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What if the person I'm dealing with is not reasonable, rational, or decent?

JillianHerrickFrazierJillian Herrick-Frazier is a Master Trainer.

Q What if the person I am dealing with is not reasonable, rational, OR decent?

A Great question. In our day-to-day lives we all have dealt with someone we could put into the category of not reasonable, rational, or decent. The thing is, the more I interact with people the more I believe most people are in fact reasonable, rational, and decent. And when they are behaving badly toward me or others, more often than not there is more to it. This does not make these interactions any easier, but it does motivate me to use the skills to improve and minimize the difficult encounters.

I suggest looking back on the three elements of a crucial conversation: high stakes, strong emotions, and opposing opinions. Are the stakes high? Meaning, do you have to work with this person in order to do your job? Will this person always be part of your life? If so, you may want to reframe the question. First, consider someone you believe to reasonable, rational, AND decent. Why would my best friend do this? Why would my soul mate do this? Why would my favorite boss do this? It’s kind of interesting. When you replace the person you believe to be malicious and evil with someone you believe always has your best interest at heart, you may start to see things differently.

Lastly, consider yourself. I don’t know about you, but I like to think I’m a fairly reasonable, rational, and decent individual. When I substitute myself for the other person, I almost always see things differently, which helps me to master my stories and get back in dialogue. It’s not always easy to do, but this question is here to help us take pause and consider things in a different light.

2 thoughts on “What if the person I'm dealing with is not reasonable, rational, or decent?”

  1. Michael

    When I hear this statement, I usually reply that everybody is reasonable, rational and decent to somebody. Using these skills will help you to be one of those people that they are reasonable, rational and decent with.

  2. Mike Schonherr


    Thanks for the thoughtful response and ideas. I hear this question every time I lead a Crucial Conversations workshop. Sometimes I even raise or repeat the question at the opportune time during the workshop because it is such a critical issue…we all face those interactions with people who appear not to be as reasonable, rational, and decent as we might like them to be.

    In addition to the “put yourself in their shoes” advice you so aptly provided, I often point participants back to the Crucial Conversations model and core message (at least in my view) that we can only control our own actions and behaviors, but Crucial Conversations provides us with tools that create the opportunity and environment for someone else to behave reasonably, rationally, and decent.

    Human free will is a powerful force, but my experience both teaching and utilizing the Crucial Conversations skills reinforce my belief that most people, when treated with kindness, respect, and honesty (which are key tenets of the training) will respond in kind.

    Thanks, again.

    Mike Schonherr

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