I’m sure you’ve dealt with impossible people before, or you’ve at least seen a situation where someone has had to deal with an impossible person. To say the least, it is taxing, and a good outcome is unlikely, or maybe highly unlikely. You will be drained of energy after the encounter, and you will probably feel lingering waves of anger and resentment. On top of that will be the bewildering feeling of how and why they are that way.
I can’t tell you much about how and why they are that way. But there is a strategy for dealing with these people. It is a two-fold strategy and it takes a lot of training and preparation. By the way, I’m not quite sure you can ‘win’ with impossible people. You can just minimize the damage they incur on you.
Have you ever heard the saying ‘you can’t tell a crazy person they are crazy’? Well it’s just about the same with impossible people. They often see themselves as the most reasonable person in the room. Don’t bother trying to reason with them or show them their impossibleness. You will not succeed at much more than putting their back against a wall and then they will become even more impossible.
In the early days of the internet there were online bulletin boards that communities would meet on. Once in a while, a troll joined the board. That’s what they were called then. Trolls. There was a lot of discussion about how to recognize them, and how to deal with them. Moderation was a big strategy. This sounds fine but it is human resource intensive and will probably ultimately fail. Finally, I heard the advice that makes the first part of our two fold strategy.
The first part is: “Don’t feed the trolls”. Like all wild animals, they will remember where they got the feast and come back for more. Again. And again. What does it mean? Don’t respond with emotion to them. Trolls (impossible people) are looking for emotional food. Anger, resentment, sadness… whatever they can cause. It is their sustenance. If you don’t fee them they may go away. And they may stay away.
The problem is you don’t know they are trolls at first. They will come in sweet and nice and look for your hookable parts. Then they will hook you and it will be hard to get their hooks out. Before you know it you are responding emotionally and feeding them. Then they have won. They don’t necessarily have to be ‘right’ to win, they just have to hook you and provoke you.
If you are hooked, you have little choice. Do not feed the troll. Keep your emotional responses inside. Hold back. Do whatever you can to keep your cool, at least on the outside. I have found, by massive practice, that you can get a little bit better at this. It will help you to grow, but only a little. If the impossible person is a fixed part of your life, you cannot succeed with this strategy alone. They will wear you down, and then create a toxic relationship.
The only way to deal with impossible people is to reduce your friction points. You have to get rid of emotional baggage. Anything. Everything. Getting rid of emotional baggage is something that sounds really nice. Everyone thinks it would be great to get rid of some of their emotional baggage. The problem is we really don’t know what our own emotional baggage is and if we did know it, we would disagree.
The things that make up our emotional baggage are the very things we want to hold onto. They are private. They are feelings. They are things we consider to be ‘me’, ‘my identity’. That is one reason why this emotional baggage is so hard to get rid of.
The other reason is that even if we could come around to agreeing that we should drop this baggage, we wouldn’t really know how. You can’t just put it down simply like you put down a real physical bag. And how would you know it is down?
We can get rid of emotional baggage by breathing. Not just simple breathing like you are doing now. You have to focus your attention on each feeling, situation, or experience, and try your best to relive it. Only by completely accepting it and reliving it, coupled with the sweeping breath, can you really put it down.
By the cumulative removal of emotional baggage, you get rid of the ‘hookable places’ that impossible people are looking for, so they are not able to hook you. This process, by the way, has many other benefits in subtle and profound ways. If you start on this road, you are on a journey of personal growth like you didn’t imagine was possible.