Sometimes in life you discover that you were left out of a meeting or event with friends, loved ones, or co-workers. If you’re like most of us, you might briefly wonder why you weren’t included, but then quickly dismiss it from your mind. But, if you’re not careful, a reasonable reaction to a random event can spiral into full-blown HeadTrash Paranoia. The Paranoid person might spend days or weeks obsessing about a guest list, trying to learn what’s being discussed, or even considering crashing the meeting.
Left unchecked, Paranoid people are continually suspect of others’ behaviors. They expend huge amounts of time and energy trying to discern the ulterior motives behind every conversation, text, or email. They’re always looking for a hidden message or a reason to question the decisions made by those around them. The result is hugely draining to any organization, and the morale of those within it.
Recognizing and addressing these symptoms in yourself is one thing. Being vigilant about them in others is quite another, because Paranoia is often linked to other forms of HeadTrash such as Control or Insecurity.
Paranoid people show clearly identifiable signs. For one, they usually surround themselves with “B” players. Whether it’s hiring a team or choosing a friend group, the Paranoid person ensures that no one can outshine them. They are often reluctant to try new things because it might require them to engage with others they distrust. If you work with or are in a relationship with someone suffering from Paranoia, expect to be subjected to constant questions, requests for meetings, and demands for justifications that can sap your energy.
How can you overcome the emotional baggage tied to a person suffering from Paranoia? To start, ask probing questions. By distracting them from their own self-protective thought processes, you can begin to get them to share the information you need to move the relationship forward.
Paranoid people are good at manipulating others to share their opinion so they can avoid the threat of a different idea. Sometimes these ideas can be a little ‘out there,’ so try to recognize when these opinions arise and don’t fall prey to Paranoia’s persuasion. This will continue to get easier as you learn to identify what’s behind these ideas.
It’s important that in dealing with a Paranoid person, you get them to understand they are seeing the world through a distorted lens. Be patient in building trust in the relationship, and helping them see the world as the rest of us do. Ultimately, you will help create a calmer, more effective work or home environment.