Impossible People

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We all know people in our lives who know how to push all our buttons. We try to be strong, but they know just what to do and say to drive us bonkers. This entry is meant as a catch-all category to deal with people who are generally irritating, frustrating, or abrasive. One may define “impossible people” as those persons who are simply very difficult socially: they do not respond to common social cues, avoid typical negotiation dynamics, evade negotiated points directly by bringing in other irrelevant issues, talk only of their issues and never address yours, have trouble with or cannot focus on the negotiation, react inappropriately emotionally, push on sensitive personal areas, or simply say no to everything much like a child with the oppositional defiant disorder[x]. In rare cases, they may threaten physical abuse in a professional setting. See sections on Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder, which are related issues.


Impossible people often talk over you, never acknowledge your position, or do not even talk to the point of contention at the table, until much frustration and energy are expended. Emotional outbursts are used to derail the conversation as are binary decisions, (you are either with me or against me if you don't agree to my precise request).


It will take most negotiators a few cycles with this tactic before they catch on the negotiation is going nowhere and something is off. How do we deal with these people that you must sometimes deal with, such as a sole source supplier with a bad attitude, the parent of your child who is checked out, or an intellectually isolated ideologue leader in your community who does not respect you? To handle these dynamics, do not engage directly because it will be fruitless or may become violent. Get an intermediary, attorney, mediator, intervention host, law enforcement officer, or even lawful physical restraint in extreme cases. You can’t negotiate with “crazy”, but pay a lawyer and they will do it for you.

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