Have ever been in an argument with someone — even to the point of ever-increasing voices and into shouting — only to have the person you are arguing with suddenly say something like, “Are you going to hit me, now?” Instead of getting angrier, you are instead left dumbfounded as “hitting” your verbal opponent never crossed your mind.
Here’s another example: You’ve been in a long-term relationship and you were faithful and proper and then, in the middle of another argument — your supposed better half blurts out, “You’re cheating on me, aren’t you?” You are stunned because you have never cheated.
A final example: You’re in an argument at work and the other person yells, “You’re going to tell Human Resources about this!” Again, the out-of-the-blue blurt seems to be out of context and wildly inappropriate in the frame of your disagreement.
What’s going on in these examples?
Welcome to the world of the Paranoid People!
The mistake we often make in dealing with others is expecting them to behave, think and feel as we do — and when they don’t, some of us get nervous and scared and even a bit paranoid because the person you thought you were speaking to is actually not like you at all and that misstep in relational thinking now has you bitten and bound.
What we need to realize in these Paranoid People is that when they blurt out these things they think you’re going to do to them — it has nothing to do with your plan and everything to do with what they plan to do next to you.
You don’t want to hit them. They want to hit you!
You haven’t cheated. They are the cheater!
You don’t want to involve human resources in a petty fight. They want to level up the argument!
How do you deal with these irrational and paranoid people when they accuse you of what they plan, in fact, to do to you?
You can’t talk them out of their paranoia, but you can quite calmly let their unfiltered response cries pause the heat of the argument as you realize what’s going on — because you now know what they plan to do to you — by coolly explaining why what they said makes no sense in context.
You would never hit them because you don’t believe in solving arguments with your fists and then later sitting in jail waiting to be bailed out.
You would never cheat and break a promise because that means you are faithless and valueless and immoral.
You would never escalate a petty office argument with human resources because it would waste company time and involve people who are not interested in divining who was right and who was wrong unless they’re forced to because of a silly, but official, complaint.
You might not be able to budge them from their paranoia, but after setting the record straight of what you would never do, you must end the argument immediately and walk away. Take the last world. Let your calm expression of logic melt into the paranoid mind so it might be able to take knowledge and nutrients away in the wake of your turned back as the argument is left behind.
When you are accused of behavior you would never perform, don’t get insulted or bite the heated hook — try to remain calm and cool — and understand those instant outbursts reveal the very weaknesses of the person trying to belittle you and humble you with their own fears.