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This is one of a series of brief articles on how
to respond effectively to annoying social
behavior. An effective response occurs
when you get your
primary needs met
well enough, and both people feel
heard and respected enough.
This article offers useful responses to
someone you experience as
"over-idealistic" and/or unrealistically
optimistic. It assumes you're
This brief YouTube video offers perspective on the
common source of over-idealism:the inherited
psychological wound of reality distortion:
We live in a dualistic world; light / dark;
hot / cold; good / evil; male / female; comfort
/ pain; hope / despair; etc. Adults' and kids'
personalities can be loosely grouped into
"optimists" and "pessimists" - a
glass-half-full vs. half-empty attitude about
A third group are "realists," who usually
see life as it really seems to be. When someone
you care about is too optimistic it can
be hard to relate to them. If you agree, can you
optimism or pessimism is a form of
which usually signals unawareness of significant
wounds. When that's the case, there are apt to be
to a satisfying relationship - specially if
you are wounded also. Realists and
pragmatists tend to be often guided by their
which by nature are grounded and clear-visioned.
You can feel anxious and frustrated if you fear
something painful or damaging will occur to
someone you care about and they insist "No,
everything's going to be just fine!" This
is specially stressful if you're a pessimist
and the other is an optimist. The tipping point
between acceptable idealism and excessive
idealism (or pessimism) is unique to each
As you know, trying
to use logic to significantly change
someone's values is rarely effective. In
other words, you can't persuade someone
to "be less optimistic." You still have many...
attitude. Do you see well-meant feedback as
a gift to the other person, or a challenge?
How do you feel when others offer you
respectful feedback about your behavior?
to notice when someone is excessively
optimistic or idealistic. Then identify how
this trait makes you feel.
Your feelings are reliable pointers to what
Decide if you want to say something to the
other person now or later. If
so, identify what you need from
"saying something" - to vent? Learn? Inform?
Complain? Hint? Problem-solve? Set or
enforce a limit? Whine? Something else?
what you need,
choose one or more options from these
"(Name), are you open to some personal
feedback?If you get "NO," you have
problem to respond to.
you as unrealistically / rigidly optimistic
"I get concerned
that you're denying _______ and that could
hurt you / me / us."
"Do you see
yourself as an idealist or a realist?"
"I see _____
very differently than you do."
"When you're so
rigidly optimistic (Name), I lose trust in
"I feel your
idealism blocks honest communication between
us at times."
so idealistic / optimistic, I've stopped
asking your opinion on some things."
"I think it's
more realistic to say that we can't reliably
predict (some outcome)."
"I admire that
you always see the best in other people -
and I worry that that makes you vulnerable
to betrayal at times."
"Can you give me a hearing check?"
(To test whether s/he received your
the person is uncomfortable with your
response, s/he may "resist" - i.e.
deny, rationalize, joke, explain, excuse,
argue, blame you, whine, intellectualize,
change the subject, go silent, play "Yes,
but...," etc. Expect this (with any
direct feedback), and use
to acknowledge (not agree with) their
response/s. Then calmly repeat your feedback
with steady eye contact. Continue this
listen-repeat sequence until you get your
needs met or your needs change.
If there is an excessively idealistic or
optimistic person on your life now, imagine
using responses like these with her or him. How
would you feel, and how would they probably
react? How would your relationship be affected?
How about your self respect?
you don't have to endure overly-idealistic
behavior and it's effects!
This is one of a series
of brief articles suggesting effective ways to
respond to irritating social behaviors. This article offers (a) perspective on
idealism, and (b) ways to
respond effectively to an overly-idealistic or
optimistic person. The ways are