The 3 Kinds of People: Wise, Foolish, and Evil

“You have more influence to bring about change than you might think, but the key is knowing what to do with different kinds of people.” – Necessary Endings, page 122

Wise People

“When the truth presents itself, the wise person sees the light, takes it in, and makes adjustments” says Dr. Cloud.

Because they can handle feedback and will truly use it to make changes, the way to deal with people in this category is to keep talking. Discussing the issues and exploring ways to change is effective because no one is discounting behaviors or making excuses. The truth is laid out on the table so that real solutions can emerge and meaningful change can occur. A wise person gives you a real reason to have hope that things will be different.

Foolish People

“The fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.” Conversations with foolish people are the most frustrating because it feels like you are talking to a wall. They never seem to hear the feedback.

So, the way to deal with a foolish person is simple: stop talking. At least about the problem. There’s a word for continuing to remind someone of a behavior that they don’t see the need to change: it’s called nagging. And it doesn’t work until someone gets hopeless enough to change. Instead, have a different conversation about a new problem: the fact that talking doesn’t help.

In other words, you need to have a necessary ending of the pattern by no longer talking about the problem but by using a new strategy of setting limits and establishing consequences for the problem. Limits protect you from the fool’s collateral damage, and doing something that causes them to feel the consequences of their behavior may help them feel hopeless enough to turn around. In this way, you transfer the need for them to perform from your shoulders and onto theirs.

Evil People

“Do not hope for the evil persons to change. It could happen, and it does, but does not happen by giving in to them, reasoning with them, or giving them another chance to hurt you. It happens when they finally are subject to limits that force them to change. Jail does some people good.”

The best way Dr. Cloud could explain how to deal with evil people is to quote a Warren Zevon song, “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” When Dr. Cloud quotes the words from that song, he may do it for effect, but he’s absolutely serious. You can’t reason with evil people, so you need to protect yourself with lawyers, guns (police), and money. This may be the case for some women in abusive relationships where they need to get restraining orders, or in businesses where people try to sabotage your company or reputation.