Talking to Crazy
How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life
Author: Mark Goulston
Pub Date: October 2015
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814436363
Page Count: 272
e-Book ISBN: 9780814436370
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Chapter 1: Understanding Crazy
AFTER DECADES as a psychiatrist, I know crazy—and that
includes some serious crazy.
How serious? One of my patients stalked Britney Spears, and
another jumped off a fifth-story balcony because he thought he
could fly. Still another called me from a jail in the Dominican
Republic, saying he was there to start a revolution.
In addition, I’ve worked with 80-pound anorexics, strung-out her-
oin addicts, and hallucinating schizophrenics. I’ve taught hostage
negotiators how to get homicidal criminals to surrender. And these
days, I show CEOs and managers how to deal with out-of-control
people who threaten their companies’ bottom lines.
In short, crazy and I are pretty much on a first-name basis.
However, a while ago, something occurred to me: I expect to deal
with crazy every day, because it’s my job. But I suddenly realized
how often you have to face down crazy—not the jump-off-a-balcony,
stalk-Britney-Spears kind of crazy, but what I call everyday crazy.
My “aha” moment occurred when I went to a meeting for estate
planners who needed advice about helping families in crisis. I
expected the event to be a little dry, but instead, I was mesmerized.
I found out that just like me, these people have to “talk to crazy”
every day. In fact, nearly every issue they discussed involved clients
acting completely nuts.
These lawyers had no trouble writing wills and creating trusts.
But what they didn’t know, and desperately needed to know, was
what to do when they can’t stop their clients from acting crazy.
That’s when it dawned on me that everyone—including you—has
this problem. I’m betting that nearly every day, you deal with at least
one irrational person. Maybe it’s a boss who wants the impossible.
Maybe it’s a demanding parent or a hostile teen or a manipulative
coworker or a neighbor who’s always in your face. Maybe it’s a tear-
ful lover or an unreasonable client.
And that’s what this book is all about: talking to crazy.
Now, a word about the word crazy: I know it sounds inflammatory
and totally un-PC. But when I use this word, I don’t mean
mentally ill (although mental illness—which I’ll address separately
in Section 5—certainly causes crazy behavior). And I don’t use the
word crazy to stigmatize one group of people either. That’s because
all of us, at some points in time, are crazy.
What I mean by crazy is irrational. There are four ways in which
the people you deal with can be irrational:
- They can’t see the world clearly.
- They say or think things that make no sense.
- They make decisions and take actions that aren’t in their
- They become downright impossible when you try to guide
them back to the side of reason.
In this book, I’ll share my best tricks for breaking through to
people who are irrational in these ways. I’ve used these techniques
to do everything from settling office feuds to rescuing marriages,
and you can use them just as effectively to handle the irrational
people in your life.
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