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Old 04-01-2007   #1
B coder
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Default How to Deal With Impossible People?

We all know impossible people. They tend to share three main characteristics: They cannot be reasoned with, they believe they can do no wrong, and they are convinced that everything is someone else's fault. If you haven't had some first-hand experience in dealing with such people, even a brief conversation can raise your blood pressure through the roof. These people may also be known to some as narcissists. Here are some insights and steps for dealing with these highly difficult people.
Steps
  1. Recognize that impossible people exist; you will eventually encounter them. There isn't a thing you can do about it. The first step is all about facing reality: If you think you might be dealing with an impossible person, you're probably right. When in doubt, proceed as instructed below. The headaches you save will be your own.
  2. Be aware that some people simply aren't compatible. Sometimes, a person who gets along with everybody else quite well is an impossible person for you personally. Most relationships between people contain many shades of gray, but some people simply mix as well as oil and water. It is common to hear your impossible person proclaim that "Everyone else likes me." This is an attempt to shift the blame to you, so don't buy it. It doesn't matter how this person interacts with others. The fact is, the way they interact with you personally is terrible. Remember that blame never changes the facts. To counter this, tell them that it is a logical fallacy, or specifically an Ad hominem.
  3. Understand that it's not you, it's them. This can be surprisingly difficult, considering that impossible people have complete mastery of blaming skills. If you're dealing with an impossible person, you're probably being told on a regular basis that every conceivable thing is your fault. It isn't. As the saying goes, "It takes two to tango." Chances are, the more often they blame you, the more they themselves are actually at fault. Keep in mind that this is not to be used as a way to blame them. Blaming is what impossible people do, and they do it well. Instead, you are only facing the facts, for your own sake. That being said, here's a simple way to tell: If you accept responsibility for your own faults and resolve to improve yourself, it's probably not you. Remember, impossible people can do no wrong.
  4. Realize that you cannot deal with impossible people the same way you deal with everyone else. In some ways, they need to be treated like children. Give up all hope of engaging these folks in any kind of reasonable conversation. It will never happen, at least with you. Remember what happened the last fifty times you tried to have a civilized discussion about the status of your relationship with this person. Chances are, every such attempt ended in you being blamed for everything. Decide now to quit banging your head against a brick wall.
  5. Protect your self-esteem. If you have regular dealings with someone who tries to portray you as the source of all evil, you need to take active steps to maintain a positive self-image. Remind yourself that this person's opinion is not necessarily the truth. Understand that oftentimes, impossible people are particularly "fact-challenged." If the attacks have little basis in raw fact, dismiss them. You can't possibly be as bad as this person would like you to believe you are. Do NOT defend yourself out loud, however. It will only provoke the impossible person into another tirade.
  6. Guard against anger. If it helps, consider the fact that your anger is actually a precious gift to the impossible person. Anything you do or say while angry will be used against you over and over again. Impossible people tend to have amazing memories, and they will not hesitate to use a nearly endless laundry list of complaints from the past against you. Five years from now, you could be hearing about the angry remark you made today (which you didn't even mean in the first place). Impossible people will seize anything that provides them the opportunity to lay blame like it was gold.
  7. Keep your cool. When the impossible person becomes hysterical (and they probably will, as this is a common trait among them), immediately "turn off" any serious consideration you had been giving them. What they are saying now should be considered gibberish. As they say, "In one ear, out the other." If at all possible, simply remain silent through the whole tirade. If that requires too much discipline on your part, make sure that anything you say tends to agree with them. Humor them. Don't ask them to calm down, because you then just invite further bombast (such as "Why should I calm down?! Look what you've done this time! You're lucky I'm not angrier than I am now!").
  8. Give up self-defense. Understand very clearly that you cannot beat these kinds of people; they're called "impossible" for a reason. In their minds, you are the source of all wrongdoing, and nothing you can say is going to make them consider your side of the story. Your opinion is of no consequence, because you are already guilty, no matter what. If you tell them that you gave a million dollars to charity, they will say that you did it because you have a guilty conscience. If you tell them you discovered the cure for cancer, they will tell you that you just wanted the attention. There is no winning. Nothing you can do will be good enough. Anything positive you say about yourself will be interpreted as boorish bragging or self-justification, and you will be promptly "smacked back down to size" by a litany of negative comments and accusations. Impossible people view it as their sacred task to make sure you don't get the idea that you are worth anything, and they will act accordingly.
  9. Understand that eventually, you and the impossible person will have to part ways. Whether they are a friend, a boss, a parent, even a spouse, the time to leave will eventually manifest. Maintaining a relationship with an impossible person is, literally, impossible. If you can't (or won't) make a physical departure immediately, make a mental one. In your mind, you've already left the relationship. The only thing left to do is wait for physical reality to reflect that fact.
  10. Avoid letting the impossible person make you into a "clone" of them. If you aren't careful, you could find yourself adopting much of the offender's own behavior, even if you aren't voluntarily trying. Eschew blame entirely by understanding that this is just the way the other person is. It is the way nature made them by means of their environment, upbringing, and experiences in life. They have no more choice about being themselves than you have about being yourself.
  11. Be a manager. Until it is over, your task in the relationship is to manage the impossible person, so that he or she deals less damage to you. As a manager, your best resources are silence (it really is golden in some cases such as this), humoring the other, and abandoning all hope of "fixing" the impossible person. Impossible people do not listen to reason. They can't (and even if they could, they wouldn't). You can't convince them that they have any responsibility for the problems between you. They don't recognize (or if they did, wouldn't try to improve) their flaws for a very logical reason; they don't have any flaws. You must understand and manage this mindset without casting blame and without giving in to anger. It's far easier said than done, and you will slip from time to time, but as time goes on, you'll become a better manager.
  12. Realize that impossible people engage in projection. Understand that you are going to be accused of much (or all) of this behavior yourself. If your impossible person gets a look at this text, to them it will look like a page about you. Prepare yourself for the fact that the impossible person's flaws and failings will always be attributed to you. Remember, in their minds, you are at fault for everything! They will have an endless supply of arguments to support this, and if you make the mistake of encouraging them, they will be more than happy to tell you why you are the impossible person, and how ironic it is that you are under the mistaken impression that it is them.
  13. Be a "possible" person. Human behavior is changed through positive modeling. An ancient saying goes, "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Live as an example of tolerance, patience, kindness and love. We are all influenced by the people in our environment. You must give in kind in order to receive in kind. Give respect, receive respect. Give understanding, get understanding. Even if the other person fails to properly reciprocate, this will eventually apply to most of the people you meet in life.


Tips
  • If you think you might be an impossible person yourself (or you have become one with regard to the other person), realize just how awful you are being and try to improve yourself. Then again, if you are really an impossible person, you won't even recognize yourself here. To you, this page will be all about "the other guy." For the incorrigible impossible person, everything is always about "the other guy." If you're reading this page and thinking "Hey, that sounds just like [insert name of person you blame for everything]," you're probably one of the people we are talking about here (although you could never admit it).
  • If nothing else helps, resolve to treat your experiences with impossible people as valuable life lessons. Realize that after dealing with them for a while, getting along with everyone else will be a cakewalk. You are getting a free education in how to deal with the most difficult people out there. Although it is unpleasant now, the lessons you learn are going to be invaluable later in life.
  • It may also help to call a spade a spade and realize that you are dealing with an emotional abuser. More helpful information can be found in literature on that topic.
  • If you're having trouble coping, seek therapy. Keep in mind that therapy doesn't always involve sitting down in front of a psychiatrist or psychologist. Do that if you need to, but don't hesitate to create your own forms of therapy as well. Journaling can be good, or (for example), you may even find therapeutic value in writing or editing a WikiHow about dealing with impossible people.
  • Consider responding with kindness. Be kind and friendly to them. Now, don't wait on them hand and foot, as they will usually immediately take advantage of this, but treat them like you would a good acquaintance or a friend. Everyone wants attention from others, and usually these people couldn't get any positive attention during the major course of their life, so they instead act like a jerk to receive negative attention (but to them, through the negativity at least people now notice them). If they are wanting friendship, but don't know how to get it, and you are friendly to them, then they will appreciate what you are doing, and, best-case scenario, they will change. If they are just natural jerks who love to make others mad, then what you are doing will enrage them because they can't figure out how to make you mad, and eventually they will leave you alone. Kindness is always the key, even if it is insanely difficult to perform in various situations.
  • Some impossible people will see your kindness as a willingness to do any favor they ask. When this happens, kindly and regretfully decline, citing your reasons for denial. DO NOT LIE; it is better to be vague about your reasons. Lying, if discovered, will exacerbate your problems with this person (since, as stated above, they can simply pull your lie years later as more "evidence" for "blame" on you).
  • People who suffer from depression display many of the same characteristics described above. But in contrast to the 'standard' impossible person, the depressive can seem normal to all of his/her friends, acquaintances, and co-workers, while his/her impossible behaviour is reserved for you. If you are in this situation, you have two challenges: one, dealing with the depressive, and two, dealing with all of your mutual friends and acquaintances, none of whom will likely think there's anything wrong with the person. The only place you will get any understanding is from a self-help support group for those who live with depressives. Recognize that the partners of most depressives eventually leave the relationship due to an inability to deal with the constant barrage of criticism and unreasonable behaviour. If you find yourself in this situation, you should consider that a departure may be necessary in order to maintain your own self-esteem, but therapy may also help you; if you can't change the depressive, at least you can change your attitude and response to that person.
  • Agree with everything they say. When they tell you that you donated the money for attention or whatever else, you can say that they are absolutely right (unless, of course, your agreement leads to your downfall, such as your boss telling you that you are wrong and should have a payment reduction). Agreeing with impossible people sidetracks their steam as they realize that whatever they say you will agree with, as they continually look for arguments. Tell them "You are 100% right" or "I agree." You could even add humor and smile a bit as you agree with them, not so much for them as to keep you yourself at a low and patient level, away from falling back into anger and fueling them even more.


Warnings
  • Do not make impossible people angry; although they (of course) "have no temper" and are "reasonable to everybody," the fact is that if you enrage them, they will blow their stack like you can't believe. Your own moments of frustration with them will pale in comparison. Don't give them a reason. Instead, treat them like patients or children, but do it subtly (in such a way that they can't lash out at you for being "condescending"). This takes practice, but it is a social skill worth developing.
  • If for some reason, you are able to convince impossible people with irrefutable evidence that they (and they alone) are at fault, then there is a possibility that they will completely "crash" in the other direction, expressing the belief that if they are not 50% right, then they must be 100% wrong all the time. This is a coping mechanism of theirs which attempts to encourage others around them to feel sympathy for them and build them back up.
  • Never tell others how you feel about this person. If the person, to whom you tell about the impossible behaviour of this impossible person, shares the same views as you have, then it is quite possible that this person might spread the chat you had with him/her. Then, when it reaches the ears of the impossible person in this case, regardless of the media by which this knowledge reaches him, he will make every possible attempt to degrade your image, because then he will know who started it.
  • NEVER confront an impossible person with the fact that they are the chief source of the problem. You will unleash a flood of denial and blame in failing to keep it to yourself (or you can tell it to others, but definitely not personal friends, as stated above—perhaps a blog under an online alias can help, for example).
  • Be careful with non-verbal gestures, as they may bring about misconceptions.
  • Do not attempt to make any physical contact with the person; a mere pat on the back may aggravate even the most mild-mannered impossible person.
  • Don't show this page (or any other similar advice) to impossible people in an attempt to convince them of how difficult they are. Again (and it bears repeating), you can't convince them of diddly-squat. Any attempt whatsoever to do so will only result in you getting blasted with another tirade, which will create more resentment against you and compound the problem.


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