Every irrational person has a modus operandi—a preferred way of operating. An M.O. is a weapon irrational people use to get others to do what they want and stay in control. However, as bestselling author Mark Goulston points out in his new book, TALKING TO CRAZY: (AMACOM, October 2015), it’s also a weakness. “An M.O. makes the person predictable, so you’ll know what to expect—whether it’s tears, screaming, silence, or bullying,” notes Goulston. “And when you’re prepared, it’ll be easier for you to keep your own emotions reined in and keep thinking straight.”
For help with spotting a person’s distinct brand of crazy and not letting it unravel you, here are snapshots of the nine most common M.O.s of irrational people:
- Emotional people believe they need to vent or they’ll explode. Therefore, they cry, scream, and slam doors. They tend to overpower you because they’re willing to escalate a situation to a point that’s unbearable for a sane person.
- Logical/Practical people think they’re in control only when they stick to the facts. As a result, they become terse, cold, and condescending. You may start feeling and acting more emotional—and angry—in response to their icy logic. They also have a way of causing you to feel ashamed for simply having feelings.
- Manipulative/Needy people whine, wheedle, and make excuses to get something from others that they can’t (or won’t) supply themselves. If you don’t give them what they want, often they try to control you by making you feel guilty. When these people are unrelenting, you may start to feel annoyed and put-upon.
- Fearful people feel like they’re constantly surrounded by threats. Prone to lashing out wildly when something triggers their fear, they appear to be comfortable perched between fear and panic. They evoke a nearly constant need to reassure them, which eventually gets exhausting.
- Hopeless/Withdrawn people feel like the world will only hurt them, so they hide from it. No matter how hard you try to convince them that they can be happy in the future, they’ll insist that you’re wrong. Their negativity can leave you feeling frustrated, sad, and a bit hopeless yourself.
- Martyrs make a point of refusing to ask for help, even when they desperately need it. They initially make you feel guilty for not helping, despite not giving you a chance. Over time, however, their martyr act can make you feel exasperated.
- Bullies believe they’re in control only if they’re making you feel intimidated and weak. That’s why they attack, threaten, or belittle you. The more powerless you feel, the more powerful they feel. Bullying people may make you submissive—as well as angry. You may be provoked to strike back.
- Know-It-Alls like being the only expert on a topic, even if they’ve never “been there” or “done that.” They will find cracks in any idea you offer. They know that if they can make you feel stupid, you’ll lose confidence. These people may make you feel insignificant and sometimes ashamed—as well as resentful.
- Sociopathic people (technically sane but irrational in a unique way) are hiding secrets. Their M.O. is to terrify you so you won’t find out what those secrets are—or worse, expose them to the rest of the world. These people will make you feel afraid and even “creeped out.” Beware!
MARK GOULSTON, M.D., is a top psychiatrist and nationally respected authority on getting through to resistant people. Widely regarded as a “people hacker,” Dr. Goulston began his career as an interventional psychiatrist focusing on suicide and violence prevention. For more than twenty years, he served as Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA’s renowned Neuropsychiatric Institute. He then extended his skills from the clinic and classroom to law enforcement, corporations, and the not-for-profit sector. A highly respected and widely sought out speaker, trainer, executive coach, and business advisor, Dr. Goulston has worked with GE, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and the FBI, among many major organizations.