How do you reason with unreasonable people? You don’t. I am sorry to say, but you do not reason with unreasonable people because they are, in fact, unreasonable.
However, there are some communication tactics that can abate your nerves and make tough conversations more productive.
Consider these the next time you are confronted by an unreasonable.
Never tell unreasonables they are wrong
The number one mistake anyone can ever make during a conversation with unreasonables is to tell them that they are wrong.
Even if they are wrong and you are an expert arguer, you will get your you-know-what handed to you by insulting the intellect of an unreasonable.
They are more stubborn and relentless than you, and they are irrational, so you will not get very far in the conversation.
There are other ways to communicate error; but by blatantly saying, “you are wrong,” you are actually begging the unreasonable to permanently dishevel your sanity.
Do not apologize for their mistakes
Oftentimes, unreasonables have an uncanny ability to twist the conversation around and make the situation seem like your fault.
If you did something wrong, definitely admit it and offer sincere apologies.
However, if you find yourself being blamed for things the unreasonable actually did, do not allow the unreasonable to take advantage of you.
Accept responsibility for your share of the situation, but no more. (I am sorry, dear reasonable, but if there are two people in a relationship, then there are two responsible parties. Being the reasonable person that you are, you will have to accept your portion.)
Show a little humility in order to break down the hostility, but do not allow the unreasonable to make you feel like everything is your fault. If you do, you will only enable their assertion of dominance over you.
Do not cry or show anger
Maintaining emotional composure is vital for a successful outcome.
Unreasonables will use your emotions against you.
They will not feel guilty if you start to cry. They will not become frightened if you yell in angst. Tears and anger only bubble their caldron.
Remaining emotionally neutral (at least outwardly) is a very difficult skill to perform, but it can be learned (unfortunately through many tough conversations with unreasonables).
Practice this during every conversation with an unreasonable and you will improve.
Please, do not forget to expel that suppressed emotion later by going for a run, beating up a punching bag, or meditating. If you do not discharge your tension, your face will likely end up at the bottom of an ice cream container, and you will hate yourself.
Ask lots of questions
Unreasonables love to hear themselves talk. Filling up the air with fallacious chatter means less space for reason and responsibility to leak in.
You, my dear reasonable, can wield such chatter to make the conversation more productive.
The person who asks the questions controls the conversation. This statement is so true and so often overlooked.
When conversing with an unreasonable, do not try to get your own words in unless you plan on saying everything the unreasonable wants to hear (good luck with that one). Instead, guide the conversation by asking questions.
Aim to get to the root of the issue. Ask specific questions about their begrudgery, and then let them speak. Listen intently (and look like you are listening intently), then use their exact words to formulate simple, detailed questions that get you closer to the fundamental issue.
Aim for a stalemate
You are not going to win the conversation.
Even if the conversation gets resolved and you feel that significant progress was made, you are dealing with an unreasonable. That means the conversation you feel so good about can easily be forgotten or thrown back in your face at a later time.
Conversations are not about winning (not to you anyways).
Conversations with unreasonables are opportunities to better understand their quandaries and to help them better understand their quandaries, as well. The goal is to end on a draw so that neither party feels defeated, but both have better insight into the issue.
Do you have any advice on communicating effectively with unreasonable people? Do tell!
Unreasonable people are not bad people or stupid people or people we should not hang out with; rather, they are people with skewed perceptions of reality rooted in personal insecurity.
We all can be unreasonable from time to time, but when unreasonableness is a habit, it becomes a huge burden on relationships.
Can you think of a time when you were unreasonable? What snapped you back to reality? Perhaps you can use your personal experiences as the basis for communicating with unreasonable people you encounter in your life.
If you feel that progress between you and the unreasonable is underway, do not give up, especially if the unreasonable is someone you choose to love.
If zilch is happening and you become increasingly unhappy in the relationship, evaluate whether the relationship is worth holding onto and working on.
It’s tough, but no one can make the decision for you. But you are strong and can handle this.
(photo credit: Max the Brown Tabby and Burt the Grey Kitten: Cat Argument 3 via photopin license)