Dear Heidi: How do you tell someone they're too extreme?

Open your social codes toolbox, pull out respect and diplomacy, and try to steer your friend or acquaintance toward a solid middle ground.

The beauty of this world is the people who populate it. Just like snowflakes, we are all different. So many personalities, so many people—all fascinating, but some are more comfortable to be around than others.


Some people are pragmatic, some are dreamers, while others think and talk in extremes. Those who are extreme often see things through a broad lens focused only on one end of the spectrum or the other; the middle bit blurs.


If you have a friend who lives in the extreme, she may say things like, "Let's throw a party via Zoom; we'll have huge attendance, or no one will show up." It's boom or bust with them all the time. It can be wearing, and it may get on your nerves because her comments are unreasonable. So, what to do?


Open your social codes toolbox, pull out respect and diplomacy, and try to steer your friend toward the middle, but remember it's blurry to her. Help her clear the fog, and offer her some middle-ground suggestions. You could respond to the party comment with, "Yes, great idea— Let's have a Zoom party! It doesn't matter how many show up, we'll have great fun planning the party, and it's sure to be a big success; you'll see."


Use diplomacy and respect to keep your relationship intact while patiently helping your friend to consider less drastic potential outcomes.


If you are the one who tends to think in the extreme, it's important to engage your emotional intelligence. First of all, be aware that you lean toward the severe in your reactions. Recognize your vantage point, and determine if it is appropriate or inappropriate behavior. Being extreme can be beneficial in some situations. For instance, during a pandemic, refusing to have a middle ground when it comes to wearing a mask can help to keep you safe.


The bottom line is, be mindful. Understand when being extreme is appropriate, and when it's only a pain, and act accordingly.