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.

11 Comments

  1. Right! They are wholly unaware of it, Gordon, and that’s why we must be aware of where those wild notions are born. Many of us blame ourselves when we face those stopping accusations… “What did I say? Why do you think that?”
    Those questions from us only feed their paranoia as they take a second hack at you for the behaviors you never thought of, or intended, to do.

  2. Right David, I agree!
    I also wonder about the significance of this paranoid reaction…where does this come from? It’s in their nature or they were hurt before – it’s just a defense mechanism…?

  3. Katha —
    I think it’s the next step in their plan: They will hit you before you hit them, they’ll cheat before you cheat, they’ll beat you to human resources — so in a way, they’re telling you what they’re going to do by accusing you of doing it — so you can usually disconnect them from that illogical want by ending the argument and confirming the argument ends right there.
    To regain their power, they first need you to escalate against their accusation so they can act first — hitting, cheating, running — so if you don’t give in to their irrational temptation, you can usually throw them off track by using your logical, non-paranoid, mind to soothe them back into reality with quietness.

  4. Thanks for the explanation David – I think I get it…
    Do they understand how difficult it for others to trust them anymore or they are just absorbed in their own paranoia?

  5. Hi Katha!
    No, they are unaware of their behavior because they are terrified in a high paranoia state when those accusations begin to fly. Confident people don’t take that route. These are insecure and powerless people who feel they are on the losing side of an argument and we need to help them out of their hole.
    “You better not tell mom and dad…” is where it all begins.
    That’s why we, The Cogent Folk, need to provide them a way out to save face and add humility back into the dyad:
    “I’d never tell mom or dad because we’d both get in trouble.”
    “If I punched you, I know you’d have the legal right to defend yourself and punch me back harder. I’m not interested in going there.”
    “I would never cheat on you because I love you and it’s too easy to get caught in a spiral of deceit. I keep my word. I honor my vows.”
    “Human resources are not interested in us. They deal with payroll and hiring. If I dragged them into this, it would end up really terrible for us both. We’d have discipline letters put in our personnel files. No thanks. Not doing it.”

  6. That’s the trick, Gordon! You envision for them a scenario where you BOTH lose if the next step is taken. That way they don’t feel personally punished and they know there’s a risk that the endgame will likely not be what they are hoping will happen… so why bother pursuing a loss?