“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” — Paramhansa Yogananda
We’ve all had to deal with someone that we thought was incredibly difficult, completely unreasonable and totally impossible to deal with. It can be frustrating and infuriating to feel that we cannot get through to this person because there is no bridge for communication with them. If these interactions are long-term ones, you can become bitter and resentful towards the unfair individual and end up feeling depressed and unsatisfied towards the relationship, ultimately trying to withdraw from it. Although there may not be a tested method to successfully reason with an unreasonable person, here are some techniques worth re-iterating to manage and defuse difficult interactions:
- Listening sounds simple, but isn’t often as easy – especially when you or your beliefs are being personally attacked. However, listening has many benefits. For starters, by listening you can really hear what your counterpart is trying to say and formulate a logical, well thought-out response to it. At the same time, you are serving to de-escalate a situation by making the individual across from you feel heard and perhaps even validated to an extent.
- Stay calm. Again, this is easier said than done. However, keep in mind that you are dealing with an unreasonable person so do not take everything that you hear personally. You can try to count your breathing as a way to relax.
- Be respectful. Even though you might be at the receiving end of disrespect, emanate regard and respect towards your counterpart both in an attempt to defuse the situation and to be clear to your own conscience.
- Be introspective. Is the unreasonableness or aggression a result of something else? Is this person going through a difficult time or are they always like this? Trying to understand more about the person you are dealing with can help you find common ground and build rapport with the individual.
- Don’t give out orders. Do not tell a person you are in a heated discussion with to calm down or be quiet; this will serve to exacerbate their fury. Instead, listen, de-escalate and explore the issues gently and over time.
These are just some simple reminders for handling difficult conflict situations. However, every situation is different and its context unique, so you have to be flexible in trying to work your way through interactions with seemingly unreasonable individuals. Also, remember to take care of yourself once the situation has ended. Conflicts can take a mental, physical and emotional toll, whether or not you’ve managed to de-escalate them. Talk to someone you trust about what just happened and how it made you feel, or find a way to relax yourself, whether that’s through reflection, meditation, prayer or exercise. Finally, give yourself credit for having handled an uncomfortable situation – it takes a lot of energy to tolerate someone treating you badly!