How to deal with irrational people

We all have to deal with irrational people at one time or another, and it can be a very frustrating experience. Some people just won’t listen to reason. Fortunately you have me, your resident bastion of rational thinking, to provide you with simple and useful ways of dealing with these people.

But before we get to that, and before you even try to deal with an irrational person, ask yourself this question: Why is it so important for you to deal with this person? Is it because you are Right, and they are Wrong? Is it really so critical that they are dragged around to your way of thinking? Will the world truly end if they are left clinging to what is, in your personal opinion, an irrational viewpoint? Or is it just really funny to make them look stupid (answer: yeah, it is).

It’s important to ask yourself these questions because you want to be sure that you yourself are not also being irrational. Because while it may often be mildly amusing to others to see two irrational people engage in verbal (and sometimes physical) combat, it’s rarely constructive.

So without further ado, I humbly present to you the Critical Awesomeness Method for Dealing with Irrational People, or CRAMDIP:

Hand Grenades. I wish. Unfortunately hand grenades are not widely available, and pretty much guarantee that Very Bad Things would happen to you if you were to ever try to use one as an arguing tool, even in jest. But it’s still fun to imagine having your very own handheld ultima ratio regum. That’s “last argument of kings”. Louis XIV of France had it engraved on all of his cannons. That dude knew how to deal with irrational people.

The Socratic Method. No, I don’t mean poisoning them with hemlock. Although I suppose technically that would be an effective way of “dealing” with them. Just might get you into a bit of trouble though. Instead, it’s probably better to go with the method Socrates employed himself, which is to simply ask questions in a way that stimulates critical thinking. Honestly, this is pretty much the best way to go in almost any situation. Often by merely asking questions you can get straight to the root of the problem, rather than wasting your time trying to use reasoning that will simply bounce off their irrational shell like ping pong balls off a fat, inebriated college student.

Common Sense. It’s been my experience that “Common Sense” is the term people like to invoke to describe their own personal opinion when it’s completely unsupported by empirical evidence. It’s also been my experience that people don’t really like it when you helpfully point this out to them. But it is pretty funny, so you should do it anyway.

Facts. This may seem like Common Sense (see above), but when dealing with irrational people it’s best to stick with empirical evidence, rather than logic or reasoning. Because even if your logic and reasoning are sound, if the other person could follow it, then by definition they wouldn’t be irrational.

“I agree with your analysis of your delusion.” This one comes from Scott Adams. Apparently he was tired of people assuming that he held some belief that he did not indeed hold, and subsequently berating him for it. Use this when someone has a really stupid idea, but everything that follows from it has been argued to a logical conclusion.

“I’d agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.” I don’t know where this came from, but it’s pretty much a conversation stopper. Use this when you are certain that no amount of logic, reasoning, or empirical evidence will convince the other person that they are wrong, and also probably secretly attracted to farm animals.

“So you say.” This is a pretty good one. It comes from a certain special person who I’m not going to name, because that’s Just not Polite, Truly. Those are his initials, in case that was too subtle. Anyway, this one is useful when you just don’t want to get into it. Because you’re not technically disagreeing with the person, but you’re sort of indirectly implying that they’re wrong. And trust me, when someone does this to you in a really aloof and condescending way, it’s INFURIATING. I mean, it’s been a year since he used it on me and I still HATE that guy. Well, not really. But I was pretty pissed off at the time.

People Who Give Unsolicited Bad Advice. This gets its own category because there is nothing in this world that pisses me off more than unsolicited bad advice. For me this is even worse than “so you say”. If you think about it, unsolicited bad advice is two-pronged dickery [note to self: come up with a less disturbing metaphor before posting this] because not only are they incorrectly telling you that you’re doing something wrong, but they’re also implying that they alone have all the answers to your problems. It’s a double dose of douchebaggery. And they seem to get some sort of bizarre pleasure from dispensing this advice. But hey, at least that means someone is getting some use out of it. Like a monkey frantically flinging poop at anyone who walks by its cage, at least they’re getting some exercise.

The way to deal with these people is to print out their advice on high-quality paper, take a gigantic dump on it, and leave it on their front porch. They’ll get the idea. Or, you know, you could just use the Socratic method. That probably works too. I guess. But don’t bother trying to reason with them. If they were reasonable, they wouldn’t be giving you the bad advice in the first place.

And finally:

That One Guy. This is something I can’t quite figure out. Apparently every single one of my friends knows this same guy who is COMPLETELY irrational. And I have friends from all over the world, so I don’t even know how that works. Regardless, from what I’m told this guy can’t take criticism of any kind. And if that’s not bad enough, apparently he even has a blog where he complains about other irrational people. Can you believe that?

Man, I hope I never run into that guy.

Wait a minute……


About Critical Awesomeness
I'm a 32-year-old American with a PhD in chemistry and a green hat. Only one of these two things is really important.

One Response to How to deal with irrational people

  1. Carlos says:

    Hi mate!!!!

    Probably you would not like to know about it…. but I still think that you should know….. Today I was not feeling very well and I have been in the Toilet already a couple of times ( just 10:43 am). Let’s see what the day brings.

    Are you already in Australia????

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