Dealing with Irrational People

How do you deal with irrational people in your life? Do they frustrate you? Do you feel a strong need to make such people see reason? Have you been successful with this approach?

Of course we all have some rational and irrational aspects, so labeling another person as all-around irrational may be a bit of a stretch, so if you don’t like the irrational people label, you can soften it to “people who behave irrationally with you sometimes.”

Your Irrational Side

One of the best ways to handle the irrationality of others is to acknowledge and make peace with your own irrational side. When you accept that you don’t behave rationally all the time, it’s easier to forgive and accept the foibles of others, even when they express their irrationality differently than you.

You’ll often see your relationship with your own irrationality being reflected in your relationships with others. If you resist your irrational side or try to repress it, other people’s irrationality may irritate you. If you accept and enjoy your irrationality, you probably won’t consider it such a big deal when people express their irrationality as well.

I like to think of my rational side as the part of me that loves order and my irrational side as the part that loves chaos. I see value in both. Order tries to make sense of reality. Chaos generates new possibilities to explore.

If all I had was order, life would be boring. If all I had was chaos, life would be random and purposeless. The combination, however, is beautiful.

Playing with Irrationality

How much expression do you give your irrational side? Do you let it out to play now and then? Or do you keep it plugged up like a genie in a bottle?

I used to hate my irrational side. I saw it as a personal weakness – one of evolution’s inefficiencies that should have been purged from our DNA long ago. But while I felt that way, my irrationality would still seep out. I’d waste a lot of time on irrational activities. I just didn’t acknowledge it most of the time.

These days I have a healthy respect for my irrational side, and I deliberate give it expression by inviting some extra chaos into my life. When I do this, it satisfies that part of myself, and I soon feel the pendulum swinging back to my rational side.

When I let myself play with chaos, my rational side gets a rest. During those rest periods, it grows stronger. When I come back to it after an extended break, my rational side is renewed and restored. I solve problems more easily. I make better decisions. I feel more emotionally resilient.

For the past 10 days, Rachelle and I have been enjoying the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. We’ve seen about 30 plays so far (6 of them yesterday), and we’ll see a few more today. We’ve seen dramas, comedies, clown shows, physical comedy, musicals, storytelling, acrobatics, and more. The Fringe Festival is like a mega-dose of human creative expression. It’ll make you laugh and cry and everything in between. There are few rules, so the performers are free to create and share whatever types of shows they can devise. Once you’ve seen some of the wildest Fringe plays, mainstream theatrical productions look tame and sanitized by comparison.

Watching 30+ plays in 10 days is one way I invite more chaos into my life. It’s not really a rational thing to do. It’s a fun, stimulating, and playful experience. And it gives me a delightful feeling of abundance. While I’m here I can sense the gradual renewal of my rational mind. It’s had a chance to rest, and it soon craves more expression, like a coiled spring with lots of potential energy. That rational energy will be a great match for returning to Vegas tomorrow and gearing up to do the Conscious Abundance Workshop next weekend.

Your Irrational Relationships

Many people get frustrated and upset with the irrational people in their lives – especially relatives. You don’t want to know how many emails I’ve received over the years from people telling me about their irrational family members and asking how to deal with such people. Actually, they don’t really ask that. They ask how to help such people see reason. Irrational behavior in others is seen as a problem to be solved, a disease to be cured, a bug to be fixed.

People often try to treat their irrational friends, coworkers, and family members as potentially rational. They hope against hope that a logical argument will eventually work, if only they can come at this from the right angle. They try to use facts when facts are worthless. They may win the rational argument, but no one acknowledges their victory, and in the end they still lose the emotional argument. The argument accomplishes nothing. It just upsets everyone and then perpetuates a slightly wounded status quo afterwards.

Sometimes you can catch someone at a good time, seemingly persuade them with reason and even get them to acknowledge your conclusions. But a few days later, it’s like the conversation never happened. The other person sneakily pushed the reset button when you weren’t looking – and they didn’t even tell you.

Can you at least see that this approach doesn’t work? Even if when you think you’ve won, you’ve lost. As the saying goes, A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

Is it possible that this social problem stems from your own relationship with irrationality? If you fail to respect your irrational side, you won’t respect it in others. They’ll detect this lack of respect and push back.

The USA is currently playing out this drama on a national scale with the whole Donald Trump phenomenon. Trump is the candidate of irrationality. His arguments make no logical sense. Electing him would be ridiculous for the country in a rational sense. Yet there are plenty of enthusiastically irrational supporters. In a way this election cycle is like one big, crazy Fringe play – a wild expression of irrationality.

Do rational people respect Trump and the role he’s playing? It doesn’t seem like it. But of course we know where this leads. If you treat irrationality with disrespect, it just flares up even stronger.

I actually respect Trump – not as a political candidate (that would be ludicrous) – but as a clown. He’s made a huge joke of the Republican Party and the USA overall. One the one hand, the whole thing makes me chuckle. On the other hand, I think it will teach us all some good lessons regarding how we relate to irrationality going forward. Does resisting and denigrating it really work? Nevertheless, I’m writing this from Canada and getting increasingly comfortable spending a lot of time outside the USA, just to be safe. 😉

The more you respect irrational people, the less they’ll bother you. Don’t expect them to be rational. Don’t try to throw reason in their faces.

What about relatives, coworkers, or friends? Could you respect their irrationality, even if it seems to get in your way? Could you regard other’s irrational foibles as an invitation to explore your own relationship with irrationality?

Moreover, are you giving your own irrational side enough expression, or are you suppressing it? Do you push your logical mind to exhaustion, where you can barely two two hours of productive, focused work in an eight-hour shift? Or do you take time to play with chaos and invite new growth experiences from unexpected angles?

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Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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