Mastery Monday – You Can’t Reason With A Drunk

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The last strategy in the Think Like A Negotiator book is “You Can’t Negotiate with Crazy.”

There are some people you cannot reason with and a drunk is one of them. In fact there are 3 types of people that when a contract is formed with them it would be considered voidable; 1. Infancy (legally defined as someone under 18). 2. Insanity or 3. Drunkenness (which most likely includes drugs as well).

For the Labor Day weekend I traveled to Trinity County in Northern California to spend some time with my son and exhibit at a Fly In Event put on by the Trinity Lions Club.

Trinity County is a small town area. During the summer it’s more populated and Labor Day weekend is a big weekend for the camp grounds and lodges around the area. There is a local pizza place that is one of the few places to eat and it’s always packed.

Unfortunately, a holiday weekend includes people who have too much to drink and are belligerent, rude or disruptive.

My son and I were having dinner at the pizza place. We reserved a table outside to have an enjoyable time and good food. It started out that way until 2 couples sat at the table 2 tables away from us. At first glance I noticed the one guy was drunk and the other was a bit buzzed. I didn’t notice any kids at first and felt relieved that children weren’t a part of that scenario.

The extremely drunk guy was using a lot of foul language and being very loud. Then he tossed some water and I realized they had a baby in a car seat on the ground and the water (I hope it was water and not beer) hit the baby. The baby’s mother told the guy that he got their son. The guy said it was ok but then the baby was crying.

The guy decided he was going to the restroom and started to walk out by a tree to go. We are in a restaurant! They yelled at him and told him to go inside and he reluctantly did.

This happened within a short span of time. Both my son and I wanted to tell him to stop his foul language and loud mouth. We wanted to tell him to have some respect for the families with kids around, or for his son or the mother of his baby.

My son and I decided to move inside and we told the staff what was happening so they could take care of it. They went out and talked to them and asked them to tone it down. Eventually the wife came inside to pay and was apologizing to the staff and saying she just needed to get everyone out of there.

Unfortunately it doesn’t do any good to attempt to reason with someone who is drunk. They aren’t in their right mind and won’t listen to anything you say. They may get more belligerent, rude or violent.

How do I know this? I grew up with 2 alcoholics and have been in relationships with alcoholics many years ago. No matter what, you can’t reason with someone who is drunk so don’t even attempt it. You will end up frustrated, angry or maybe even physically hurt.

When I was in my early 20’s I watched a fight break out between an alcoholic who had been cut off by another car. He got out of his car, went up to the guy in the other car and started yelling at him. The guy must have said something he didn’t like because he then started punching him several times, walked back to his car, got in and drove off. You can’t reason with a drunk so don’t even attempt it or this could happen to you or even worse if they have a gun or other weapon.

Last week I took the train to attend an event to save my back from the stress of driving. After the event I returned to the train station to head back home. It was late, it’s downtown Los Angeles and there’s alot of crazy going on down there these days. I wasn’t paying much attention to the woman heading my direction. Apparently I was too close to her path and she started swearing loudly at me to get out of her path and started swinging her arms. It scared me and I quickly moved away. It was clear she was under the influence of something. I kept going and thankfully nothing further happened.

There’s a time and place to step in and set something right. However, that time does not apply to someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It’s best to simply move away from the situation and save yourself some grief or even your life. You Can’t Negotiate With Crazy.

Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Veteran negotiation and contracts expert Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator,” has over 30 years of experience crafting killer deals both stateside and internationally, many in excess of $100 million. She’s currently the CEO of Dynamic Vision International — a specialized consulting and training firm that helps individuals hone negotiation skills — as well as a nationally regarded keynote speaker, session leader and panelist on the Art of Negotiation. Eldonna may be reached online at

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