12/22/2009 10:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Deal With Crazy People (without becoming one of them)

There's nothing like the dysfunctions of others to bring out the beast in us.

Whether it's the drama-queen sister-in-law, the narrow-minded neighbor, or the self-absorbed boss, we know they're crazy, and the fact that they won't admit it makes us even more nuts.

Oh sure, intellectually we know that the fall-out from calling the crazy one on the carpet is usually just more chaos. But emotionally, it sends us seething when the crazy person, and often the people around them, won't admit the truth. It's almost like we're the only ones who can see the dysfunctions.

This is the place where the spiritually-grounded, Zen-like, self-help guru is supposed to remind you of the age-old question, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?"

Well guess what?

I think you can be right and be happy at the same time.

The truth is, they ARE crazy.

Your mind has a built-in truth detector. It doesn't matter how many times you meditate, or how much Prozac you swallow, or how many martinis you knock back - nuts are nuts, plain and simple, and your brain will constantly remind you of this fact.

The dysfunctions of others are dreadfully annoying. However, in researching my new book The Triangle of Truth, I discovered that what actually puts us over the edge towards craziness ourselves is not other people's dysfunctions; it's their denial of their dysfunctions.

You know, how they go out acting all normal, and even self-righteous, as if we're the ones who are loopy.

So how do you deal with them?

This is where the happiness part of the equation comes in and how The Triangle of Truth can help.

The Triangle of Truth enables you to hold two seemingly competing ideas in your mind at the same time, and it's the secret to dealing with crazy people.

You get to acknowledge their dysfunctions AND hold a space for their better qualities at the same time (even if you have no idea what those better qualities may be).

Here's how it works. On one side of the Triangle, you have your personal truth, which is: This person is nuts, they're hopelessly flawed, and they wreak havoc everywhere they go.

On the other side of the Triangle, you have a universal truth, which is that every person has merit and value. There's an inner fabulousness inside each of us, even the people who do a great job of covering theirs up.

The ability to see this duality in other people represents a monumental mental shift that makes all the difference in the world.

If you can mentally employ The Triangle of Truth model the next time your mind is screaming, "She's crazy, she's crazy," you will get to experience the self-righteous indulgence of validating your own negative assessments AND the pious superiority of taking the high road, at the same time.

It's great; you get to be both mature and immature all at once.

Which is probably exactly the way they act.

Because the truth is, we all have our flaws. One of theirs is that they make you crazy, and one of yours is that get sucked into it.

We're all just a flawed-and-fabulous work in progress. Once you recognize that, it becomes a lot easier to stay sane, even if you're surrounded by crazies.

Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, syndicated columnist, inspirational thought-leader and keynote speaker. Her newest book is The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small. She is principal of McLeod & More, Inc., a training and consulting firm specializing in sales, leadership and conflict management.