How to Talk to Someone Who is Being Unreasonable

We have all been in a situation where we are trying to reason with an incredibly difficult person.  It can be frustrating to say the least.  They might act aggressive or try to control the conversation and sometimes can be a bit confrontational.  While it is may seem impossible to reason with an unreasonable person, you can defuse the situation by staying calm and with the right communication techniques,v8 you just might find that you have turned that aggression into cooperation.  Below are just a few tips on how to negotiate with difficult individuals. 


Listening is a critical step in dealing with unreasonable people.  Everyone wants to feel heard and no progress will take place until the other person feels acknowledged.  When the other person is speaking, really focus on what they are saying instead of thinking about what you are going to say next.  Oftentimes, we find ourselves thinking of our rebuttal when we disagree with what someone says.  Active listening, however, will give you clues as to what is truly motivating that person.

Remain Calm

When someone is being unreasonable our emotions can get the best of us but the first rule in dealing with unreasonable people is maintaining your composure. When you are less reactive you can use better judgment to handle the situation.  Before speaking, pause for a moment and take a deep breath.  This gives you a little more time to figure out how you can communicate more effectively.  Despite how the other party is behaving, remain calm and don’t get caught up in the heat of the moment.  No matter how the person is treating you, showing dignity and respect will help resolve the situation.

Concentrate on Problem Solving

When you feel like someone is being unreasonable your first reaction will probably be anger or frustration.  Instead of reacting immediately, try looking at the situation from multiple points of view.  Widening your perspective can minimize the possibility of misunderstanding.  For example, you might think that someone has been purposely ignoring your emails but you should consider the possibility that they have been very busy.  Instead of letting your emotions get the best of you, shift the conversation to how you can solve the problem.  People who act aggressively do so because of their own issues, so avoid taking things personally and stay focused on bringing a solution.

Be Assertive

Oftentimes people who are difficult respect those who convey strength.  You don’t have to be a total pushover just because the person is being unreasonable.  You should remain polite, yet assertive because difficult people are more likely to listen to someone who is assertive. This means you should also set boundaries.  Remember that you have the right to be assertive and say, “Please don’t talk to me like that.”  You don’t have to be rude or angry but you should be matter-of-fact.

Avoid Arguing

This is perhaps the most difficult thing to do when dealing with someone who is being unreasonable.  Naturally we get defensive and immediately want to explain why they are wrong.  However, arguing with a difficult person will only make the situation worse.  You are not going to convince them of anything, so your best bet is to avoid argument and focus on a solution.

Be Flexible

Flexibility is more important than ever when you are dealing with a difficult person.  There is no “one response fits all” kind of solution in these situations.  Every person is different and responds differently so it is important to treat each situation as unique as be flexible in order to de-escalate the situation.