Recently I had an intriguing and life-changing discussion with a colleague of mine. We were discussing the issue of applying logic to illogical people -- something I am sure we all have experienced at some point in our lives.
This phenomenon can be best summed up by Nicholas A. McGirr, who said, "We are raised in a society where we are taught to believe a more logical reason for an illogical happening rather than the illogical reason for something which may be of the unknown, hence, why the logical answer is illogical to the logical person."
This quote is not meant to be confusing, rather it is to expound on the basis of logical thinking. Sometimes, we cannot apply logic to the illogic. We cannot apply rational thought to those who do not think or are incapable of expressing themselves in an authentic and transparent manner.
If there are hidden agendas, deceit or unethical behavior, these actors who are applying these deceptive tactics can never be reasoned with on a logical basis. These actors hide behind their masks and once unearthed, move to the next potential victim to work their deceitful charms and capture the real essence of the relationship – to be served rather than to serve others.
Applying this to the leadership literature, as well as the psychological, we are faced with a duality of sorts. Most of us enter into a relationship as discussed in social theory, to advance our communications, share some form of common ground, and ultimately, to bond with others based on solid and mutually beneficial relationships. However, when we are dealing with a narcissist or manipulator, their agenda is to obtain something from us without giving us anything meaningful for the exchange. We are left feeling used, angry and manipulated.
Clearly, we need to rethink our logic, our emotional intelligence and our purpose for entering relationships. There are telltale signs to help us navigate these turbulent and troublesome relationships. An interesting article written by Paul Colaianni, titled "The Ego-Crushing Path to Enlightenment," highlights some salient strategies in dealing with illogical behavior. I will highlight some of these strategies and the make my comments in parentheses on how to add this to your leadership domain.
Colaianni asserts that irrational behavior is one of the most difficult behaviors to deal with. When someone is being irrational, they don't listen to reason, logic or even common sense. They are laser focused on fulfilling their need(s). And until that need is fulfilled, or they snap out of it, the irrational person can be unpredictable and sometimes even dangerous. But unless they have some sort of psychosis, there are ways to bring an irrational person back to rational thought. For all intents and purposes, we'll call rational thought "reality." Listed below are some strategies for dealing with the perceived illogical person:
1. Irrationality is really fulfilling a need: Hence, the term irrational comes in. After all, if you'll do anything to get what you want, then you'll do things that others might find offensive, stupid or just plain crazy. (Given that some people experience these irrationalities, it is almost impossible to apply logic to their illogical behavior. We have to deal with them at their level and bring forth workable strategies to deal with their behavior and help them gain what they are seeking in a logical and ethic manner.)
2. Logic usually guides us to a more beneficial outcome, with knowledge of consequences. But even logic has an emotional foundation, because we won't do something that isn't driven by an emotion of some sort. (If logic is indeed driven in some sense by emotions, then we need to employ logic coupled with emotions. There has to be a primary need or emotion for solving a problem, or why else would it be a problem?)
3. Finally, it comes down to these issues in dealing with irrational or illogical people: Do we have to deal with them, and do we want to deal with them? It is that simple. (Sometimes we do not have a choice; sometimes we do. However, if you do not have to deal with irrational people, then don't, as they will expend all your energy and leave you high and dry once they have obtained what they are seeking from you.)
4. Don't take what these people say or do personally. (Don't let someone's emotions define who you are. If you don't take it personally, then they cannot manipulate you or play with your emotions. Exhibit self-control and remain calm. If the intended outcome is not one you bargained for, then just walk away peacefully.)
Dealing with an irrational or illogical person can be and often is overwhelming. We need to remember the purpose, intent and expected outcome from the relationship. If we see that we are dealing with a one-sided and destructive person, then it's time to move on.
Colaianni contends trying to figure out if someone is overreacting is hard when you get triggered and react yourself. But if you can learn to exhibit some self-control when someone gets into this more excited state, you usually can calm the situation and help them fulfill whatever their need is, as long as that is the intended outcome you are trying to achieve. That said, it helps to keep a level head in order to get that best possible outcome. Otherwise, you do more hoping that the situation will get better instead of doing to make the situation better.
In the final analysis, and as Dale Carnegie was fond of saying, "When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion." We would all be wise to heed his words.