Behind “Unreasonable” Behavior

Have you ever wondered how someone could behave so unreasonably? What is the person really seeking? If you looked behind the “unreasonable” behavior, would you find anger, hurt, or disappointment?

When someone appears angry, hurt, or disappointed, it generally signifies an unmet need. Empathizing with the feeling helps discern the need – whether for autonomy, connection, meaning, peace, or physical well-being –  and opens the possibility for identifying and considering solutions.

Before labeling behavior as “unreasonable,” you may want to look again. The business owner who appears foolishly apprehensive about selling may initially reject because this family business represents the last sense of connection to a deceased parent. A spouse who refuses to consider terms of a marital termination agreement may need to express (and have acknowledged) the heartache of an extramarital affair or loss of a child. The key organizational member who suddenly scoffs at participating in long-term strategic planning may have just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

While it may be preferable to avoid talking feelings, feelings reveal important information. Demonstrating recognition with words such as, “it sounds like you feel really hurt or frustrated or…,” may begin to fulfill the wish for understanding. 

Taking time to honor calls to be heard, seen, and/or understood acknowledges the human being, worthy of dignity and respect, involved in each situation. Allowing space for this sharing may ultimately lead to a more constructive conversation and help create more lasting solutions. 

Mediation supports constructive conversations between people or groups in conflict. Conflict coaching empowers individuals to gain clarity and engage confidently and compassionately. 

A civil and family mediator, peace builder, and educator, Sherry Ann Bruckner lives in Alexandria, Minnesota. Visit brucknermediation.com/services to learn more or call Sherry at (320) 808-3212 for help to transform conflict and create peace.

As always, be gentle with you. Be gentle with all. Be the peace.