I have been asked to write this by numerous people who don't know or cross paths with each other. Is that saying something? I think yes. It tells me that as fellow humans, we find a common cause of frustration in our attempts to bring reason to an unreasonable situation. As much as this following statement goes against the grain of what I'm usually promoting, I'm going to say it anyway: JUST STOP TRYING ALREADY!
I once had brought into my life (through circumstances not of my choosing and beyond my control!) a person who held vastly different standards of behaviour to myself, and who had no issues lying about their behaviour, if that's what suited their means at the time. I have no doubt that this person enjoyed (or had some other need met, at a guess, maybe control, power, dominance, self worth (really crazy - and unsuccessful - way of trying to meet your needs for self worth by the way)) wreaking havoc on my sanity, wellbeing and some of my life circumstances. For a significant time I lost sleep - and sanity - trying to work out what I was doing wrong with this person, and why our interactions were so extremely challenging. I'd reflect, identify then change many of the ways I engaged with this person in an attempt to improve the situation. But what do you know, for all of my efforts, there was always another problem and nothing ever improved. I tried to speak transparently with this person, confronting many problems, only to be met with lies, denial or distraction. After many failed attempts and much reflection on the situation, I came to the realisation that this problem was not actually mine (you might say I'm a slow learner - I hope for your sake that you are faster than me)!
I'm sure many of you can relate to this. Whether it's someone in your professional circles, club/affiliation circles, a customer, or even in an extended family situation, we can't always control who we need to associate with.
We are all capable of getting angry and refusing to see reason in the moment (hand up for guilty as charged), but healthy people and healthy relationships can overcome this type of refusal to reason by reconvening once the situation has cooled. Having the skill to identify when to back off because the moment is too heated, but still follow up once things are calm, is important. It will bring health, transparency and respect into your relationships.
If however, you are dealing with a person whom you rarely find reasonable, reliable or honest, the sooner you accept that they hold different standards of behaviour to yourself, the better. And, the sooner you implement healthy boundaries after you have come to this acceptance, the better. Implementing boundaries is something that you can take charge of, and regain some control over how regularly or how deep your interactions are with this person. Think about placing limits on; the time and place you will speak with them; the content of what you will speak about; particular phrases or sentences you will use if they overstep your boundaries; the "line" at which you will not accept them crossing, and what you will say/implement if they cross it. If ofcourse, you have the luxury of completely removing yourself from this person's context, go for it, but in most cases when people are speaking to me, they don't have that luxury, hence the conflict resolution discussion!
On that note I will say, that last week I was asked whether I would consider mediating a particular situation. Mediation does not suit everyone, nor every situation, and as part of my intake process I always complete an assessment of the circumstances for a variety of reasons, two of the main ones being: to ensure I would not be placing any party at risk whilst participating in mediation and; to ensure that if the conflict is not resolved, it will not be made worse by the process - the "first do no harm" philosophy. I said no to engaging in mediation because there was too much documented evidence that one party had no intention of wanting to resolve this dispute. The dispute resolution field recognises that attempting to resolve disputes through reason is not always possible. As individuals, we need to recognise that too.
In closing I encourage you to do a few things:
: REFLECT - if you are experiencing constant interpersonal issues, is there something you can identify within yourself that you need to change? Is there something that people are constantly telling you, that is a fault/flaw/mistake you are making repeatedly, that is actually valid and you need to address it?
: IMPLEMENT BOUNDARIES - once you've reflected and confirmed that this problem is not your responsibility, and you can't control it, the one thing you can control is how you interact with it. Implement boundaries to protect yourself that are firm but fair, and communicate your reasons for withdrawing from the situation ie. To a vexatious customer "I will no longer speak to you about this because I will not tolerate your swearing and verbal abuse. If you want to take this situation further you will need to speak to my supervisor."
: ACCEPT and ALLOW - accept that not all people are going to hold themselves to the same standards of behaviour that you do. If you come across somebody that you can't reason with, accept that they are different, and allow them to find somebody else who will relate with them because their standards are aligned. You can focus on spending time with people whom you share common ground with, while the others live happily ever after with those whom they share commonality ;) (that's a winking emoticon, because my theory does not predict happily ever after at all......something more along the lines of implosion.... but that's beside the point and it's no longer your problem anyway!)!
Get out there and connect, grow and live!