Appropriate Social Response

All conflict management theory makes two fatal assumptions, that the other party is:

  1. rational,
  2. willing to solve the problem.

There’s a lot of really good information about on how to handle interpersonal or organisational conflict. You should learn at least the fundamentals in order to better succeed at whatever you turn your hand to. But there are certain triggers which should warn you that the other party won’t come to the party, as it were, whether due to entrenched belief, sheer bloody-mindedness or some manner of brain dysfunction, whether organic or drug-induced. In these cases, you will not be able to hold any kind of adult discussion about the problem. The best you can hope for is to get out of the situation with as little pain as possible.

So, look for these triggers, or ones that are similar, and act appropriately.

Trigger 1: Intentionally Malicious

“I hope your next baby lives. Otherwise you’ll oblige your family to attend another funeral not because they like you but just to be polite.”

There is no win situation for you here. There is no way to discuss anything rationally with this person. Surely, it is impossible that any rational human being can seriously think like this. The only logical purpose for saying something like this is to further the target’s internal suffering.

Appropriate Response: Cut all contact. No one has to put up with this.

Trigger 2: Lack of Basic Intelligence

“It’s been months since you children died. Why aren’t you over it by now?”

See the response to Trigger 1. These people are so devoid of basic human feeling or so emotionally stunted that there is point treating them as fellow human beings. There is simply no way you can get through to them on any level, let alone make them understand in even the remotest or most tangential manner what a world-shattering event you have been through.

Appropriate Response: Cut all contact. No one has to put up with this.

Trigger 3: Stunted Emotional Growth

“I had no problem getting pregnant with all of my children. What’s wrong with you that you can’t”

“You need to pray that god forgives your sins. Only then will he allow you to have a baby.”

See the response to Triggers 1 and 2. How any one can imagine that this is an appropriate comment (even if one believed it) is completely beyond comprehension. The idea that there may be a medical cause to your fertility problems is completely beyond them regardless of how many times you explain it. Although any persons who could say this deserves sympathy for leading such shallow and blighted lives, there is nothing to be gained from having any dealings with them.

Appropriate Response: Cut all contact. No one has to put up with this.

Trigger 4: Unwilling to Deal with Reality

“Stop writing about your grief on bereavement support forums. It’s so rude to talk about things which should be kept private.”

This one is much trickier to handle and requires fine judgement to know exactly which way to jump. For instance, you may think of using this as an opening into a discussion about the healing which can be achieved by externalising emotions and working through them. You may be able to discuss how important it is to know that others face the same difficulties as you and that you are not alone. You may be able to point out that by sharing your feelings you are providing the same service to others.

However, if you encounter this in combination with other triggers or come to realise that any education campaign you embark upon is going nowhere, you can be certain that you can never have an adult relationship with this person. These persons are so incredibly selfish that they cannot even admit that not all events in the world either a) revolve about them or b) match their tenuous grasp on reality.

Appropriate Response: Cut all contact. You don’t need the hassle.

Trigger 5: Just Plain Childish

“You said something bad about me. I’m going to tell everyone what you said so that they’ll all hate you too.”

Again, there is no win situation here. Although you may get some fleeting enjoyment from screaming “grow up, you dumb fuck!” down the phone, resists the urge. It only plays to their level. Most people grew out of this behaviour about the same time they grew out of kindergarten. This childish attitude is so staggering and so entrenched that nothing you can do will change it. Engaging with this type of grown-up baby sucks you inextricably into the black hole of their crazy.

Appropriate Response: Cut all contact. You don’t need the hassle.

While this list of triggers is not exhaustive, it should give you a fairly clear idea of the sorts of behaviours which signal a losing proposition for you. If two or more decades of living has failed to have any impact on them, what chances do you have? Realise that there is nothing you can do or say which can turn these sad and broken individuals into valid human beings and move on.

What triggers are missing from this list? Feel free to add them as comments.