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Dealing with Irrational People You *Must* Deal With

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(I am not sure how strict of meaning of "relationship" the moderators adhere to, but I assume that it also subsumes non-romantic relationships. If not, please relocate as necessary.)

[Note: IP= IrrationalPerson. I do not want to explain my relationship with this person, so I will be using this to refer to them, along with gender-neutral pronouns.]

To put it simply, I have an irrational person as an associate in my life. I know that the proper course of action to take is to not deal with any such persons at all, for irrational people are literally impossible to deal with rationally, but the difficulty on my part is that I must deal with this person for the time being. To not associate may be an option in the future, but not for now.

What bothers me is that this person's presence has a negative impact on my sense of life; not so much so as to depress or sadden, but enough so to be a consistent irritation or annoyance in increasing degrees as time goes on. His moral vice is that he is virtually mindless.

For example, when confronted with an issue that we have differing viewpoints on, I usually take it upon myself to advocate my position through a structured argument. The problem, however, is that IP is an emotionalist and will ignore (so much so as to *go deaf* to) anything that runs contrary to his views or will employ the use of blatant logical fallacies (e.g. appeal to popularity, appeal to authority, argument from intimidation, etc.), even after having had his errors pointed out multiple times. Sometimes when I ask him how he knows the validity of his position he will straightened his lips into a line and give the shoulder shrug that denotes "I don't know" or insist that it is axiomatic. He insists on holding onto his views even though he explicitly confesses he has no idea how they're true. If I do not explicitly advocate my position, he will automatically assume that I am in agreement with him, which often leads to him spreading disinformation to other people about my views.

This attribute adds a sizable amount of stress in the area of life decisions I make. For instance, for the present time I am out of college, for, based on my judgment, I do not think I can afford the expense and that it would be within my self-interest to establish savings beforehand so that I will have more certainty as to whether or not I will be able to pay the expense (combined with economic uncertainty, I am edgy about loans since I do not know as to whether or not I would be able to pay them back.). In the meanwhile, I am conducting my own personal studies (I wrote about it here) so that when I go back I will not only be able to merely afford the college experience, but will be also able to go in with better study habits and a broader learning style.

When I try to justify my position to IP, however, I get a never-ending stream of frustration. He thinks that I ought to go into college immediately and that I'm ruining my life otherwise. We run into again all the frustrations we have in any "constructive" argument, and it always ends with both of us being flustered that neither one was persuaded from his position. IP obviously assumes that I am an emotionalist as well, and so as a result is trying to persuade me that my "misguided emotions" are wrong and that his emotions are right. I cannot avoid this issue with him because he is truly concerned as to whether or not I am ruining my life, and so combined with his emotionalist nature and irrationality it leads to him bringing up the topic for too many a fruitless conversation. I have resorted to saying, "This is not up for disscussion," but I doubt that it will hold him off.

Another big problem is that IP is the most consistent Peter Keating I have ever met. If I express my opinion something (say, on food), he will often deprive himself of a value in order to try and please me, and then will throw a small tantrum of the sorts, blaming me for the sacrifice of his value. In the past he would be over-critical and rude in expressing his views about my clothing because he was worried about what other people would think if I were seen wearing some particular shirt in his company. He becomes extremely anxious whenever he notices someone looking at him in public, and will lower his voice to a whisper and hide his face since he's worried that the onlooker is passing a negative judgment.

So here is the kind of advice I am requesting: Given an irrational person in one's life that one *must* deal with for the present time, how should one go about dealing with this person and preventing a negative impact on one's sense of life or one's productivity? As of right now I am trying to limit my contact with this person to the bare minimum I possibly can (I even offer to drive if we should travel somewhere, so that I can ensure the speed is at the speed limit at all times), but I find this to be insufficient action, as IP gets irritated at my avoidance of him. I must deal with him, and so therefore my very frustrating confrontations with him are inevitable.

So, might you be able to assist me? I do appreciate you taking the time to read this, and offer thanks in advance if you should comment.

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For example, when confronted with an issue that we have differing viewpoints on, I usually take it upon myself to advocate my position through a structured argument.

This attribute adds a sizable amount of stress in the area of life decisions I make.

When I try to justify my position to IP, however, I get a never-ending stream of frustration.

Why do you think that it is necessary to articulate or defend your position with this person? Are you obligated to press your point of view given the circumstances of your relationship? Unless you are a professional intellectual, I can't imagine such a situation. (but maybe I'm thick)

Of course there are IPs all over the place. Ever had to call for tech support or customer support? The only way to get satisfaction is to hang up and keep trying until you find someone who cares.

There's an old saying that I'm going to misquote: In a dispute, either you're right, or I am, but at least one of us will learn something.

Given the obvious irrationality of this person, why do you still think it is necessary or productive to point out their evasions or fallacies? Save yourself for those people who care...mmm?

Stay Focused,

<Φ>aj

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I don't know how you are having to deal with the IP, but the proper response I can think of is just lie to them when necessary to deal and go about your business of achieving your rational self-interests.

Such as a parent or friend being irrational towards you in some way, just say whatever placates them and move on. I'm assuming you are in a position where it would be against your short term self-interest to immediately seperate yourself from the IP, so this is a simple way to deal with him until it is to your advantage to seperate.

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Why do you think that it is necessary to articulate or defend your position with this person? Are you obligated to press your point of view given the circumstances of your relationship? Unless you are a professional intellectual, I can't imagine such a situation. (but maybe I'm thick)

As I stated above, if I do not defend my position then IP takes it as me accepting the truthfulness of his position and will therefore feel free to tell other persons that I advocate his position as well. Also, I fear that if I let him think that I advocate his position he will get more intensely upset in the future when he finds out my true views, as if I had somehow "deceived" him.

For example, right now he is under the impression that I am a Christian. This is despite the fact that I have told him on at least two occasions that I have converted to atheism. Given a few months of silent on the issue of religion and he suddenly assumes that I am a Christian again, and asks me, albeit unseriously (he is a lip-service Christian), to pray for people on various occasions. I know that this itself is an unimportant issue as I can easily just allow him to go on thinking that (and that is what I will do); I was just showcasing this as an example.

There is also the difficulty of having to deal with the situations where IP outright asks me for my opinion (when, of course, he is really just looking for confirmation for his beliefs). To cite another example, one time we were eating a meal when he asked me, "Boy, this is sure a healthy meal huh?" I looked at the meal from the perspective of my nutritional knowledge and gave him my honest assessment nonchalantly: No, it isn't a healthy meal. He immediately got angry and threw a small bit of a tantrum.

These are, of course, all petty issues. The problem is that IP's mindlessness makes him rather unpredictable. He is very often unable to distinguish between my joking and my saying something serious, or will get upset at the pettiest issues. The dinner example above cites the point. I did not intend to be offensive or to stir the pot when I gave my response: I just thought I would give my answer and dinner would continue. Instead a guilt trip.

Is IP your father? If so, he sounds like the kind of parent that will treat you like adults commonly treat children until you move out his house. If you are independent and out of his house already, nothing is forcing you to relate with him but your own irrationality.

No, IP is not my father. I do not want to get too specific for fear of someone recognizing the caricature, but I will go so far as to say we share living space. I do know ideally that the proper course of action to take is to not deal with this person, but the problem right now is that I do not have the financial means to be able to do so, so I must deal with him for the time being. I do not wish to deal with him, but I have to for right now.

I don't know how you are having to deal with the IP, but the proper response I can think of is just lie to them when necessary to deal and go about your business of achieving your rational self-interests.

(A repeat in case you skipped to this quote.) I have to deal with IP because we share living space and I currently do not have the financial means to move elsewhere.

I thought about lying too, but at first glance I would say that would be immoral and outside my self-interest. I'm a terrible liar as of far, and would not be able to put much effort into constructing and maintaining a lie. Plus, if IP found out I were lying about something then he would get upset and cause more strife.

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You don't have any other friends or family you can live with until you get on your feet? Even if you can't afford proper rent, you can help with chores and chip in for food and stuff. It sounds like with where you are in your relationship, you should just end it and do whatever is necessary to maintain your own happiness, even if it means relying on family or friends (who are willing to help, obviously). Putting yourself through hell is no good.

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(A repeat in case you skipped to this quote.) I have to deal with IP because we share living space and I currently do not have the financial means to move elsewhere.

I thought about lying too, but at first glance I would say that would be immoral and outside my self-interest. I'm a terrible liar as of far, and would not be able to put much effort into constructing and maintaining a lie. Plus, if IP found out I were lying about something then he would get upset and cause more strife.

Okay, I too have been in a position to have to co-habit a place with an IP who acted as if he had a mental disorder. By lying I didn't mean that you should put any effort into it whatsoever, nor contruct or maintain anything. For example, if he asks you if you love Jesus or something just say "Sure" and wait for him to finish talking, then say "okay" or if he demands that you go to church say "I don't know" and go on about whatever it is you are doing with no intention to do anything other than what you wanted in the first place. It doesn't have to be in any sort of manner that he will determine that you constructed some big elaborate ruse to decieve him, just one-word answers that brush the topic off in an anti-argument way.

I can't really think of a way to deal with it other than that if the IP is in any position of power over you or your living space.

I once had to live with someone who was a complete Christian-neo-Nazi-racist (I seriously think he is a Satanist though) and constantly declared his hatred for black people and desire to kill all of them. He asked me what I think and I just shrugged and said whatever he wanted to hear (I'm Asian,) knowing full well I had to get myself the hell out of there as soon as I could. When there's a shirtless Aryan man waving an AK-47 around talking about how he wants to mow down crowds of "niggers" in the name of Jesus, you just go along with it until you can leave. If you are dealing with anything that involves some threat of force or a threat to kick you out on the street unless you "agree" with him on asinine shit, it wouldn't be against your self-interest or immoral at all to just say whatever would shut him up and avoid conflict without sacrificing anything on your part.

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However this person takes it, you can always choose not to debate. Be clear and say that unless the person accepts reason and reality, there is no further grounds for discussion. You cannot debate with an irrational person, especially if they do not accept the terms of debate. If the person then goes around advocating his position as equal to your own that is really not your problem or concern. You can of course defend yourself of someone then comes to you and asks what your position is after hearing the lies.

The bottom line is that you should ask yourself what happiness you can possibly derive from further discussion with this irrational person and act accordingly.

Edited by Axiomatic
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You don't have any other friends or family you can live with until you get on your feet?

I don't think it would help. Many people in my family are IPs, and many are also opposed to me since I refuse to associate/sanction a certain person that they wish for me to associate with/sanction.

[...]

Ah, I get you now. Not necessarily lying, but rather letting the person go on thinking what they think. I will give it consideration.

However this person takes it, you can always choose not to debate. Be clear and say that unless the person accepts reason and reality, there is no further grounds for discussion.

Hmm...yes, I agree. I am spinning my tires in the air far too much, and really I shouldn't even be worrying about it since I'm very explicit about my views on my Facebook page and etc. The next problem I think applies is my "Benevolent People" Premise. No matter how bad a person seems to be there always seems to be a thought deep down stating that they may still be rational at root and that they still can be reached for the better. Sort of like Dagny Taggart with the mindless politicians. I guess I do not fully understand the Death Premise.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think I may have made a critical identification last week and a few days ago, which should help me cope from now on if I constantly keep them in mind. While I was mowing the lawn at work I was again frustrating my mind with thoughts as to how hopeless and terrible IP is to deal with, and how much I dislike dealing with him, when I suddenly realized that it was in fact myself who was putting all on this stress on me. I'm taking a problem that's only rather irritating and inflating it beyond what its actual importance is.

Also, while at work a different day (like Eric Hoffer, I find work to be helpful to my thinking), I got to thinking about the psycho-epistemology of IP and how horrendously evasive he is. As I said above, he feels such a sense of guilt at the content of my ideas that he virtually, if not absolutely literally, ignores everything I say, puts forth his feeling-based argument, and then calls me stubborn for not accepting his arbitrary emotions as the truth. I realized that since he's so evasive that he's utterly unable to be dealt with rationally, and that my thinking of him is often with the assumption that I'll be able to rationally persuade him somehow. My conclusion was that not only should I try to deal with this person as little as possible, I should try to think about this person as little as possible as well, since this person constitutes that which is insignificant in life and is not deserving of any consideration.

I think it follows then that I should, through discipline, focus, and constantly reminding myself what is important in life and the evasive nature of this person; try to exclude this person from my thoughts as much as I can. All the mental stress I have been complaining about I have been putting upon myself.

Thank you all, for your input.

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Be careful while doing this. Completely ignoring people you live with can make them more hostile to you. I did it while I lived at my previous house. I disliked hanging out or talking to 2 of the roommates, so I stayed in my bedroom most of the time unless I was cooking or rarely watching TV. And while I was courteous when I had to be (in the kitchen for example), they took my (in)actions as hostile and progressively left more and aggressive notes around the house. I thought it was amusing, but these girls have a history of acting similarly to other housemates they had (especially females), and those housemates generally reacted poorly to the situation (yelling sat each other, property destruction, etc). Even in just my situation, eventually I wasn't allowed to change the heat up or down, watch movies, or have space in the fridge (I did all of that anyway, and I think that contributed to their hatred of me - the fact that I didn't care what they were trying to do to me).

Anyways, best of luck :D

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