Just Because They’re Difficult, That Doesn’t Make Them Crazy

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on September 2, 2011

Dealing With PeopleThere aren’t many books in the self help arena for dealing with truly crazy people, and there are probably a lot of good reasons for that.  First of all, the legal liability if something goes wrong has to be considered.  Second, I think dealing with ‘crazy’ people requires skills not likely to be learned from reading a self-help book.  My coauthored book, ‘Dealing With People You Can’t Stand’ does not assume that other people want to make things work better, only that you, the reader, do.

Yet the premise of that book (and of my work) is that people are generally well intentioned,and do whatever they do for a reason.  Their behavior, whether you like it or not, serves some positive intent, even if it creates a negative reaction in others.  If you can identify this intent and blend with it, you gain access to a whole host of options besides your own stress response of fight or flight.

The problem with labeling someone as crazy is that it becomes a limiting and self fulfilling assumption.  Once you decide something like that, you can’t help but look for proof in order to be right about what is wrong.  The predictable result of limiting assumptions is a sense of powerlessness to change the situation.  I call that a booby prize, because it is what losers win.

Instead of winning by losing, I advocate replacing limiting assumptions with useful ones.  That’s what the Lens of Understanding is for  (it’s in the book.)   The Lens gives you something useful to assume, and then provides a behavioral vector of approach that you can use to resolve the conflict.

Some people divide people up into two categories:  people are either normal or crazy (you = normal; they = crazy).  Personally, I find many useful shades of grey when it comes to dealing with different behavior.  And a useful question to ask yourself when you’re dealing with any kind of bad behavior is this:   Is it possible that the way you deal with these people could be part of your problem with them?  That perhaps your approach is crazy?

Live and learn, reframe your labeling system, practice more blending, speak to positive intent, listen before speaking, and think strategically by organizing your response around a desired direction.  Because, like it says in the book, if all you know is what you don’t want, you will get more of it.  I think you’ll be amazed at what becomes possible when you organize yourself with direction and strategic thinking.

Then, if you’re really wanting to expand the domain of your effectiveness, consider the audio program for my previous work, Insider’s Guide To The Art Of Persuasion: Use Your Influence To Change Your World.’  It will give you many more options besides the ones you’ve been using.

Be well,


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