Prescriptions for Life

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Don't Try to Reason with Unreasonable People

Tired of being belittled, misunderstood, or having your words twisted around by a bully? If you're a "normal" nice person, when you encounter someone difficult your natural reaction is to try to reason with them and win them over. Forget it! Medical doctor and life coach Dr. Susan Biali explains simple strategies for dealing with these types once and for all. Read More

Thank you for a great post

This is wisdom for the ages. :)

Perfect post! I was

Perfect post! I was "friends" with someone for a time, but after a while realised I had to let the friendship go. He would say something that was set up to trap me either way - if I took it seriously he told me it was a "joke", if I took a light hearted approach he would claim I wasn't being caring or sensitive. Once I saw this (rather sick) game, I knew I didn't want to be part of it. It DOES affect you emotionally, it DOES hit at your core, doesn't it? Great, great tips. Thanks.

When it comes to the unreasonable, often it isn't about you

Just like the author says, unreasonable people often fit into different categories: Narcissism, Borderline Personality Disorder and Antisocial behavior.

These folks are busy dealing with what is going on in their head. What comes out of their mouth can be hurtful, mean and belittling. But they say what they say to get their own personal high, to make themselves feel secure and even might be setting you up so they can manipulate people that are closer to them with your words which were said in anger and frustration.

You can't reason with them, they'll never compromise, they aren't looking for a deep personal respectful relationship with you so you can't control their actions and responses.

Either get away from them, or accept them for who they are and what they might be able to do for you, but also give yourself an exit strategy if you choose this route.

Well said

Thank you Crimson, I absolutely agree with you and appreciate that you added the pathological person's perspective to the picture for us...


I had one of these people sit across from me for ten years at work. Desks facing each other, touching, nose to nose. 10 years. You get the picture. She finally got fired. Do you know what a relief it was to get her out of my life. Bit it took ten years of holding my breath to get to that point. Talk about patience.

re. example

I am standing up and applauding you for your endurance and patience- I can't imagine how , you did it, quite frankly, but then sometimes we just manage to do what we absolutely have to do. Thank God it's over and hopefully these tips will help you if you run across one of these again...
All my best,

As the light seen at the end for me...Incredible article, congratulations

Disperate looking to find out psychology articles that maybe will help me to heal my mind and my soul, to find out ways to understand and to recover me after my biggest life stress...I find out your words, incredible real!I am a technical academic graduate with post-academic degrees in economics and management, so it is difficult to accomodate me with psychology or medical vocabulary, but I strive and I strive to follow my decission to try to jump from my inner situation and follow my heart that was telling me that he was the problem, not me. In my European country, psychology it is respected but it is not really understand its importance to us, neither by medical doctors practitioners, surgeons, dentists, neither by society...a big big lost. In your "Don't Try to Reason with Unreasonable People" you revealed to me the truth. Each situation described brings to me in a sad mirror'space of truth, the Many Faces of a Disordered Man - who presented himself as a Protector, but in real he is a Charming Chaotic Hypocrite Man with Disastruous Results on me: defeated, shamed,humble, sad, no life joy, anxious, locked inside, discouraged person who was brilliant and energetic......
I discovered amazed each part of your classification:
short list of the types of people I would lump into the "unreasonable":
• Those you can't have a reasonable conversation with; they somehow twist your words or totally confuse you and then tell you that you're the one who doesn't know how to communicate
• People who make subtly or overtly demeaning comments or say cutting things to you disguised as a "joke"
• Those that don't respect boundaries and seem to enjoy stepping all over one after you've placed it
• The types that aren't willing to consider your point of view or listen to your side of things (or just stare at you blankly, or laugh, or explode, when you try to explain "how you feel")
• Bullies
• Verbal or emotional abusers (these can also range from subtle to overt)
• Manipulators
• Liars
• People who leave you feeling bad, sad, shaky or feeling sick in the pit of your stomach
• "Crazymakers," a.k.a. people who provoke you into acting crazy or unbalanced (and love making you feel like there's something wrong with you when you do), when your behaviour across the rest of your life is proof that you're not
• The excessively charming who are too good to be true and have an ulterior motive
After my life sad story, if allowed I may add:
• Liars who lie your family on stressing that they strive for your happiness „whishing for you the best”, but you don't understand
• Persons who do their best and daily encourage yourself to keep away from your life friends or other social activities…just to give time to your relationship
• Liars that you cannot have a Pact of Common Rules to be safe in the relationship
• Persons who have a double or triple life that deeply cover it
• Persons who have no answers to your biggest important life and for future questions that makes you confused about "which one" of him is the real persons
• Persons who keep for them strong social networking while suggesting you to renounce to your social life
• Persons who proved a chaotic management in their business management and with their former business collaborators, but excellent in obtaining new entries..

You know who I mean...
I thank you for this article and I hope to make me more positive and help me to recover somehow...I already contacted a psychologist in my country that it is famous also in hypnosis. I really hope to recover myself even it will be so hard to eliminate "The Stress External Factor with Chaos Mental Disorder"
even I understood from your words that this is the main success that sad life situations. His high vanity will not allow to be....ejected.
I disagree with the ideea that 'be worth' to continue with them...I agree that running is the best healthy way!
Please excusse my English, I am not native.
I thank you Dr. Biali for your extremely interesting wise point of view.
Incredible light!

Reply to Vox

Hi Vox,
Thanks so much for your comment and I'm so sorry to hear what you've been through. The behaviors you describe are the hallmarks of an abuser and very likely a person with antisocial personality traits (a.k.a. a sociopath or psychopath).

I'm not sure if hypnosis will be helpful for you (I'm not familiar with the situations where that works well), however I do know for sure that understanding the type of pathological person you have been affected by, and why you became a victim, would be very very helpful. It's particularly important for you to really understand because unless you do, you're at high risk to get into another relationship with one of these people (who will seem very charming and "perfect" at the beginning, once again).

Sandra Brown has done some outstanding work in this area, google her book, "Women Who Love Psychopaths", I think you might find it very enlightening.

Bless you and wishing you all the best,

I really thank you for the kindness of your response that honorates me, Dr. Susan Biali

I really thank you for your kind reply. As I said your article "Don't Try to Reason with Unreasonable People
Simple strategies for dealing with mean or crazy people" was incredible and illuminated me after a year of deep researches on web and various articles to find out the most important anwer to me: Am I right to be very suspicious that Mr. Perfect has mental disorders, or it is only my problem? Here I found that I am dealing despite my will and despite Mr. Perfect words (not facts- in 80% his words has nothing to do with his behavior) with a men who has real 'A Bona Fide Personality Disorder' - and he distroyed lifes!!! Disperatelly I had that question after 8 years of soul struggle...I am analytical, serious and I was raised to respect details as an education even late, I tried to help myself to get out from this Inner-Tsunami, my story hanging between love and bitter, between schocks and tears, between hot and freeze, an ongoing soul pain...all these defying my intelligence and education. I understood the future threats to me on...falling in the same patern...I shall close watch not to ignore the first indicators!I read word by word few of your articles and comments to me and I shall read all your articles, to heal me as ''a long distance e-learning course'!Thank you Dr. Biali! I was impressed to see you dancing flamenco on the web presentation, gorgeous! I was lucky to be educated in arts, theatre, opera and balet!I was impressed.
I shall also read your book: LIVE a LIFE You LOVE, I just wait.
Did you ever thought to translate for other countries your articles? Please excusse my question if unappropiate. But I am sure that your professional expertise, personality, knowledge must be spreaded all around European countries too. I am interested..
Many people, nice women and good men would be keen to find an answer on HOW TO MANAGE YOUR LIFE swimming with SHARKS with DISORDERED PERSONALITIES - and People Near Us! could be a wise book to parents, business managers, artists, teenagers, teachers, etc.
I wish to you good luck to your new books and articles ever. Tomorrow I shall meet again the pshychologist here and I shall offer him your excellent article and information. Thank you, Dr. Biali, a long distance one!God Bless You! Yours gratefully, Vox

How do I deal with this kind

How do I deal with this kind of people in a school environment when I have a class with only around 11 people... I can't minimize contact with them because of how often I have to work with them in a project. Also I don't want to leave these people socially because then I won't have any real friends.... What do I do?

My Strange Bosses: A Dilemma

Dear Dr. Susan,

I've been working for various bosses, men and women, in 9 years of my career. Until today, I still have to deal with uncomfortable frequent situations: horrible bosses who always release abusive words to his/her subordinates, and creating disintegration in my office. His/her specialty characteristics are liars, manipulators, megalomaniacs, one-man/women show, and heavily stressful people who are looking for attentions. They don't have close friends and nobody likes his/her.

The bad news is they're my superiors, like it or not I have to obey his/her instructions, I have to maintain relationship with him/her. Honestly I don't like his/her personality. I've worked as well as possible, but if I don't have good companionship with him/her, I won't get promotion or other regular benefits for employees. Please give me some advices for good. Thank you :)

re. strange bosses

Hi Red Lounge,
Your experience isn't unusual as unfortunately people with personality disorders (antisocial or sociopath personalities and narcissists in particular) make it high up on the organizational chart because their traits and love of power take them there.

My advice would be to strategically use these tips to forge a better relationship with them - focus on them and their accomplishments, topics that interest them. Reveal as little personal information as possible and don't try to connect with them emotionally or get them to see your point of view if they obviously don't. Communicate clearly and directly. Minimize the length of time interacting if possible...

Let me know how it goes!
All my best,
Susan Biali

Personality Disorders

Ater reading this article (please excuse the typos, I spilled something on my keyboard & some letters won't work anymore!) I am now thinking my mother has some type o personality disorder. I used to think maybe she has ADD because she always interrupts me to talk about hersel or my brother. My entire lie, I didn't think she liked me and I stressed mysel out trying to determine why. I hae studied psychology and am a Social Worker. I deeloped some serious health issues stemming rom the extreme stress o my last job and hae to go on disability. I also had years o stress raising 3 teenagers by mysel- ha! I would try to turn to my mom or emotional support, sometimes inancial help as she is quite rich. I o course loe her ery much, but don't like her much. I saw her being a good riend with my sister-in-law and I wanted a riendship with mom too as I became older. But she is mostly cold towards me and keeps a distance. Since my dad died, mom has 'adopted' my brother as her signiicant other and he has been able to bully her into paying his way or many years. She is now going blind & states he's her caregier since my sisters & I hae been conronting her about all the money, time & consideration she gies him, while she always shuts us out. She insists in liing alone in the home we grew up in and he checks in on her, shops or her & cooks sometimes. Mom is going blind and he does not clean up when he cooks. I'e taken photos o her greasy stoe top she was still cooking on as o last summer, she also builds ires in her wood stoe with wood chips & paper all around because he does not clean up. I'e told her that the stoe & ireplace (the last time I was there, she orgot to close the bottom door & the house illed with smoke, she could not smell while sitting) are saety hazards and hae made reports to APS, her banker did also. Now mom is mad at me and tells me I can only isit or a ew hours! I was also going thru her inancial records and let her attorney know her son is not trustworthy as trustee, POA, etc. o her estate. I hae seen her cower back when he gets loud, he has a history o alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic iolence, molest and mom acts like he's a saint! I am scared or her wellbeing, and hae told her I am doing these things to help protect her plus I want a happy relationship with my mother and he has started always being around or calling seeral times when we isit, otherwise when I call her, he doesn't seem to be there & she is heating up let-oers in the microwae. I am really worried about her and recently asked her help to hire an attorney because I need to ile bankruptcy. She was so cold and insisted she could not does not hae the money to help me & also said she does not care that I might lose my home! I broke down crying & she said I should hae been a better partner so I'd still hae a husband!! She has always said mean things like this beore I started turning her son in. My 2 sisters won't speak to her because o her behaiour. But I am always trying to help people and I need her help right now (I hae rarely asked or help). I want her to be my riend and to be sure she does not die in her burning house because he does not clean it. BTW she 'pays' him $2700/mo & he does not work, is at his girlriends 1 hour away most o the time. Her income is $4000/mo, home is paid or & she can't drie, so no car expense. I don't know what to do anymore. I hae tried to conince her to come stay with me, I hae a granny cottage & can take care o her all the time as I am alone now, but she won't, insists she wants to die in her home, but her eyesight is not getting better!

I am so sorry (to the social

I am so sorry (to the social worker) but I don't believe your mom will ever come around. She is emotionally getting something from your brother that she needs, so she lets him push her around. You, apparently, don't fill a need, you just push her to grow and she is too scared, or otherwise unwilling to do it. I hope you can salvage your home, I really feel so sad for you, but you have to stop expecting her to be grateful for your caring. She doesn't want you to care or interfere. Like an addict, she wants to be left alone to do what she is doing. I hope you find validation outside of her soon. I hope you can heal.

Thank you!

so much for your encouraging & empathetic reply. I appreciate it. I have been doing a lot of inner work to change myself and come to forgiveness toward my Mom and it's working! I feel so much better & a lot of relief now.
Thank you again.


I would implore you all to think about these emotionally draining adults in terms of chronically alienated individuals. These are typically the child advertised in anti-abuse ad campaigns, Children who you would never abandon if you knew their story. Children like Baby P whose parents murdered after systematic physical abuse and neglect. These children who hook our empathic response to rescue have grown up and never really had the chance to have their fundamental rights satiated.

I do agree with most of the post that life can be challenging and difficult working with or being around "these people" - But truly, as here who it is that needs to be alienated? The physician lacking in human resources, armed with chemical restraints or the person who has endured a lifetime of malignant alienation?

Tom Main once wrote about the ailment and it is your responsibility to manage relationships, not a duty to discard living humans in today's throwaway societies propagating all over the world.

I would like to read the

I would like to read the article/book by Tom Main. I did a Google search & didn't come up with anything. Can you share a link? Thanks.

Tom Main's - The Ailment

You're welcome, here is the article.. Such a classic.

re. ignorance

Thank you very much for your comment and I absolutely agree in the sense that compassion is very important where compassion is due. That said, it doesn't discount the severe damage that these people can produce, for example severe PTSD and other responses that affect functioning, so people do have a right to learn how to manage interactions and exposure and protect themselves.

I have unfortunately had the opportunity to have close extended contact with several personality disordered people, in these cases I am extensively aware of their personal history and there has not been any obvious abuse, trauma or neglect that is of note. Sure, there may be things I might not know about, however I'm quite sure that regardless there is debate re. how much of a role environment plays in the production of personality disordered people. There are many examples where there are multiple children in a family, experiencing the same influences, and one turns out a narcissist or sociopath and the others more likely to be victims.

That said, as I said in the beginning compassion is always worth remembering. Doesn't mean you need to tolerate overt abuse though - no way.

Thanks again,
Susan Biali

The role of biology, psychology and society

Dear Dr. Biali, Again, I fundamentally agree with your wise words. Nobody outside the medical community should have to put up with the behaviours (I'm British) exhibited by personality disorder. But it is everybody's business.

It is correct that on the one hand monozygotic twin, sibling and transgenerational studies baffle even the most highly respected medical practitioner as to the causes of "bad behaviour". But on the other hand that's where genetic studies (biology) and other psychological vulnerabilities kick in.

I'm not sure if you are aware about how much schema focused treatments and the maladaptive core beliefs argued by its proponents can offer clinicians a "breath of fresh air" when looking at the behaviours caused by patients holding on to these self-defeating beliefs? Abandonment/Instability, Emotional deprivation, Abuse/Mistrust, Social Isolation and Defectiveness/Shame are what the proponents argue we all have; The client with PD, up to 18 such maladaptive beliefs in 5 domains; the TA therapist would ask "How can I feel acceptance in the presence of the earliest felt rejection?" -- Core, primitive issues that are incredibly hard to shake.

Marsha Linehan, creator of DBT for PD discusses for the first time her own Borderline Behaviours at age 17:

PD requires years of intensive treatment, re-parenting in cognitive analytical or psychodynamic thinking. Some of the staff I work with --and patients-- describe psychopathy, sociopathy and anti-social traits as the cause of some of these horrors. But that's at the extreme end of the spectrum. What we're talking about here are our family, lovers, the neighbours; the Glenn Close's from fatal attraction, and those who drain our everyday energy and split families and staff teams and cause us to query our own sanity.

But why are we so attracted to borderlines? - It's in the self image they lack, so they wear a mask and this mask is the one of perfection, years of practice has caused us to be bowled over by their ability to cover up for their losses they never truly realise and/or understand.. Until the moment we question them.

It is true that treatments are still in their infancy in most of the enlightened world, in the UK, PD has only been recognised since 2003. Prior to that it was used as a diagnosis as a mean to exclude people from services "We don't offer treatment", but gradually, this is changing and it is at the heart of social problems. Up to 78% of the inmate populatioin have or can be Dx with anti-social PD, 125,000 families in PM David Cameron's 2011 report are at the heart of Britain's social dysfunction but we are learning more and more each year. These are forensic issues that lead to horrendous acts of primitive nuture seeking behaviour.

I teach police to consider crimes through the perspective of attachment theory; like an onion, on the surface is the crime, peel away a layer and it was a robbery to fund a drug addiction, peel away another layer and the drug addiction is to cover for early lossses. This way, we develop a shard understanding that yes, nobody has to put up with overt and toxic abusive PDs but we do have a responsibility to formulate enlightened views of their struggles. We now have empirical evidence that personality is formed and PD caused by one of the three BioPsychoSocial elements, or an interaction of all three.

Yes, I agree with your point

Yes, I agree with your point "ignorance", but these persons need to try and grow. They need to want to open up, read, get into therapy, etc. If they only want to mistreat you (make you feel crazy, twist your words, make cutting "jokes") then why should you allow yourself to be abused? Out of pity? I agree there is a need for compassion. But if compassion is turned on you, time and time again, then you need to protect yourself from the abuse. Often, it is quiet, loving people who try to reach out, who are patient and show kindness for years and years-before finally realizing they have to walk away (walk away even though it hurts you so terribly, walk away from a mother, or a father, or a sister). Its not about living in a "throwaway" society, but in one that recognizes the patterns of abuse.

not neccesarily true

Although I agree that many of the mentally disturbed and disordered might have had a pitiable life, it's not always the case and this shouldn't cause you to feel the need to take responsibility for them. My step dad currently abuses my little brother on a regular basis, and it is purely because of his privileged childhood. His entire family acts like saints, raw vegan diet, no violence or anything, oh we're so nice and lovely. Except they raised a man who cares more about having weed than connecting with his own son. He lies constantly, only ever blames other people and other things for all problems, and has caused me permanent nerve damage in the left hand. His sister is a drug addict who admits to being in an abusive relationship with a man whos even more of a drug addict after having 3 children. And his grandfather is a rich man who left the family and his wife for his secretary and has connected since. Sometimes people are fucked up, whether it was because they were deprived or spoiled. When people are fucked up it's important to remember that it doesn't mean you have to let them fuck you up. Do not pity them, for they have no capacity for pity for you.

It is hard to let go of a

It is hard to let go of a person like this when you are feeling lonely. I have a friend like this. I divorced and don't have family around. First time in my life living by myself and on top, in a foreign country. This person was like a God sent but sometimes hurts me. Like this weekend. He said my sad feelings are due to "old crap" After a while I felt bad and told him that I felt offended by him calling my feelings "crap" He said I was "blaming" him. I still don't get... "blaming him"??? of what??? I don't know if this person is worth keeping in sake of the good moments...or let him go when I see the red flag (like now). He is a recovering alcoholic. I feel very bad because it felt like the way my ex was treating me at the end of the marriage.. He also had issues with alcohol.

BTW his choice o words is

BTW his choice o words is typical o someone who has recoered thru AA. They teach this kind o conrontational talk and don't want to hear 'the story'. Hae you thought about a women's group as a way to make riends with women who might hae gone thru similar r-ships as you? Attracting another alcoholic is the last thing you need! Hope you can read this, some letters on my keyboard don't work.

Thank you very much for

Thank you very much for replying. Yes, I used to attend Al Anon during my divorce. I am pathologically scared of loneliness. To help myself out during that hard period, a fellow friend from Al Anon encouraged me to go to dancing lessons and this was the first person I met. It was a shock when he told me about his past with alcohol. I saw the red flag, but then, there was something interesting in seeing somebody who has gone through a divorce, is alone and has the determination to care for himself. It provided me inspiration. Also the fact that he was in a 12 step program, like I was, in a strange way I could relate to this person. I now that if it weren't for my extreme loneliness and my fear to it, I wouldn't be friends with this person but you are right. I don't need another alcoholic in my life. It also scares me the fact that I seem to attract them. I don't know why.

attracted to alcoholics

I'm so sorry to hear of your situation, hang in there as I know there are healthy people out there who would enjoy being your friend. You are exactly right in recognizing that you attract alcoholics, this is actually more important to identify than understanding why at this point. When you have been exposed to and in relationship with pathology, you're statistically much more likely to get yourself into that type of relationship again, it's just a fact.
A good rule of thumb is to stay away from people you find exciting or really compelling or attractive or connect with you emotionally in an intense way. Look for nice people to spend time with who share similar interests but may seem more boring in comparison.
Get out into community groups, volunteer for a charity, go to church, go to Al-Anon, there are lots of places to make healthy friends, and optimally of the same gender.
All the best,
Susan Biali

Also in AA there is a

Also in AA there is a guideline that someone in AA not date anyone till at least a year. This is because people new to recoery are not needing any distractions through new relationships - rom their ocus on them and their reco ery. I ha e worked with women escaping domestic iolence situations who became enamored with a man they met who is in
AA. Perhaps you need to see a therapist about why you attract such people?

Excellent article!

In my 26 year nursing career and regular life, I have come across many people like this. Some have been co-workers with low self esteem or skills and would purposely "eat our young". Some of these "seasoned" nurses where very hostile to our new nurses. I ended up training all the new ones and became a mentor to them. I just don't get it, who do they think will take care of us when were old, if we drive everyone out of nursing!
Also I have had many manipulative patients seeking drugs, or family members threatening lawsuits if they don't get what they want. People are just plain crazy these days.
Most difficult people in my regular life, are not many so it's alot easier. I am the one people tell their troubles and their joys to, so I am grateful, that they trust me. I also have been known to tell it as I see it, if that's what's asked.
I think I limit my interactions with people that I really don't have to, so that cuts down on the "sucking the life out of me" types. Thank You for a must read and excellent article. :)

As a case manager nurse, I've

As a case manager nurse, I've dealt with co worker, whose behavior causes others to walk on eggshells almost daily, including our supervisor. This coworker does not like change, and when it occurs she passively aggressively ignores emails. When she ignores emails, and when I ask her face to face the question I need answered, she's rude, terse or only gives one word answers.
She will pounce on a mistake that someone else makes by bringing it up over and over-either directly to the person, or by recounting it to a group of people. Last week she had to tell me twice for 20 minutes straight about how I screwed something up, and then discussed it at a meeting, complaining about how she 'had to clean up a mess.' The mistake was a fluke; a task I'd perfectly for the last three years. It didn't occur to her that I'd completed it correctly in the past. The problem was a computer function that didn't work-I explained that I wasn't aware the function didn't work that day.
I am starting a part-time schedule next week. Due to my supervisor being absent from work for 2 weeks (illness), the co-worker was not notified until 9 days before the change. In response to getting the news, she has again begun to speak harshly to me and ignores emails. She is upset because until another fulltime nurse is hired, she may have some additional work to do; this will be remedied when an addtional employee comes in. The supervisor has disappointed me because she didn't notify her earlier. That speaks volumes to me about what the future holds. It seems as if I won't have a supervisor who will back me, because she's busy trying to avoid delivering any news that could be construed as negative. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

tough situation at work

If I had a dollar for the number of times I hear of a situation like advice would be to not react directly to this person (change the subject or find some other neutral way to let it slide off you) and just continue to do your best work. Stay away all that you can. If you have an opportunity to reinforce an impression of your competence with your supervisor, take it. If your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program (these are usually totally confidential), I would recommend you see if you can get some help or at least have a place to vent your frustrations. These situations are incredibly difficult, and I wish you all the best. The good thing is that people who do good work get noticed for it eventually, it stands the test of time.
Susan Biali

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Susan Biali, M.D., researches health and happiness. She is also a professional flamenco dancer and author.


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