When someone is being irrational, they don’t listen to reason, logic, or even common sense. Toxic people may overreact – often making up stories about a situation you may be both involved with. These types of people are entirely focused on fulfilling their needs. You might be asking yourself, “Why should I bother dealing with someone when they are irrational?” If being around someone you work or live with causes distress for you, then you have to deal with it.
How can you keep your integrity during these moments? Here are five ways.
Listen and let the person vent
When people are overreacting, they are making up stories about the situation. They are fabricating their own meaning and attaching it to something that is likely not at all what you think it is. Their emotions are running high, and this can cloud their logic, closing off rational thought. While you know that making logical sense usually guides us to a more beneficial outcome, listening without interrupting or arguing allows the other person to vent their emotions. Don’t defend yourself! Take a deep breath and exhale. Know that their irrationality will begin to dissipate and you’ll help this person to calm down. You maintain your integrity because you are staying calm, collected, and non-defensive.
Make a personal connection by summarizing what you heard
Do not try to solve the problem! The toxic person is likely hyper-focused on something they think they need. They are running off a belief system and think they know what is rational. If you calmly summarize what you heard them say, they will be able to hear it back and get a growing sense of objectivity. You don’t have to agree with the person’s point of view. Simply paraphrasing lets them know they are being heard, and you can maintain your integrity.
Be empathetic and don’t try to fix the person
Accept them as they are. It’s tempting to try to help someone, especially since we all want to solve the problem. You probably will make some efforts to assist them. While this can sometimes work, often your efforts will not be rewarded. Accept that irrational people are where they are in this moment, and temper your expectations about what others can and want to do. Try to understand what the critical issue might be for them and just be there to help them work through it. Knowing someone is on their side will to help them relax and come back to a place of calm. Your concerned support keeps your integrity in balance.
Ask questions to get an accurate assessment of the situation
Asking questions shows your interest in their dilemma. It shows you care, respect, and have an interest in what they are going through. This also allows you some time to determine the best course of action for you to take in a positive way rather than a reactionary one. Ask questions that they may not be asking themselves, such as, “Why do you care so much?” “What might happen if you tried seeing this another way?” By asking questions, you remain in integrity because your questions assist the other person to consider their answers and they will feel ownership over their decisions and choices.
Detach yourself from the situation and don’t take it personally
All emotion that comes from the other person is personal to them, not to you. Someone else’s feelings cannot define who you are. If someone gets angry at you, it is really anger they feel inside due to the story they convinced themselves of. Visualize your boundaries, that protective territory between you and someone else. No one is entitled to occupy your space unless you invite them in. While it’s difficult not to take things personally, especially when you feel attacked or are made to feel responsible for another person, you’ll keep your integrity if you prevent any personal interaction or relationship to infringe upon or challenge your own well-being. While you want to be respectful and attentive to others as much as possible, you don’t need to twist yourself into a pretzel to keep the peace.
These five tips may be easier said than done, but practicing them over time keeps your integrity in check. Someone else’s irrational behavior is not about you, it’s about them, and when you see this, you can respond differently and with self-care.