hang around most.”. So think of the circle of people you hang around and figure out if they are empowering or draining, then make the choices you need to make that empower you.
Thanks so much for your comments and questions. Great stuff!
Thank you so much Paul. I would give you a big hug if I could. Cousin called today and said much the same thing. Still sad, but I do understand better now.
🙂 and 🙁
I get it. Sometimes family is a great example of who not to model. Sometimes they are there to help us learn how toxic people behave so that we avoid them in our other relationships.
Thanks for the reply. Things will work out if you can keep your head on straight.
Hi Paul, I really enjoyed and found interesting your article. I have been struggling to understand my neighbour for many years. I have described her as irrational and aggressive many times so it rings a bell but what I could not figure out was why not everyone saw it. To some people she may not show this irrational aggression I have realised, so they doubt me. I have been accused of being irrational. Which can push you into a state of irrationality. Haha. Seriously, it’s the most insane situation loving next door to,someone aggressive and irrational. My neighbour takes offence at absolutely anything and everything. I can’t water my plants without it somehow being a problem to her. If I have a visitor at my door adjacent to hers) they are a nuisance to her. It’s all petty but insane. And she has had the police and our mutual landlord, postma, a couple of other neighbours buying into her irrayijal thinking. It’s caused me a lot of hardship and suffering, How can I get the police, landlord and others in authority to support me and not her? I am pretty sure they are scared of her and don’t want to do deal with her because she is bonkers, not right in the head… A couple of examples of what others have said. The authorities are trying to make me leave my home of 30 years because of this new crazy neighbour. I have been scapegoated and blamed. It’s horrendous. Quite honestly the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life. I susiect she could even be a sociopath or psychopath. She lies and lies all the time too. A nightmare. Please help me. Advise me. It’s a miracle to have not cracked myself. Three years of litigation and six years of bullying by this insane person.
Crazy neighbors are sometimes hard to avoid. You’re happy for years, then someone moves in and life becomes a nightmare.
I’m going to tell you what I’d do. It may sound zany and it may not work, but I would have a blast experimenting with it.
Are you ready? It’s really, really weird and you may not want to do it…
Get her a gift. Get her cookies. Get her something kind and unexpected so that it puts her in a place to either question her own sanity (“I can’t be angry at someone who buys me cookies”), or makes her think that she might be being too harsh with you.
And be genuinely nice about it. You don’t have to apologize for anything, just be overly thoughtful to see what happens. You could say something like, “I realize we don’t get along sometimes so I wanted to get this for you.”
I love that old McDonald’s commercial that is very much along those lines. I couldn’t find the video as a reference, but the scene is this: A young guy knocks on several of his neighbor’s doors. When they answer, he gives them something from McDonald’s, like a cheeseburger, apple pie, shake, etc. Different people got different things. They were very happy to get whatever they got but the viewer had no idea why he was doing it, just to be nice?
The next scene shows the young guy playing with his band in his apartment, the music is loud and the walls are vibrating. However, his neighbors are happily eating their McDonald’s, not complaining at all.
It’s brilliant. It may not work with everyone, but it’s a nice gesture to say, “Hey, I’m about to do something you’re not going to like. Here’s an apple pie.”
Gifting in this way, in your circumstance, even though it may be undeserved is giving your neighbor a choice to be the way they are (unchangeable) or a new way that they didn’t consider before (self-reflective).
Self-reflection comes easier when there’s compassion in the midst of chaos. Should be an interesting experiment… let me know if you try it 😉
Thanks for you comment and questions.
Thanks, Paul. I totally get what you are advising. It’s been suggested before by wise friends. And I was reluctant to do it only because I was scared she would lie or twist it around somehow. If I don’t have a witness or a recording device I am vulnerable to her false allegations. She has played the race card and the swearing card. Two things I don’t do. She’s paid work men to lie about me. The other day I was watering the plants in my front garden and she came out and aggressively said “I AM NOT FRIGHTENED OF YOU!” I turned around and looked at her thinking “what on earth…” I didn’t say anything. I wouldn’t. I stayed calm. Her daughter was standing behind her with a device, probably on record, hoping to provoke me. I just got my phone out and they scuttled inside after the teenage daughter said “come inside or she will report is again”. When I finished watering the plants I went inside and googled irrational aggressive people. I found your fantastic words of wisdom. For 6 years I have been struggling to cope with a person who is not just occasionally irrational ( I totally get that we can all get irrational) but seems wired to be irrational. After 18 months I did lose my cool one day and react. I was pounced on as the irrational party. I am sure you can imagine the utter indignity and frustration of that. It all went downhill after that. She got all the support. I was condemned the problem. Let me tell you what I did. My neighbour kicked or pushed a huge beautiful plant I had next to my front door own to the communal front gate. When I returned home I could not open the gate. The soil of the plant was strewn all down the steps. I called the police. This was just the final straw after several days of harssment. The police came the next day. Gave me a victim support card and advised me to have a phone on record constantly if she was around. She said ludicrous things to the police and they, like everyone, scrambled to get away from her insane ramblings. Honestly you can’t listen to her because she says things that don’t make rational sense. She’ll say ‘look at that next to my window’ ( to the police ) and the police will reply ‘ it’s nowhere near your window” rolling their eyes. When she realises they aren’t taking her seriously she will lie and say “oh she moved it it was leaning against my window before you came” I was standing at my door at the time and my mouth dropped to the floor. Wow! So that’s what she does? How she does it? Just makes up a lie or huge exaggeration. It works. The policeman juts wanted to get away and not deal with her. Most people feel trapped by her insane thinking and just want to free themselves from her. It’s like she tries to mesmerise people into believing her madness. She has made people doubt me for sure. She claimed I threw plant pots at her children. I laughed when I read it. What should stop these crazy false allegations is because they usually include a totally impossible fact. For example she said I looked out of my kitchen window and saw her children playing ball then threw a plant pot at them after making eye contact and saying something to children. Well, you can’t see her yard from my kitchen window. You could not see anyone in her yard from my kitchen window. It’s complete fabrication. Now, here is the truth. I was not even in my kitchen or the house when a plant from my kitchen window fell down into her yard. She threw back into my garden. That’s were I found it. It appears her son was playing ball and knocked it off. I did not complain about the incident. I didn’t know what had happened. I just found my plant in the garden and put it back on my kitchen windowsill. This incident only came out as the story she claims years later. Baffling to say the least. Everything, all my kindnesses too by the way, twisted into a counter allegation. She once pushed me against a wall and caused a graze. The police said her children would have yo go into care if they arrested her ( they eventually came at 11pm) and in an act of kindness I agreed not to press charges. I thought she would be grateful. Humble. See how kind I was after that… No! She got a 100 times more aggressive towards me. A 100 times more deceitful. Astonishing! That was 2011. The other day when she came to her door calling out SATAN and making incoherent noises I stood calmly looking at her and just said “Why don’t you talk to me? Why can’t we just talk?” Or something like that. She shut her door. Then the next day was the “I’m not frightened of you..” incident. Paul, what gift shall I get her? A voucher for an anger management course? lol. Seriously, I do feel brave enough to give her a gift. I am a kind person. I gave her the gift of spending 14 hours in a police cell after she lied to them I threatened her with a fist. Ahem. The police have bought into her victim story. They are afraid of her too. She played the race and swearing card against me and I’ve been told that our police who have had a poor history to live down regards racism in the past are scared of her. A lot of people know the truth of who is the problem person neighbour but don’t defend me. Should I give her this gift to her personally or leave it on the doorstep? Someone once gave me a welcome sign from Ghana ( where she is from ) and I put it up on my door but she kept pulling it down to the floor. Should I give her this sign? I mean I can’t use it. Maybe she can? I’m not kidding. I am serious. I have so many welcome signs near my door and in my garden. Her side is barren. Ummmh. Oh and another thing she does that is creepy. She mimics me. She will copy my voice and words to others. For example I was saying goodbye to a workman from my door. I said “Thank you so much, good bye” ( for the good job he’d just done) and she came out and shouted at him “Don’t leave that there!!! Some tools against a wall. He replied to her “his hands were full and he’d be back for them” then to my astonishment she suddenly changed her tone ( to nice like mine) and said the exact words I said ‘Thank you very much, goodbye”. The workman looked at me and I just rolled my eyes back to him. She’s completely bonkers. It would be funny if it had not some really dark aspects. Big sigh.
The brain can do marvelous and frightening things, that’s for sure. There may be something going on in her brain where she sees things that aren’t there or hears things no one else can. Regardless, now that you know that all the logic in the world won’t matter, there’s not much you can do to convince her of anything. So, my recommendations are to :
1. Don’t get into a conversation with her. If you do, don’t get sucked into her drama or lies. Just assume you’re talking to a child who doesn’t know any better, and say “Thank you for telling me” to almost everything. If she says, “Don’t leave those there!”, you answer, “Thank you for telling me” and that’s it. And if she replies with a question, “Well, are you gonna move them?” respond, “Thank you for telling me.” Even if it doesn’t make sense. Just be kind and don’t answer questions. Just thank her.
2. Leave a flower arrangement at her door. Or order flowers or cookies or something tasty for it to be delivered with a card in it saying something like I mentioned earlier: “I realize we have our differences. I would love to start over.” Anything close to that sentiment.
3. If you don’t want to do either of those, you may have to move. It’s not fair, but it’s also a toxic environment. Or, if she truly is breaking the law, then call the police and press charges. The only problem with that, like you stated, she may get much worse. Or, she’ll stop altogether knowing there are consequences for her behavior. I’m willing to be that she’ll get worse though. So… you may have to leave. Or perhaps you could become super resilient and not let anything bother you, but everyone has a breaking point.
In the end, if you honestly fulfill her needs in some way, then there will be nothing you can do. I’m all about honoring yourself and standing up for what’s right, but you can’t rationalize with crazy.
Thanks Paul. Not sure what my neighbours needs are! They don’t seem healthy to me. She wants to control my life and destroy my life. What do you know about psychopathy and sociopathy? The tragic upshot is that she has succeeded in lying in court. I am fighting an eviction order. How can I show that she is crazy and should not have been accepted as a credible witness? My lawyer was weak and not competent. I think she needs a mental health assessment. I like your polite explanation about the marvellous and frightening brain. I am frightened of her brain! I am so disappointed that I did not get help on how to deal with her. You don’t say if irrational people are mentally ill. Temporarily mentally ill? Someone pointed out that she skims under the radar of getting sectioned. I could so easily tip her over the edge because she over reacts to the most innocuous things. I wonder if it would be doing her a favour long term?
Sounds like this goes pretty deep! My first thought is to contact a lawyer (getoutofthemess.com 😉 ), that way you’ll know your rights.
If she is seriously delusional, you need to start recording everything and doing whatever you can to keep your rights. There may be no way to communicate with. She could be sociopathic, but it doesn’t matter. After a point, when there’s no reasoning left, all you can do is gather solid evidence. Record everything.
Yup, it’s possibly mental illness too. I have no clue! If I were you, just keep track of everything because if it gets worse and the police have to get involved, you’ll want to sound like the sane one.
Whew, I hope you make it through this!
Oh, Paul, I wish I had found you back in 2011. Her craziness was petty and her behaviour criminal on a minor scale. The police have been my stumbling block instead of my support system. The first irrational encounter with her was around Christmas time 2010. She had only moved in a few months earlier. I was running an electrical extension lead to my vehicle outside the property. I had a mechanic with me trying to fix my vehicle. She came out and very aggressively said ‘you shouldn’t be doing that ” well, I don’t recall the exact words it was very aggressive and she was suggesting that running an electric cable was a danger somehow. Me and the mechanic looked at her stunned. I am a quite soft spoken person. ( oh have I mentioned she has an awful voice?) and I don’t raise my voice often but that day I said back to her ( some instinct to control the situation) “everything is fine, there is no danger, get back in your house’. I tried to control her irrationality I guess. After that I found oil and bleach on my doors and walls. My bike constantly pushed over. I just ignored it. But now looking back this must have been when she set to war against me. In March, 2011 she slammed the communal front gate in my leg because she was angry still that I had watered a hanging basket the afternoon before. I reported that incident to the police. The police told me ‘it’s hardly the crime of the century’ so when I heard nothing more I assumed they had not taken it seriously. Two years later I saw the police report. My neighbour had sent them an email saying she was not at home when it happened and they closed the case saying it was a likely a false allegation. In court a few years later I cross examined my neighbour and she denied speaking to any police officer at all about the incident. Implying the police had made up the false alibi or of course she was in total denial and lying herself. I put tiger her a list of her traits. Lying on the spot. Believing her own lies. Adding another lie if the first one first one did not work. The lies getting more and more ludicrous. Now, it’s clear and obvious to most people she’s mentally impaired. Her lies are so bad I even thought she may have learning difficulties too. She turned everything around and blamed me by making false counter allegations. She’s not capable of remorse or accepting she made a mistake. She is classic psychopathy. From what I have read. Psychopaths or sociopaths create a web of deception. They somehow cause others to also make mistakes or do wrong and eventually no one dares tell the simple truth. The police in 2011 may have been lazy or incompetent. Deciding to close the case and not investigate properly. My neighbour was adamant she had not had any contact with the police officer dealing with the gate slamming. Honestly, it’s been a nightmare of deception. Cover ups. I have been well and truly scapegoated. And, yes, I made mistakes. I lost my cool with her insanity a few times. I told her she was mad/bonkers/insane. I had never met someone so irrational and aggressive before. I thought she would snap out of it. But as I said at the beginning of this story, after reading your article that is great at explaining the irrational person and their outbursts… You can be forgiving and kind to the occasional mad thinking ( people can start from a misunderstanding and go crazy) but how do you deal with and what can be done to stay safe against a person in a permanent state of irrational thinking? And surely that is the definition of mental ill health? Apparently psychopathy is not a mental health problem. The rain is wired differently. It comes down to having no conscience or feelings for others. Thank you so much for reading my plight. I live in London. UK. I desperate for a breakthrough to save my home and for this neighbour to be revealed for the irrational tyrant she is. Oh, psychopaths like to focus on a victim. They are are predators. Could she be coming across normal to others? It appears so. It’s pure evil mind games I am dealing with. I thought the truth would be out by now. I have captured her crazy behaviour on CCTV. Stalking me. Opening the gate with a stick. Calling me names. Hitting me. The police say I need a witness too. They won’t press charges unless they have rock solid evidence. Now, is that because they are helping her escape justice? They managed to lose an independent witness detail back in 2012! The police put me through hoops. I have made several complaints about them. I keep complaining ( very unenglish lol ) but getting little to no joy. Yet. Numquam cede ( for justice ) is my motto. 🙂
Oh, and just so you know. I don’t hold grudges. I can forgive and forget. Love hugging it out. I can let go of being right in favour of being the bigger person and letting happy win. In fact the more awful the situation the greater the possibility of kindness and love helping all involved. I just wish this neighbour would meet me half way. Go to mediation. See me as most other people see me. Big sigh.
I wish you the best in this situation. Our conversation could go on forever, trying to figure out what to do next or how to communicate with her, but it’s clear there is no way to do so. Some people you just have to avoid at all costs, unfortunately. 🙁
Thanks, Paul. Understood. I have to be mindful that I only vent and not bang my head against a wall. Hahah. Really glad I found your article and really grateful to you for reading my plight and responding with wise and caring words. Sadly, as you’ve worked out talking or gifting to my neighbour is futile and possibly dangerous! I loved your suggestion to leave cookies ( good call for anyone slightly reasonable to encourage a change of heart but with y neighbour she would probably stick razor blades in it and say that’s how she find it! Haha I kid you not!). Happy and peaceful days to you. Keeping a sense of humour helps! Big hugs. Kim and a little dog named Ticketyboo de Qa xxx
What you suggest is all very well if someone is sometimes rational and able to acknowledge when they have been irrational. If you never disagree with someone that you want to have a relationship with e.g. child, sibling etc but they are consistently irrational in their appraisal of situations and abusive towards you due to their distorted emotional over reactions to everything, you are in danger of colluding with this abusive behaviour by not naming it. Some people are developmentally stunted or damaged, and struggle to contain their child like emotional response to the world, and there comes a point where listening patiently and accepting abusive behaviour can just feed into it. Sometimes you do need to be frank with people when they are repeatedly hurting others, ideally using reflection, but also by being honest about how you feel and how you experience their behaviour. I say this having over 20 years working with people with challenging behaviour and who use cognitive distortions in maladjusted attempts to cope with poor emotional management.
If it was interpreted anywhere that I said that you should accept abusive behavior, that was definitely not my intention. Sometimes you have to get away from people that simply cannot conform to societal or personal standards and boundaries. Those who intentionally, repeatedly hurt others need to be avoided (or even arrested).
I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. 😉 Great comment!
Thanks for your response Paul. I know a couple whose son died young. Their daughter, now in her thirties, is completely irrational and says awful things to them and about them and others, that are not true and terribly hurtful. She has self harmed in the past and this makes her parents even more inclined to do anything to appease her, agree with her irrational statements etc in fear of losing another of their children. Soaking up her vitriol and irrational emotional manipulations has not improved her behaviour and in my view has given her little incentive to change. She is just getting worse and this is causing her family emotional distress, though of course they do not feel they can walk away from her. She turns everything into her being the victim of other people being horrible to her, when this is completely untrue. In reality she is causing enormous pain to her family. She never shows any insight into her behaviour. I am not convinced that never contradicting her distortions is doing any good, as the more she repeats them, the more she believes them to be facts. Any ideas?
I think their perspective needs to change. Can they not see that she is already lost and they are already losing her as a daughter? She is growing more defensive and distant day by day. In my opinion, she is reaching out for someone to stand up and be a source of strength where she feels weak (or vulnerable).
Sometimes one can feel the weight of the world on their shoulders because there’s no one around that will take charge, so they feel they have to control everything – and they’re angry because they have to do that ( and that others won’t stand up to the task).
If there’s any chance at all at saving their relationship, the behavior they’ve been doing needs to stop. Their behavior is probably exactly why she’s acting the way she is. It’s triggering her. Maybe she thinks that they are weak and pathetic. If they acquiesce and give in all the time because they’re afraid of what she might do, she’ll never view her parents as the rock and structure she seems to so desperately want.
And because there’s no rock, she will probably feel alone in a world she feels like she has to control.
What’s the solution? If she really does self-harm, I get their plight. You don’t want to push her over the edge. But, it sounds like some real tough love is needed here. I would ask them to confront her straight on and tell her they love her and would do anything for her but they won’t stand by and take her abuse. It’s showing strength that no matter what she does they will love her, and they will also be there for her when she’s ready to treat them with respect. Hmm… maybe before that a heart to heart needs to happen.
If the couple has not talked about the loss of her brother (their son) in a way that is very vulnerable, that may have increased tension and repressed emotions. I’m wondering if that conversation ever took place in a way where it was safe for the daughter to cry, scream, hate the world, hate God or get angry or whatever – I wonder if the daughter simply doesn’t feel safe to express because she wasn’t allowed to?
This is a tough situation and could have a number of factors. But I do believe this is going to go nowhere fast if nothing changes 🙁
This is all my opinion and not medical advice. 😉 I wish the best for that couple. That’s a big challenge.
Thanks for the excellent question.
Very helpful and basic.😊
Great to hear! Thank you for your comment.
You are very welcome!😊
My wife often, in the early evening, becomes marose and irrational. She does so that she becomes verbly abusive. However, when morning rolls around, she is even tempered, smiles, kind and can hold a normal conversation. I’ll tell you, it is rough and I wish I could do something to help her as I am sure she feels bad when she is in that night time state. If she has even as much as a 1/2 glass of wine, when she is in that state, the condition is exascerbated.
Hey Robert, thanks for sharing. If the timing is that impeccable where you pretty much know when it’s going to happen, then there’s likely a correlation between her behavior and something she doesn’t want to address or face. This is my first thought, at least.
So, you can do this: Test this theory by changing what happens around that time. If it’s around dinner, do something different for dinner, something you don’t normally do.
If it’s about the time you both relax in front of the TV or whatever you do, change that up. Go for a walk together, read, or do something else.
If it’s near bedtime, stay up later or go to bed earlier.
The idea is to test things to find out if something in particular is causing her to behave in a way where she is worried about what might or typically happens around that time.
Now, does this behavior happen when you’re not around? What happens when she is with someone else? (children, friends, etc)? Is she different? My gut feeling is that perhaps it has something to do with you. I could be completely wrong, but if I were going through this, I would find a way to remove myself from the equation. “Hey hon, I’m going to go bowling with Tom and Bill tomorrow tonight. You’re welcome to come or maybe you’d like the night off.”
Then when tomorrow night comes, does she behave erratically?
A change in behavior like this can indicate something she doesn’t want to face or say. So it comes out in different ways. Since it seems her behavior is slightly evasive or repelling towards you (I’m guessing), then you might be what she doesn’t want to face.
I’m making assumptions, only you know your situation. But changing things up a bit. My first inclination is that there’s something she wants to say or avoid. If she’s not willing to share with you what that is (because she thinks you’ll overreact or she’s just scared of confrontation or something else), then you need to find the cause doing some tests like this.
Of course, you could always make it easy and say, “I know something’s wrong. I want you to tell me what’s really on your mind, even if it’s hard to say. You know as well as I do that we need to talk about this.” But only do so BEFORE the irrational behavior starts.
Robert… see if you can get her to start REGULARLY taking a good quality vitamin B-complex supplement each morning. (a *good quality* supplement will contain the vit B12 in the form of methylcobalamin, not cyanocobalamin) Also vitamin C and magnesium (or calcium-magnesium) supplements in the afternoon or evening.. This should help enormously.
Thanks Paul! I’ve been all over the internet for days looking for something like this.
I have a question. Can you help out?
Step three. Pacing. I’m assuming if the “pacing” part doesn’t work out and it doesn’t establish rapport, which from what i understand is the goal of pacing, then it’s a failed mission. Correct?
What if you are in a situation where “you have to” and the person has, irrationally, attached their anger to you, and you are now the reason they are in rage? What do you do when their demand is impossible to fulfill and the more understanding you showed, the angrier they became? Let’s say you’ve done the pacing correctly but instead of it calming them down, it made them angrier and more illogical. The more steam they released, the angrier they become, until it reaches a point where they become overwhelmed by their emotions and their fight or flight response kicks in, they choose flight and take off; basically never giving you a change to go beyond the pacing and into leading and the next steps. What to do in this situation?
I realize there is always a need that a person wants fulfilled when in irrational mode. In your example, you helped the lady in the plane fulfill her need. But what if the need is impossible to fulfill? How do you get the person to come around, keeping the above situation (pacing yielding negative response) in mind?
Pacing is a way to build rapport, yes. The idea is to be so flexible in your pacing that you come to a place that is comfortable to THEM, not necessarily YOU. In other words, if they are flipping out and calling you names, you might have to take those on and even go a step further to show just how much you agree with them. If they call you an a**hole, you might have to genuinely agree that you are indeed an a**hole and you realize the error of your ways.
The problem you might run into is that you don’t mean it, or they SENSE that you don’t mean it. If someone thinks you’re the worst person on the planet, and you genuinely agree with them, what do you think they’d want most from you?
To leave. They’d want you to feel bad and get the hell away from them. And that might be an extent you’d have to take in order for you to keep or build any sort of trust with them. The real issue here however is the level of mistrust you’ve built with them up to this point. If they genuinely can’t trust you, then you may not see the rational side you want to see.
I see this happen in relationships where there one person is emotionally connected and the other isn’t. The emotionally connected person is able to show his or her emotions and express them genuinely. The detached person has trouble doing so and always talks calmly and rationally to the emotionally charged person. This can drive the emotionally connected person batty because all s/he is looking for is an emotion, not a logical response.
I don’t know what you’re situation is, but listen to their words. You might have to ask, “What do you want?” and if the answer is something you won’t or can’t do, then you may not be able to calm them down. If they say, “I just want you to shut up”, do you? If they say, “I just want you out of my life forever”, do you leave and not return?
Fulfilling their needs may not fulfill yours, and that is usually the hardest part because it might mean doing something they want you to do, but you don’t.
Of course, none of what I talk about may work at all if the person you’re dealing with has a diagnosed mental condition. Thanks for your comment and questions. Let me know if this helps!
This helps more than you can imagine! It’s amazing how not only does your reply make perfect sense, but also addresses, in every single line, the specific issue with laser accuracy – even though i didn’t give much detail. I honestly didn’t expect this accurate of a diagnosis considering there weren’t much symptoms to work with. Absolutely superb!
One last question if you don’t mind. While pacing, do you explain why you are/were being an a**hole, or do you just keep on reiterating how much of an a**hole you are?
Standing there saying “yes, you are right, i am an a**hole” and agreeing, genuinely, to all how they feel about you without really explaining why you are like that seems weird to me. Or does it make sense to the one being irrational?
And by explain, i don’t mean defend or justify, but rather just provide insight and reason. I mean, if i see or experience something awful, i would naturally want to know “why”, as that would somehow put things into perspective. Does this also apply to the irrational person?
You’re welcome! 😉
No, reiteration is just words. It’s not followed up with any action. If you truly want to gain or regain the trust of someone else, you stop talking and DO something that shows that you are going to not be the person they see you as anymore.
In the scenario I described in my last reply, words are spoken in hopes to convince the other person in a way – “I’m right and you’re wrong, but let me tell you in a nice, calm, reasonable way”. The emotionally connected person is only convinced by the actions you take, not the words you formulate. Often words are used as a placater and delay tactic so that you don’t have to take action.
Truly following through with something you say you’re going to do to improve yourself is usually the only convincer to someone who is jaded and mistrusting. They might be used to endless chatter that leads nowhere.
I’m not saying that’s your particular situation, but it is in a lot of cases.
My point with this is that if you say “You’re right, I’m an asshole”, then you really have to dig in and figure out why they see you that way. Then figure out what steps you’re going to improve that behavior about yourself. Then, actually *take* those steps!
If they really believe you’re an a**hole, and you want to keep a relationship with them, you will need to do something to change. That’s IF you want to change and IF you want the relationship. If you don’t want to change, then you may not be compatible with the person you’re with. You may just want someone to accept you for who you are instead, quirks and emotionally detached and all. That doesn’t mean you’re bad, it’s just a matter of compatibility.
I know someone who wanted to be accepted as a liar and cheater. He really wanted his wife to be okay with his cheating! She wanted no part of it and left the relationship. He didn’t feel his behavior was wrong. However, he never got married again and today only chooses to date, that way he has no commitments and doesn’t have to put himself into a situation where he has to lie. He had to find a lifestyle compatible with who he wanted to be and how he felt most comfortable.
Try to remember that emotional upset may not necessarily be irrational behavior. It could be that the person cannot figure out how to get a message across, no matter how hard they try, so they get into a tizzy because it’s so frustrating.
Many emotional people can’t get their emotional needs met by analytical people. It just doesn’t seem to work out a lot of the time because what they’re looking for, true emotional response, doesn’t exist. It’s up to the emotional person to go, “Hey, if you can’t connect with me emotionally, I can’t stay in this relationship.” but many won’t leave because they’re always searching for that emotion they see hints of but are never truly realized.
Your last comments on justifying or reasoning is usually what sets an emotionally connected person off. It’s an entirely different language. To the emotional person, words are no substitute for emotional connection. To the detached person, emotions are no substitute for a logical conversation.
A final thought: Many emotionally detached people use words as a way to benefit only themselves and no one else. Their behavior can be seen as selfish and self-serving. Even when they appear to be helping the emotionally connected person, it can be a way to get their own needs met and only theirs met. They use logic and reason to keep from feeling emotional pain.
If the pain is too great for an emotionally detached person to deal with, they’ll do or say whatever it takes so that they don’t have to feel pain. This can often be seen as manipulative behavior.
I don’t know where you or the where the other person is on the spectrum and I’m not making any judgments about you or them, I’m just sharing what I know in relation to what you shared so far. Thanks so much for your reply!
Wow! Where we are on the spectrum is exactly where you described. So precise that in several points in your reply, I was thinking to myself “Does he know us?!”. Everything you said is right on the money! How you described the person to be feeling is very accurate. Not that i knew that before, but because you basically repeated everything I’ve already heard but took as irrational jabber that was spewed at the heat of the moment.
Especially the “Many emotionally detached people use words as a way to benefit only themselves and no one else. Their behavior can be seen as selfish and self-serving.” Before now, I used to think “that’s not how i am. That makes no sense”. Well, now I know better. A real eye opener.
Everything you said about me is extremely accurate. The 2nd paragraph I actually read several times. I’m a big advocate of trying to look at things from different perspectives. However that’s one perspective I totally missed. Funny, I feel like Leonardo Dicaprio in Shutter Island when they break it to him in the lighthouse that it was actually him that he was chasing.
This is just amazing, getting perspective like this. I never thought this issue could be encrypted so quickly.
Can’t thank you enough Paul! You have just, in no time, literally, changed a life!
Is this in your book?
Well alright Elliotte! This is what I want to hear – I’m very happy this is helping you.
I can relate to a lot of what you shared not only because of my studies and work with clients, but also because I was very good at hiding most of my “bad” emotions throughout my life. When I learned to express even the most painful and sometimes embarrassing ones, that’s when I started healing and creating better relationships (I had to ruin a few to get this far, that’s for sure).
I don’t think we know each other personally, ;D but I’m glad my replies were relevant! Thank you for being candid and open in your responses.
There is a section in my book called: “How To Avoid Attracting The Wrong Partner” that touches on some of what I talk about here, but I don’t get too deep into the ’emotionally-connected partner and the emotionally-detached partner’ scenario. The section in my book is more about intentionally manipulative partners. But, emotionally detached people can often find themselves going down the road of manipulation and wanting to control outcomes, so you have to be careful if you consider yourself less emotionally connected than most.
Here’s a passage from The Overwhelmed Brain book that starts to address that point:
“I had a female client whose husband was manipulative. He didn’t believe he needed any help, and she was always left feeling guilty after every conversation or argument they had. He had become masterful at using words as covert weapons to make her feel bad. He never said anything that directly blamed her for their relationship troubles, but somehow she kept getting it in her head that all their problems were her fault.
His focus was always on her and how she needed to change. Even when it was clear that he did something bad or wrong, he found a way to turn it around and make it her fault. This is a clear example of what it means to shift all the energy and blame on someone else instead of taking any responsibility for your role in the problem yourself. There are many types of manipulators in relationships, but most of them have the same qualities when it comes to blaming others for everything and taking no responsibility.
A healthy relationship is one where both partners actually want to work on their own healing and growth and not the other’s. It “goes right” when you find someone who supports your journey and you support theirs. It’s a matter of learning what makes them happy and supporting that happiness as much as possible.”
It goes on from there, but it’s one example of how when you shift your focus on what you want or need for yourself (trying to control your partner to get your own needs met) to focusing on what your partner needs and doing what you can to fulfill those needs, the energy of the relationship changes and you start healing the emotional wounds that were created earlier.
There’s a LOT more to this subject of course, and I’ve only scratched the surface of many aspects of it in this conversation, but if you’ve gotten something from it, that is fantastic!
Thank you again for sharing so much and for being open to what I’ve written here. Maybe some good changes are on the way for you too.
I stumbled into your website today. I wanted to say something quickly.
While looking at your “About” page, I couldn’t help but notice that we have many interesting similarities. For example, I once moved 3,000 miles to California for a fresh start where I had no family or friends. You did a similar thing to be with your girlfriend.
Like you, I had depression. I made mistakes and lost some good friends, due to my own ignorance. So I educated myself on several things. Including logical & critical thinking. I even practiced meditation and on my free time studied things like neuroscience and hypnosis (although I’m not certified like you are). The similarities are so uncanny that I was startled to read your brief biography.
Anyway, your article is very well written.
I think that your pacing / leading approach is excellent. I use that approach sometimes. Once people feel they’ve been “heard”, they are more receptive to reason. You’re actually negotiating with them. To help guide them to rationality.
I try my best to approach in a nonconfrontational yet assertive way that shows an irrational person I care, or I keep a safe distance.
If it’s okay, I have two questions unrelated to the topic.
How did you learn to narrate stories in the way you do?
I’m talking about your storytelling ability. I’m trying to work on mine.
This article is a transcript of a podcast. Correct?
Thanks so much for your comment. Love the similarities. I think many people that end up following a path of healing to end up learning much of the same material because so much of this stuff simply works! Perhaps those willing to take leaps of faith find that path faster.
Great questions! If you listen to the episode attached to this article, you’ll find that I write very much as I speak. In fact, most of this article is transcribed straight from the podcast (see the player at the top of this article).
As for storytelling, I really only have two secrets:
1. If I can’t relate to it, I can’t tell it. If I don’t know enough about it, I can’t teach it. So I “try things on” and try things out. Then I talk about only what I know from a very personal perspective. I can’t talk about honoring your personal boundaries in tough situations until I actually face a tough situation and honor my boundaries (the day I defied my stepfather for example). So I think this point is important. I learn it, live it, then tell it.
2. Always talk directly to ME, not “the reader”. Many writers think they have to write for the general public. I prefer to write as I would speak to a friend. I choose to trust you and want to speak freely to you without big words to confuse you.
Also, I don’t believe in inundating the reader with overly descriptive explanations of things unless there’s something specific I want to teach. Even then, I pretend you’re a good friend and try to explain things in a way I would teach a friend, not a student or subordinate.
I choose to be very vulnerable and transparent too. And because I can relate to everything I write, I usually have a personal story or perspective that can go along with what I’m teaching. My example of the airplane ride in this article is a great example of that. Once I start telling that story, I tie it into the rest of my writings. Most of my writing comes from telling a story I’ve lived, which makes it a whole lot easier to tell. Tie teachings with your own metaphors (your stories) and you have a good formula for avoiding writer’s block.
Anyway, I hope this helps! There are probably a thousand other things I left out about how I write, but it all comes down to having a natural conversation with YOU, not giving “the reader” a lecture.
Thank you again. Great to connect with you – thanks for sharing! 🙂
You’re welcome! 🙂
Apologies for the confusion. I knew about the podcast player at the top of the page. I also noticed at the end of your article that you said “today’s show”. Hence my guess that this is a transcript of the podcast. You see, I was born hearing but am now 100% deaf (so I can’t listen to the episode to know for sure). That’s why I asked.
I agree fully with all your points on storytelling. How you connect with your audience via words that are easy to digest (as in normal conversations), deeply personal experiences, etc. That’s exactly what Richard Feynman, an eminent physicist in the mid-20th century, was known to do. Here is a perfect illustration of how he knew to connect with his audience: http://www.fotuva.org/feynman/what_is_science.html
What I meant was how do you visualize dialogues to put them down effectively? To clarify further, I’m talking about how you outline or put a scenario into words. I’ve never taken a class on writing stories. Have you? I don’t consider myself good at writing stories. Partially because I’ve not taken time to look into that yet, but I should. How you learned to tell a story could be different from other people, and you’re good at it… so was there any extra work you had to do (e.g., resources) that helped you get your storytelling ability to where it is now?
Also, I’m always interested in other people’s stories. I could probably relate to your other stories. Do you have an article where you wrote about “the day I defied my stepfather”?
Thanks for the sensible advice. Great to connect with you too. 🙂
Ah, got it! Right, you can’t listen to the podcast because you can’t hear! Well, that makes it a little tough for sure. I don’t write as many blog posts anymore as I record podcasts, so I apologize that you cannot get the full breadth of what I offer, but that doesn’t mean I won’t one day have them transcribed to be blog posts. That’s an expensive process for an hour long show (and I’ve got a huge backlog of shows) so it may be a while for that. So sorry! But I do plan on doing that one day.
As for the story telling, I enjoyed creative writing in high school, but other than that, I’ve had no specific training. It’s hard to analyze a creative process inside oneself! I might have to study that one day and share it on a blog post or even in this comment section. Tell you what, ask me a personal question and I’ll create a response to it in the comment section. As I do it, I’ll review my process and figure out what I’m doing… I think 😉 Should be fun!
I do know this, the more I write, the easier it is to write. I use to write 10,000 words at a time (see this post!) but I didn’t start out that way. You might even find some of my first articles on this site and see the vast difference in length and style. I think another thing that has helped my writing is continuing to explore how I feel about things. The more I allow emotions into my life and express them to others, the easier it is to write. I always appreciate creative writing with emotion over educational writing with just information.
As for defying my stepfather… hmm… did I write about that? I have many episodes, but articles? This one comes to mind: http://theoverwhelmedbrain.com/the-family-curse-do-you-become-who-you-are-around-family-or-who-you-used-to-be/
I know there are more, but that might give you something to start with.
Feel free to use the search feature on the right side of the site to search for personal boundaries too, that is a related topic for sure.
Thanks for the link. I’ll read a little bit of it to get an idea of what you’re talking about.
Apologies it took me a while to get back. Started swimming again and started a diet two days ago, so I was too tired to focus the last two days. Today’s better so here goes.
I’d guess your earliest entries were simply typing your thoughts like a regular blogger, the middle entries are podcasts that have already been transcribed, and the latest entries are podcasts not yet transcribed. Is that correct? I also know about podcasts and things like speaking into a recorder then typing it down. It’s a good way for hearing people to practice communication and get ideas down quickly. Do what you feel most comfortable doing.
Also, many of your earlier entries are already transcribed. They’ll take a while for anyone to read and have plenty of value for hearing impaired people. I know how expensive transcribing a show that is a hour long can be, and whatever you decide to do is fine (with me, at least).
Did you type 10,000 words by recording first then typing down, or simply typing everything without pausing then going back to revise after completion, or typing and constantly editting at the same time?
I read the article at the link you referred me to. Also read another one called “When Others Aren’t Ready for You to Evolve” which also briefly covers how you stood up to your stepfather. And I can see the usefulness of the approach you take to writing (creatively with emotions vs informally).
Hmm a personal question. I like your idea. I need to make this a simple question that involves dialogue with others, since that’s one of the things about how you switch perspectives I was wondering about. Have you ever had anyone stand up for you when nobody else would? How did that play out? (if this question isn’t applicable, let me know and I’ll pick another)
It’s a little known secret that I used to write first, read after, creating the podcast while reading. I was unsure of my ability to hold a show on my own without a script or something to follow, so there are a few episodes out there that are just audio blogs. The rest of the articles were written after the show where I just went off on a subject that I covered on the show, but wrote out more thoughts. Nowadays, I write blog articles when I get a chance – some having nothing to do with episodes.
Regarding the question, here’s my thought process:
1. Searching history… thinking about all the people I know and someone who might have stood up for me. Going through memories of relationships, school, work and home.
2. I can’t think of anyone who has ever stood up for me. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, I just can’t think of a time that happened. I find that interesting!
3. My thoughts immediately go to: What does it mean to me that no one has stood up for me? I then access my emotions around that and feel sadness. There were many times I was afraid of my stepfather, but I was never cornered with no way out so I guess I didn’t need “rescuing” so to speak.
4. As I write, I think of literally everything I’m thinking and feeling and put it into words. I remember times with my stepfather, Oh, a thought just came to me (this is what happens when I’m writing, thoughts will occur as I’m writing due to associations in my mind). The thought is when I was 4 and he was holding me down against my will. That is a powerful moment in my life that I’ve written about before. I was crying and scared.
5. I notice as I write, I continue to access the emotions I had at the time AND the emotions I feel now. As I do that, more words come to me like: I felt so powerless. I also felt like I was wrong and deserved my punishment. Then a conflicting thought of “No 4 year old deserves punishment” and that helps me access my teaching mode (the lessons).
6. Steps 1 to 5 are me establishing a foundation for what I’m going to write about. I have several bullet points now: Feelings of being wrong or bad when you’re a child, feeling of helplessness, low self-worth, dealing with abuse, and pertaining to your question: No one is around to help me out. I was completely scared and alone.
At this point, I would keep all these points in mind as I continued my writing. I’m always reconnecting with the emotions I’m feeling and imagining someone else in my position going through the same thing. I also want to keep focus on how to get beyond the painful or unpleasant emotions because if there’s no happy ending to the story or triumphant moment, I can’t write a cohesive piece so number 7 would be…
7. Before writing, figure out the lessons and the way out so that others can learn from my experience.
When I think about this process, I realize that I won’t write unless I know the answers or some sort of solution. If I don’t know how to help myself get out of a situation, I won’t be able to help others.
I think that’s all I can come up with for now. 😉 In a nutshell, I started off thinking about all the scenarios where someone stood up for me. I found none, but it made me think about my abuse at 4 and how no one was there for me. That helped me access the emotions of what it was like not having anyone there for me. Then I fast forward and think about if I’ve recovered and healed from that event. When I know I’ve healed, or have healed quite a bit, then I’ll have something important to share.
I guess I’ve learned that I typically don’t write articles unless there’s a process of healing, learning and evolving throughout. I also stay out of victim mode while I write, but aren’t afraid to show emotions as they are more about being vulnerable (a place of power) not a victim.
Thanks for helping me explore. ;D
Hi, I really enjoyed reading this. I have social anxiety, Bi-Polar and PDD Autism. When people yell/raise their voice, use strong words, are blunt, and say whatever they want and don’t care what other feel, I get triggered from those people. I also have had people say only mean stuff, get mad if I want to reason or help them, they say whatever, as if, only cusses at you, there’s no helping me, I never get what I want, and things like that. You could help them but they end up making excuses and make more problems after you helped them. Any tips on how to deal with toxic people like that and are also irrational at the same time without feeling downed or triggered from what they say and do?
Thank you for your comment! I appreciate you sharing this. A lot of “loud” people are tough to be around in the first place (even for those of us who aren’t so affected by them) so it’s not just you! 😉
As for being triggered by them, I recommend drilling down into the reason you’re triggered. What do you think will happen if someone uses strong words around you? What fears come up? You might want to listen to my episode on anxiety and panic, as what I talk about in there could be helpful for you to narrowing down exactly what is causing you the trigger. Sure, perhaps your conditions have a lot to do with it, but it’s worth eliminating one thing at a time to figure out the issue. Here’s the episode I’m referring to:
Again, loud or obnoxious people are tough to be around in the first place. However if you have any fears come up when they are being the the way they are, what are those fears? Those people probably won’t change so now you have to look inward and ask yourself: What’s the worst case scenario?
You could come up with: “Well, if they are yelling, they might become violent and hurt me”. If that’s where your mind goes, then it makes sense why you get triggered. After all, no one wants to be hurt! In that case, think about your past… how many times has someone yelled at you or used strong language and also physically hurt you? Has it ever happened? Did it happen often? You may or may not have experienced it, but if it never happened, it’s time to consider that maybe they aren’t out to hurt you but they just can’t figure out any other way to communicate. Have you ever tried to explain something to someone but they just didn’t get it? Imagine being a child and trying to explain yourself to an adult with your limited language skills. Eventually you’ll get frustrated and maybe even cry, scream or lash out.
I see obnoxious people as those who never felt they got their message across so they learned to communicate in ways that might be seen as rude and inconsiderate to the rest of us. It’s not about us, it’s about them. When we make it about us (getting triggered), then we look inward and figure out just what the heck we’re really afraid of.
I was afraid of bosses yelling at me for a long time until I realized they were just trying to get their message across the only way they knew how. Then I stopped taking them too seriously when they were angry. Sure, they could have been angry with ME but I learned to discern facts from emotion and just addressed the facts.
I’m not saying that’s easy, but I do believe you have to get to a place where people being rude are obnoxious are more focused on being understood than anything else. They just do it in a way that we don’t agree with.
Regardless, being triggered is an old reaction that probably started when you were a kid (were you yelled at? Hurt or abused in any way?). You may want to listen to the emotional triggers episode too:
As far as reasoning with unreasonable people, forget it. You can’t do it. It’s absolutely impossible. Now, do I mean that 100%? No. But to accept that those you try to reason with can’t be reasoned with is a lot easier than trying to reason with them! 😉
Yes, there is that pacing and leading example I use. Agree with them, side with them, then lead them into another space. It takes a lot of patience, presence and sometimes skill to go through this process, especially if you are being triggered! For example, if someone calls you a jerk, you might get triggered. And now you’re in a bad state of mind.
But what if you said, “You may be right. I am a jerk.”? Guess what – you just paced them and now they are more open to what you have to say, believe it or not. Even if someone said, “You’re an idiot!” and you said, “You’re right, I am an idiot! I should have known better”, they are going to be more open to listening to what you say next.
Why? Because you aren’t showing them resistance. Obnoxious and rude people thrive off resistance. Once you show it to them, they stay on the opposite side of you no matter what. There’s a bit of manipulation going on when you pace them for sure, so check in with your values and make sure you are okay with it. When I run into this, I look at the greater good: Is it better that they are unhappy with me and maybe even a jerk toward me, or is it better to help them get to a calmer, more reasonable space?
This is a decision you can choose to make. But if you have a lot of toxic people around you, you may need to resort to influencing them so that everyone can be a bit happier.
In conclusion, there are thousands of ways to look at this and approach the situations you describe. If you want to make it fun, see them as people born with only half a brain. They have no idea how to communicate so they say and do things that are just crazy. It’s not about you, it’s about them trying to convey a message in the only way they know how.
Changing your perspective of someone doesn’t mean you love them any less, it’s just a tool to help you communicate with them since they don’t seem to have the ability to bring healthy communication into your relationship.
Thanks again for your comment!
What if their irrational behaviour is based on fear of abandonment, and that’s exactly what I want to do to them?
If you want to abandon someone, then their fear of you doing that is justified.
If however what you’re saying is that you want to honor yourself and get out of a relationship that is not healthy or does not work for you, then that’s a different story. I’ll assume this is the case, unless you truly, intentionally want to abandon someone. I think that’s a different topic of conversation altogether.
Otherwise, fear of abandonment will bring up all kinds of behavior that isn’t healthy and will cause the other person to feel guilty and stay in a situation that is nearly, if not fully, emotionally abusive. If you know someone that fears you may leave the relationship, and has a “I can’t live without you” attitude, you’re in for a tough road if you have any heart or compassion at all.
On the one side, they are manipulating you. If you leave, they will try to make you feel guilty. They may try to think they will harm themselves. They may believe they are completely unlovable and therefore will do anything to make you stay because ‘you are the only person that ever loved them this way’ or something to that effect.
This is a very unhealthy behavior because it relies on someone else for your happiness. If the person you are talking about relies on you for their happiness, nurturing, support and more, and doesn’t have any of that for his or herself, then you are in a very high pressure situation where you always have to be that person that provides. It’s an “endless provider” model and it never ends well because you never get enough “me” time because they always want all the time they can have with you.
I’m talking about specific situations and there are exceptions of course, but more often than not if you’re with someone who relies on other people to feel fulfilled in any way, that can put a huge strain on a relationship. The person in fear will often feel like it’s never enough and the person providing will often feel like they don’t have enough to give. They will get burnt out and it never ends with mutual feelings.
So what can you do? This is a tough one. My first thought is to keep the focus on you, not the other person. You are not “abandoning” them, you are honoring YOU and what you want in your life.
You are not rejecting them, you are following the path you believe you need to take.
You are against them in any way, you are FOR you and figuring out your life.
Every relationship has two individuals that need to fulfill themselves in ways that bring them comfort, happiness and even peace. This needs to be present before you get into a relationship at all so that if you are both emotionally healthy when you enter the relationship – you might actually have a great chance of staying together in the long-term.
If however one of you is highly dependent and / or highly needy of the other one, there will be a one-sided relationship. One will burn out while the other tries to get more love and attention from them.
If you need to honor yourself and leave the relationship, that’s where your focus needs to be. If you focus on “I’m leaving because of you! You’re so needy and you smother me and I can’t stand to be around you” then you might add to their already low self-esteem and low self-worth. Not that it’s your responsibility, but it helps to understand where the other person is when you’re approaching a sensitive topic such as breaking up or parting an unhealthy or unwanted relationship.
If I were you, I might do some ethical manipulation. I hate to call it that, and I don’t like telling you to even do it! But if the person you’re referring to really does have a low sense of worth and they feel they are completely unlovable or not worthy of love, I would do my best to convince them that they are absolutely worthy of someone who will love them how they deserve to be loved.
If you honor yourself and follow your path and your path doesn’t include this person, then make them feel like they deserve someone will is capable of giving them the love they need. You may very well be capable of it, but make sure they know that you leaving is not because of them not being good enough, but it’s about you needing to find yourself.
This comes to mind: “I can’t love you the way you deserve. You are an amazing person and I’m not capable of providing what you need.”
Again, I hate to give you any type of manipulation advice but if the person has at all threatened to hurt themselves, for example, that “tactic” may actually be exactly what they need to boost their worth and esteem and get them through the inevitable separation.
I hope this helps. Thanks so much for your question – it is I’m sure the same question on the minds of many others.
Help. I’ve always known my brother has problems with irrationality and insecurity. He’s broken agreements mostly over how to split things monetarily though we’re both pretty successful in that department. Well the latest one was he ended up borrowing some Disney vacation points worth about 700 bucks, he agreed to pay for them but never did. When the time rolled around for him to ask to use my vacation home, I just thought I’m going to let him know he doesn’t have free choice. He asked for two separate weeks, the first I said I would have to check with my wife. The second I said a friend already was going to go down and leave the day after he planned on going down. I told him he could go down a day later than his request. Now my friend also paid me some money but I didn’t feel as if I had to give him that information.
Well he seemed fine with it and actually emailed me with the days we had outlined and he agreed to all. Well the weekend in question comes around and he goes down a day before my friend was supposed to leave. I believe he truly mixed up the days, but my friend indicated he would make it work or even leave early but my brother after a two hour trip down wouldn’t even talk to him. At first I tried to show him that he had the dates mixed up by showing him the email, to which he called my friend an A hole and said “blood is thicker than water brother”. He also called and cursed at my wife even though she had nothing to do with the planning.
After trying to rationalize for a text or two I realized that wasn’t going to work and simply tried to accommodate him but he was too far gone. He said he was going home, left his wife, in another car, in a parking lot with the kids and they all drove 2.5 hours home. I emailed the next day apologizing for the mix up (trying to smooth things over, after all we are supposed to go to Disney in a few months. I would not take the blame but was sorry for the situation. I also offered for them to go down from that day to a longer date than they were planning.
I was in contact with his wife and she said “you know how he gets” there is no way they will go down now. Now this includes telling their kids all summer they were going to the shore, so he’s also punishing them because he mixed up the dates.
Oh he did lose his beloved dog earlier that week so I’m sure that had something to do with it.
Nearly the same situation happened with he and my sister nearly a decade ago, and they have not spoken word one since to give you some perspective of how bad this can get with him. I would like to smooth things over, for their kids, my mom, and to a much lesser extent him. I don’t want to end a pretty good relationship I’ve had with him for several years because he felt slighted, messed up some dates, and his dog died.
I believe he feels as if I picked my friend over him, but as explained above that had nothing to do with it.
How would you proceed in the days and weeks to come.
I just saw this comment so I apologize for the delay in my reply. One thing that comes to mind is that you cannot possibly override someone’s overreaction to things. If he feels slighted and takes that to the extreme, then there is nothing you can say but, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I tried to make this work for you but it didn’t. If you feel like you need to blame me, then that’s fine. But you’re my brother and I will always love you. If you don’t want to talk to me anymore, I will feel hurt but I’ll understand.”
I’m not saying you have to say those exact words, but you get the sentiment. The idea is to apologize one last time, mean it through and through, then let him take it from there. If he chooses to never contact you again, that’s his choice and there’s nothing you can do about it.
It’s not your fault that he was wrong but he probably doesn’t like being wrong, He’s also probably used to people apologizing to him for his misunderstandings, which can be a manipulative way to get people to do what he wants. It makes him keep the upper hand. If you always feel bad for what you did (even though it sounds like you did nothing wrong), he will feel superior.
I think if this ever comes up again, I would ask, “Why would I pick someone else over you?” and see how he answers. It might be revealing. He might say, “You never appreciated me!” or something like that. I can’t imagine his attitude came out of nowhere.
There’s really nothing you can do about someone who has a chip on their shoulder. His wife chooses to stay with him so that is her prerogative. It is not up to you to smooth things over with him, his kids or his mom. All you need to do is show that you love them in every interaction. I know you want to smooth things over but there’s nothing you can do without getting into a deeper mess of blame and criticizing.
The other approach is just to say adamantly: “I’m sorry you messed up the dates – it was clearly stated in the email. Not everyone is to blame for your mistakes in life – why don’t you take some responsibility and admit that you were wrong?”
You may get a ferocious reaction (because it sounds like he has a victim mentality and everyone is wrong but him) but it would certainly give him exactly what he needs to process and do something with. It may be just what he needs to hear because nothing else works. It could also end your relationship with him completely.
If I were in your shoes, I would take the more direct approach and let him know that I still love him even though he blames me for his error, but not many people can do that or are willing to risk their family relationship. I’m not suggesting you do this because it will likely mean losing him as part of your family. It could also mean helping him understand just how damaging he’s being.
It’s a tough call. I don’t think you have to apologize any more than you have. Maybe you could send him a few tickets for him and his family to a show or something? You shouldn’t have to, but if you want to keep your brother and his family in your life, it’s a gesture that shows you do care and he means a lot to you.
Someone who says, “You chose him over me” is still living in a child’s mind. It’s afraid of not being loved or being given attention. If he’s stuck there as an adult, and doesn’t see how this behavior hurts him and others, he may never get to heal from it. It may take some tough love from you to show him this.
Again, it’s not something you may want to do (be tough with him) but it would certainly lead to the end of something. I realize this is sort of an open-ended answer but however you’ve been up to this point hasn’t worked so it might be time to try something else. If you’ve been kind and apologetic and he won’t accept it, it might be time to firm. (“Dammit, I love you. You are my brother. If you’re going to hold this against me, something that you completely took the wrong way, then there’s nothing I can do about it. I want to have a relationship with you but not if you are always blaming me for something you did!”)
Like I said… tough call.
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Dude. Your 2010 airplane story? That woman knew what she was doing. she wanted off the plane —because nobody likes waiting 20 minutes to disembark– and she was planning that from the get go. She’s a manipulator I know someone cut from the same cloth who would pull the same thing. I would’ve said oh you’re feeling panicked? oh well you’re just gonna have to wait like the rest of us.
You could be right! 😉 Great comment. I have witnessed manipulative behavior like that and it certainly has been used by people to get what they want.
As it was, I would still have responded the same way. She didn’t care about anything else. She left her purse with me, a stranger she just met, and became laser focused on fulfilling that need.
Should I have just let her start screaming? Would it have gotten that far? It was escalating and I preferred not to find out. I lost nothing by giving her a mission to get off the plane. If she truly is overly dramatizing situations to get what she wants, it will eventually backfire on her.
I chose to err on the side of actual panic attack. Thanks for the great comment – it is food for thought.
I think you did the right thing absolutely. I’m just jaded because of the divas I’ve known. I’ve seen some hard-core manipulators at work. Yourcase pprobably wasn’t one of them though but she does sound like an energy vampire
Some “divas” I’ve met are typically very insecure and overcompensate by being bullying or narcissistic. Yes, they can be a drain. 🙂 Other divas are proud of who they are and it shows but don’t treat others badly. I have a feeling you are referring to the former.
I noticed the advice by most seems to want to treat mentally ill or depressed like a baby to keep them from exploding. You and others forget the person getting abused by this. I know by experience because i had no choice till i turned 18 to have rights to walk away from it . why should i or anyone else allow or cater to the abusive behavior these people throw at us? Don’t you are anyone else think that we need to teach them not to treat others around them that way. The truth is depression makes those who have it kill them selves too and we can’t help them really. They don’t want help when they go manic and will do what they want and it’s not our fault of who will feel sad for them. Stop treating depressed people like they have no responsibity for how they act! You can love them but it’s not your fault for how they feel.
Thanks so much for sharing your perspective Jennifer! When you are dealing with mentally ill people, then you will likely not be able to apply most of the steps in this article. And like yourself, I had to live with an abusive person until I was old enough to move out of my family home. I lived in fear most of the time and dealt with his irrational behavior on a nearly daily basis.
Unfortunately, my stepfather’s alcoholism made it extremely challenging for our family to teach or train him to be anything but his abusive self. Believe me, we tried. He even admitted to me one day that it was too late for him and he’d never change.
I wholeheartedly agree with you that you should not take abuse. If the person becomes abusive, you should do whatever you can to get away from them. Like I stated in the article:
“If someone starts overreacting in front of you, just ask yourself, “Do I have to deal with this right now? Should I just walk away and come back when things are better? Or, just walk away and never come back? Or do I really need to stay and make sure all goes well here. Or, am I sort of stuck here and must deal with it?“”
Always assess if the person is a danger to you and take the appropriate steps to protect yourself. My articles and podcast episodes on toxic people go over this concept in more depth: https://theoverwhelmedbrain.com/the-toxic-episode-the-toxic-relationship-validating-toxic-friends-enabling-toxic-behavior/
Now if you really feel like you need to teach them how to treat others, that is certainly your prerogative. This article wasn’t focused on how to teach people to treat other people. It was centered on what you can do to help people from an irrational state to a more calm, rational space. That’s not always possible of course.
There are some scenarios where teaching someone how to treat someone else will be effective and necessary so that their behavior stops. I have been known to honor my boundaries and tell someone to back off when they are being irrational. They stopped their bad behavior and learned how I prefer to be treated. This article is more about what to do when all the normal channels of dealing with irrational behavior don’t work.
As far as working with depressed people, I did not cover that in the article. I’m not sure where you think I said that depressed people shouldn’t take responsibility for their behavior. That is not something I mentioned in the article at all. In fact, I believe most people, including depressed people, are responsible for their own behavior.
Another commenter talked about enabling abuse too. Here’s what I replied to him:
“If it was interpreted anywhere that I said that you should accept abusive behavior, that was definitely not my intention. Sometimes you have to get away from people that simply cannot conform to societal or personal standards and boundaries. Those who intentionally, repeatedly hurt others need to be avoided (or even arrested).”
Thank you for your comment Jennifer. I can tell you are passionate about this issue and there’s very little you said that I disagree with. I appreciate you taking the time to share all of this. And I’m so glad you do not cater to abusive people! 🙂 I appreciate you.
My question is – did your friend with the tires learn anything from that situation? Or did he simply walk away feeling like the winner, and further reinforcing that type of behavior?
Where do we draw the line with people like this? You say that we shouldn’t take these sorts of outbursts personally, but, when you are exposed to them regularly, such as with a spouse – it gets very tedious living on eggshells. It feels like playing a game of “guess my trigger today”, followed up by an irrational outburst, followed up with (usually) no apology.
The example that you used of the lady on the plane was quite simplistic… She was looking you in the eye and telling you exactly what her problem was. Most irrational people don’t give others that courtesy… Then what?
Great comment – and great questions!
My friend walked away “winning”. I also walked away knowing more than I ever knew before that point. However, did he really win and did I really lose? The real question I asked myself that day was, “Did he really believe what he was saying, or was he trying to pull one over on me?”
My answer was that he truly believed what he was saying to me. He recalled a different price point than I did. I knew I was right and he knew he was right. But was I willing to go the distance by labeling him a liar, ending the friendship, keep the tension alive between us indefinitely, and hoping to never bump into him again? Or was it worth just taking a loss, buying the tires, then taking a mental note to never do business with this person again?
I think a lot of people make a lot of enemies based on principle and pride. I prefer to take note of behavior and make sure I never repeat mistakes with people that don’t play fair (or remember differently than I do).
So in answer to your question about drawing the line, I am totally with you on this. There are people in the world that get away with behavior then there are people in the world that really believe they are right. The trick is knowing the difference. It’s not worth it to me to teach someone a lesson if they honestly believe they are right because they will go their whole life thinking I was the bad guy. Sure, I may keep some pride, but it’s not worth it to me to create toxic people that I may continue to run into. I’d rather get closure with someone, even at a loss, then keep the negativity between us alive. It’s a personal choice that makes my life a whole lot less stressful.
However, I once shared the story of a “friend” who was a salesperson at a music store I frequent. I noticed him adding an upcharge to my purchase. He purposefully snuck it in to the final charge using fast talking and being real buddy buddy with me. I called him out on it right away and told him how unethical it was for him to do it.
He was speechless. He knew he was caught and didn’t know what to say. You can tell he hadn’t been called out on this behavior before.
As for a spouse that does repeated irrational behavior, this is a very different scenario. This is someone you plan on spending the rest of your life with. It’s one thing when you can walk away from the person and only see them every now and then, it’s an entirely different set of circumstances with a spouse. There needs to be serious discussion and accountability for bad behavior.
My version of “Irrational People” for relationships is The M.E.A.N. Workbook where I talk about emotional abuse (https://theoverwhelmedbrain.com/mean/). When a romantic partner is being irrational, open communication needs to take place at first. But considering that may not work (because they may not express what’s really on their mind, which is often why they get triggered), you might be looking at potential emotional abuse. You should never feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner.
If you are with someone who blows up at random things, then you are in an unstable environment. This kind of volatility is almost impossible to be around because you are in a constant state of fear. No one should have to live like this. It is possible there is some emotional abuse going on because someone who loves you will support your happiness, not threaten it on a daily basis.
Whatever your situation is, I do hope you are able to come to a place where you can stand up for yourself and say, “Sorry, I will not accept that kind of behavior. If you can’t get through a day without blowing up, then that’s you’re problem, not mine. Find a therapist!”
I realize saying something like that can be scary to certain people, and may not even work with certain people. Listen to my episodes on emotional abuse and consider getting the MEAN workbook to find out if you are in that type of situation.
Great questions – thanks again. I wish you the best!
Honeslty some of us just are not able to compete with others.
We work or do things because we either have to or because we are forced.
If someone believes something it is there problem.
I met someone with asperger’s who wanted to be famous with music, in a band, he told this to my mother and he didn’t understand why I wasn’t supporting him
He would say I’m being rational, negative, when this kid was rich and being pampered for having autism.
I honeslty do not know why as humans we need to bond and coach either other.
I know at the work place, offices, stores, we are supposed to be a team
the world to me is a glass house and this is why we are irrational
People sometimes just have irrational beliefs or interests
if you dont like there goals then why?
I’m so glad I found this article, I am currently dealing with my mom being very irrational and my whole family has no idea what to do or how to go about it. A little background information may help explain the situation better. My mom has always been hipper focus on money her whole life, she never trusted anyone with her money but would spend it freely if she wanted something. She constantly complains that everyone else spends too much money and does not respect her working but she makes very big purchases on things we as a family never use. My dad on the other hand put money in to a F01K, pension, and had other investments for years. He recently retired and has hired someone to help handle the money and invest it.
Up until last week my mom would have had to work 2 more years until she could retire, since my parents finances cant support both of them retired yet. She was furious that she had to keep working while my dad could retire. However last week my dad had talked to his new financial advisor and they found a way where if she works until the first of the year she could retire and their finances could support them both. You would think this would have made my mom happy and grateful, right? Well she went the total opposite way saying that my dad was forcing her to work another two months and that she was sick and tired of working, and now she is saying this financial advisor is plotting against her to get all their money. My whole family has tried to reason with her but every time she simply gets angrier and angrier.
This is not the first time something like this has happened, whenever something involves money my mom is almost guaranteed to get upset about it. I’m going try some of the techniques from this article to help reason with her, but I would love some extra advice.
My wife snapped a month ago after a minor argument. Separated and filed for divorce after 3 weeks. We’ve been married 35 years. We rarely argued maybe once a year and typically about minor things. She was sleep deprived and severely overreacted. Has not yet come to her senses and is in no contact mode. Very disappointing. Also never forgot a single slight in her life. Very pretty person.
Sorry you are dealing with that. It sounds like she reached a breaking point. I don’t know if you’ve had unresolved issues but if she’s been holding a grudge or resentment, something broke the camel’s back and made her snap. This happens unfortunately. If our loved ones don’t share what’s going on inside them, and they hold it in for months or years, they’ll reach the point of no return.
Everyone has a breaking point. If nothing was wrong in the relationship as far as you know, then she must have been holding it in and not expressing it. OR, she was expressing it but you didn’t think it was that important so she felt invalidated and maybe even disrespected.
I’m throwing darts in the dark – only guessing – but a snapping point makes me think that something was on her mind for years and anything small could have pushed her over the edge.
I have an episode where I talk more about that here:
I’ve struggled with this issue for a long time. I never berated anyone for their feelings, but hoped they would take a second look at what they believed in. The older I got (now 50+), the more concerned I became about the health of humanity (for lack of a better term.)
I referred to history and even sci-fi which that actually predicted future. If you look at the questions I’ve answered on quora.com they are basically “what is the quickest and easiest way to make money”, No one seems to understand that hard work can get you to a place you want to be; or quick fixes and/or money are hard to come by and short lived (more examples are in my quora answers). My brother and sister are the last of our line, so we have no stake in trying to pass on knowledge or even if it matters.
So when it comes to try to talk rationally with irrational people, how can you argue with someone who values instant gratification – especially when there is a good chance they will get it. Sign me up for Brave New World’s soma. It’s basically government controlled and socially accepted drug abuse. I won’t have to worry about what rights, freedoms and decisions I once cared about because I can rely on the government making me happy (and numb).
If you think there is little to no chance of that happening, talk to me as an irrational person.
My husband is 75 years old, but very active. We recently went to his family reunion and on more than a few occasions he acted, in my opinion, very irrationally. At the reunion dinner he got very agitated with a cousin about the seating arrangement and practically got into an altercation with her. Also at the dinner I introduced him the chef I met at the bar and he picked up his fork and motioned it to the chef like a knife and made a comment about he knows what to do with it. When we went to the car rental place, he became angry because the representative didn’t get there fast enough. I made the mistake of asking him to calm down, and that made him even more angry. As we left with the car to get on the highway, I was trying to tell him to get in the lane marked for the highway we were supposed to take. He slammed on the console and told me NOT TO DO THAT, YOU’VE BEEN DOING THAT FOR A FEW MONTHS, STOP IT, STOP IT. I replied in a soft voice, ” I’m just trying to show you where we need to go, I’m trying to help”. Consequently, throughout the entire trip, I was silent and completely shut down. These occurrences are happening more and more, and I’m very concerned. He’s 6 years older, but we’ve never had this communication problem before.
One approach is to ask: “What’s really going on with you lately? You’ve been more upset than normal. Tell me what’s happening.”
Unfortunately, some people don’t express what’s really happening inside them so they’ll act out in other ways that have nothing to do with what they’re really upset about.
Now, that is true in many cases but not all. It is possible he is experiencing a degradation of some sort, either mentally or physically. I know some people start getting upset, usually with themselves, at the onset of dementia. I’m not qualified to diagnose that, nor am I suggesting that’s happening, but that or some other medical condition may be occurring that he may need checked out.
It’s important to catch that as soon as possible. If it’s getting worse, ask the question I mentioned at the beginning of my comment. If you can’t get an answer, hopefully you can find a professional to determine what might be going on.
Sorry you have to deal with this. I wish you much strength through the challenge you’re experiencing. Thank you for sharing this.
Sounds like early stages of Alzheimer’s, doesn’t it?
I hope not. But yes, it could be.
Thank you, thank you. Dealing with an irrational sister right now. She is taking things my 6 year old says to her personally and choosing not to talk to us now. Also she called her son a name in front of my daughter, my daughter repeated it to her son, and now she is mad at my daughter for repeating it. After all, her son ‘didn’t hear what she called him in the first place.’ Your information helped me a great deal today. I haven’t known how to handle this situation at all. Now I have some tools, thanks to you.
Thank you for this information. Life saving. I’m in a difficult relationship. Awesome guy. But he has rage/anger issues that come out often. Leaves me in a challenging place.
I’m with my partner 20years we have a son who is 19 we live a quiet content life most of the time however we live with a man that is a closed book and went things get heated he behave irrational to the point he won’t listen becomes so worked up could bang smash verbal abuse and had closed himself off by drinking whiskey and taken a sleeping pill to escape we love him and its breaking our unit any advice would be so helpful
Sounds like the type of person that doesn’t know how to express himself. And when he becomes upset, he can’t think so he just stonewalls anyone who tries to talk / argue with him. If you want to have a conversation with him, it has to be in a way that doesn’t get him upset. That may be difficult or impossible depending on the topic, but if you want to have any sort of relationship with a person like this, you may have to work with his inability to communicate well under pressure. If I were with someone like this, I’d wait for a calm time then ask him a question like, “I know it’s a touchy subject, but when you’re ready, can we talk about ____?” This way, you are being passive and not reactive. If he gets this way when you’re reactive, then he is not a good communicator during those times.
Not saying you can’t ever be reactive. You have every right to be. But again, IF you want a relationship with someone like this and you want to be able to communicate with them about important subjects, you’re going to have to be open and non-judgmental and not go into argument mode in order to get anything out of him. Someone who gets angry, verbally abusive, and storms off to drink might be holding in a lot of anger and holding back from wanting to hurt people so he protects others by hiding from them.
That’s a total guess, but it’s an educated one. If you can’t even approach him during calm times and you’re giving him a safe space to express himself where he doesn’t feel judged and he still gets angry and stonewalls you, then you may have to accept that you cannot communicate with this person. That means a number of things. It might mean you do not involve him in your decisions anymore. It might mean telling him you can’t be with someone who isn’t willing to talk with you. There’s a point where if the person you’re supposed to be able to share anything with isn’t sharing back that you no longer have a relationship.
The last thought I have on this is if this started at one point (where he wasn’t always like this), then it’s possible he has something to say but doesn’t want to say it. For example, my first girlfriend changed and became much less communicative when she fell out of love with me. She wasn’t an angry person in general so that didn’t happen to us, but she was definitely a different person. Not saying that’s the same for you. Could be any number of reasons he isn’t speaking a truth to you, but you might want to ask him a hard question like, “You know, you weren’t always like this. What’s going on? I mean, really, what’s going on in there? Is there something else you’re not telling me? Be honest. I won’t react, I’ll just listen. Please just share whatever’s on your mind.”
That might get you a hard truth to swallow, but it also might lead to closure or a new beginning of something that needed to be revealed.
I don’t know if any of this helps, but I wish you much strength through this.
Thank you. I needed to read this just now.
You’re welcome. I appreciate you sharing this. Good luck with whatever you’re dealing with.
Great article and what an amazing story about successfully de-escalating the woman on the airplane!
I’m now trying to process your concept of “irrationality … comes down to fulfilling a need” to my own situation of caring for my 65% loving yet 35% irrational elderly mother, who now I understand in hindsight always suffered from personality disorder.
I’ve done the “4. Act more irrational than them”, and agreed this does work, full stop. But this technique also leaves me emotionally drained, not to mention the guilt of deceit. So, this is really the “nuclear option” for me. If you feel the need to try this, but also feel repulsion at the thought of “acting” irrational, please be careful of the after effects.
Great comment! You’re right, you can become emotionally drained because you have to be someone you’re not. It’s full-on acting and it’s a lot of work when you already struggle with the concept that you have to be this way at all just to communicate with someone you care about.
Those with personality disorders are going to throw everything at you (not necessarily intentionally). There’s a principle in NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) that has always stuck with me. Basically, it is a principle that says the person with the most flexibility in a system will control that system.
“Flexibility” represents behavior. The more flexible someone is in their behavior, the more likely they will control the system.
The “system,” in this case, is your relationship with your mother.
Currently, your mother has the most flexibility because she controls the system the majority of the time. When you act more irrational, you are being more flexible because you are acting in an unpredictable way. This can be off-putting to someone who is used to people acting a certain way around them. With your mom, she doesn’t know how to react to your behavior. When you are more “flexible” in your behavior, you probably notice she isn’t as irrational (like you said).
For example, if she cried about spilt milk, you might be more flexible by not just crying, but also screaming, flailing your arms, then complaining about the glassmaker for making a glass that tips over so easily, and griping about the farm that provided the milk in the first place. This “craziness” would help you lead her state of mind to a less irrational place.
From what you said though, she leads your (and probably others) state of mind when she acts in such a way that you don’t know how to handle. That’s why irrational people can often get what they want. Not many people know what to do with them so they try to please them in any way possible so they’ll stop being irrational.
Being more “flexible” than they are in behavior however makes you the leader of their state of mind because they’re not sure what to do next. They are used to being in control by being irrational. When you do it though, it’s a new thing to them. They calm down naturally.
It really comes down to who is going to lead the other person’s state of mind. When she’s irrational, she is leading you where she wants you. When you act even more irrational, you are able to lead her.
The challenge you’re having is that it takes a lot of energy to do this. I don’t disagree with this at all. It can be draining for sure. So since you can’t be irrational all the time, sometimes it can be helpful to step into their reality with them, making it appear as if you believe everything they’re saying, but also telling them “we need to get to the bottom of this!”
This takes a bit of work too because you are helping them go down rabbit holes that they normally wouldn’t go down. It might make them uncomfortable enough to actually stop being irrational.
An (exaggerated) example of “stepping into their reality,” and “getting to the bottom of this” might be she believes aliens abduct her every night. Instead of saying, “You’re crazy! That’s not happening,” you would step into her reality and say, “Oh my god! What do they look like? Do they take you on a spaceship?” and so on. Then, to “get to the bottom of this,” you might say something like, “We need to set cameras up in your room. Then, the next morning, we’ll review them together and see what happened. We’ll do this every night and we’re sure to catch them on film.”
Again, that’s exaggerated, but stepping into their reality, then getting to the bottom of it can also be a way for them to act less irrational over time for a couple reasons: 1. Reinforced evidence that what they believe isn’t reality and 2. They aren’t hearing, “You’re wrong” like they are used to hearing so they are more willing to accept and trust that you are on their side. And if you continue to show you’re on their side, they may figure out that perhaps their reality isn’t as crazy as they believe it is.
That’s if all goes as planned. With a personality disorder however, nothing may ever go as planned. But, you can only do so much before you finally need a break. You may try every process you can only to find out that no matter what you do, they’ll never change. At that point, accepting them as they are is the only logical last step. When you know someone will always be the way they are, you stop looking for signs they’ll change. It can be freeing.
I wish you luck for what you’re going through. Thanks for your comment!