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HOW do you deal with highly emotional people who make all their decisions based on knee jerk reactions?

These people react on instinct rather than using reason or knowledge and often they are in positions (as a boss or a car buyer) that are beyond them. Emotional responses are their only defense against revealing their weaknesses.

So dealing with them is just not easy; whether you are selling to them or working for them.

Because they are acting from instinct built on their own personal experiences, these people usually refuse to see things from any other viewpoint than their own. To do otherwise becomes a challenge to their life scripts and their comfort zones.

The problem is they are a hostage to their non-rational emotions, so all their decision making gets filtered through this process.

Imagine a sieve and the only things that can get through this sieve are defensive or negative thoughts, emotions and untested or unreasonable perceptions.


They therefore have to be right. Worse, their instant reaction is to often make problems bigger than they are. They even see problems where none exist.

What does not get through the sieve are any positive ideas or thoughts. They feel so vulnerable they are incapable of looking at a situation from a different viewpoint or a different lens because that might challenge their instincts and beliefs. The chances of actually thinking about the situation from a different angle are limited. Therefore so are any solutions.

The sad thing is many of these people are in positions of power. They hold power over you either as a superior at work or a person with whom you want to do business and make a sale; and they abuse this position.

From my experience, it is often because they don’t have the skills needed for that position or the situation in which they find themselves. Their social skills are sadly lacking. You see, it takes a lot more to be a leader than reading numbers; it takes the ability to think and not over-react. But their life’s experience does not include these tools.

A knee jerk response is often the result because sometimes the over-reaction hides something else going on in their lives. It accumulates and then they erupt.

Often you will see these people calm on the outside but inside they are churning with anger because they don’t have the ability to address the underlying problem in the first place. They often display a passive aggressive personality.

How do you spot them?


The first thing to do is to learn to spot this person. So, what are the signs that allow you as the salesperson or manager, to pick or read their signals?

The key is to tune your listening skills into hearing what they are not saying.

Some of the signs are:

  • They are not willing to listen to you at all
  • They are not being reasonable
  • Most of their sentences start with an “I”
  • They cannot seem to back up what they are talking about with facts
  • They usually have no in-depth knowledge of what is actually going on with the team or themselves or their business
  • They often make irrational decisions that are primarily very emotional

You can get fairly quick at picking up these signs based on daily experiences.

Can you change their attitude?

I don’t want to give you a rosy picture that you can turn this person around, because they often don’t want to listen to reason.

Often they don’t even know it and seem to live in a bubble and they can be a challenge to work with. Can you get this person to open themselves up to thinking in a new way or even to listen to you?

It does require patience. You have to be willing to look at what they have said and show them how else they could look at this situation. But, honestly, the chances of this working are very low.

In their mind they fabricate the worst situation and it becomes their reality. In addition, if they are in the company of others who share that same personality type, they can join forces and make it a ‘me-against-you’ type of scenario.

At the end of the day if this person cannot see it from your viewpoint the chances of them coming around and actually having an intelligent conversation with you are remote.

The funny thing is, the people who need to change the most are the ones least open to it.

The big question: what can you do about them?


In my experience, if the selling cycle is longer than usual or they don’t take up an offer that virtually every other person has, you know what you’re dealing with.

At this stage I have often decided to not spend any more time with these people as they are hard work and often have unrealistic expectations. You can often regret working with them. At some stage you have to pick up stumps and go to another game.

So my suggestion is to walk away. They are not worth the effort. If you have done the right thing, in good faith, and have not harmed them in any way, then walk away.

If they lack the emotional maturity (or, as I call it, the emotional IQ) to deal with you rationally, there is simply not much you can do about it. Walk away.

Often these people can be spiteful and talk behind your back, ignoring all the good things you have done for them. Don’t get angry. Just walk away.

At the end of the day the choice to walk away is yours to make. Move on.

Training and development professional Pancho Mehrotra, in his 30+ years’ sales and training experience, has developed and mastered the skills required to effectively communicate with clients at all levels, thereby understanding the psychology to influence people at all levels.

For further information, please contact: or (02) 9033 8663

By Pancho Mehroht


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