Most of us have come across irrational behavior either from a family member, friend, or even a co-worker. Their behavior or response appears to be inappropriate in the current context and the person is unwilling or unable to be reasoned with. For example, shouting outside of work and shouting at work would be construed very differently. So what are some strategies to deal with an irrational person, when you can’t just walk away and let it be?
It is always helpful to gain some insight as to why they are behaving the way they are. For example, a claustrophobic woman panicking in an elevator may seem irrational in the moment, but may have suffered some previous episode which caused her to feel this way. Trying to gather information and talk to the person directly may help calm them down.
Meet the person where they are
The one thing that doesn’t help when a person is irrational is to tell them to calm down. If anything, it can exacerbate as the person feels trivialized and not understood. Try to ask more specific questions and absorb the emotions to meet the person where they are.
Identifying the fear
Working with a co-worker who starts getting angry and shouting out of the blue? Instead of responding with anger, the situation may be diffused if you can figure out what the concern is. Is he worried about the deadline, not receiving credit, job security, something personal? Identifying the fear and addressing that, instead of just the behavior, may help the person calm down.
Don’t fight back
Having a normal conversation with someone and it suddenly escalates and the person is irrationally upset? Take a deep breath and stay calm. Don’t get caught up in the argument, and allow the moment to blow over.
Have a sense of humor
Humor is always a great de-escalator, but must be used with sensitivity. The person can’t feel like they are being laughed at, but you can have a sense of humor about your own reaction to prevent the inner tensions from rising. It will also help with not fighting back and getting dragged into a confrontation.
We all become irrational at times when we don’t get what we want or feel overwhelmed with fear or anxiety. Try to be as patient as you would like someone to be with you during those times to help you overcome. Treating others as you would like to be treated yourself, is a good motto to remember when you’re in this spot!