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Any advice on dealing with black and white thinkers?

Community Member

Hi all, I hope everyone is ok (even though you're here with me on this forum!)

I'm keen for some strategies for dealing with (maybe combating?) a very rigid, black and white thinker. Fear of putting my daughter into poverty and shame over my financial situation is keeping me in a 2BR apartment with my estranged partner for now. For him, everything is my fault and he is very black and white. How does one deal with these people best? Do I just use cold reason, hide emotion; I can't completely ice him out because I won't have that level of toxicity for our vulnerable five-year-old, and he rejects empathy; like literally says "I don't want empathy". If you have any hot tips, please share!

12 Replies 12

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi Jolly Dolly,

Thanks for sharing! It sounds like you've been going through a bit of a hard time at home. Your partner sounds like he's very difficult to deal with and it's brave that you are trying to protect your daughter. Have you tried just being completely neutral with him? Like not showing him either positive or negative emotion but just being straight faced, responding when he talks and not giving him any attention when he gets overly emotional. I know this can be hard but sometimes when people aren't given positive/negative emotional reactions they learn to change or stop their behaviour.

On the other hand if you are feeling unsafe in your home I would advise getting in touch with us or calling a shelter service. You shouldn't be ashamed about your situation it is not your fault. Here is a link that might help you https://www.womenscommunityshelters.org.au/.

If you need help don't be afraid to reach out, there is always someone here to help.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi jolly,

What Ur talking about, blaming u, being unresponsive and suspicious of empathy, doesn't sound black and white to me.

I see black and white and narrow thinking a lot with ppl who've seen trauma.

that judt sounds unkind

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

hi jollydolly,

I understand that it can be hard when dealing with people like this.

Try to remember that we can never control the situation but we can always choose how we react to it.

Hopefully one day your partner will awaken to the way he reacts.

You can only choose how you want to react and live.

Hi jollydolly,

Welcome to the forums and thank you for sharing this here. We’re really sorry to hear what you’re going through. We hope the amazing words from our community bring you some comfort.

In a healthy relationship, you should be communicated with and treated with respect, so it might be worth having a look at the 1800Respect pages on healthy relationships. It could be useful to have a chat with them to discuss how you’ve been treated by your partner. They're on 1800 737 732, or you can reach them on online chat, here.  You could also speak to the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321. They offer free advice to families going through separation. There’s also Parentline (who have a number for each state listed here) - they have advice on co-parenting when separating, here on their site.

Thank you again for your courage and strength in sharing your story here. We hope you can be as kind to yourself as you have been in sharing here, as it’s really important to look after yourself and reach out when you need to talk it through. The Beyond Blue counsellors are here for you, anytime you’d like to chat, on the number at the top of the page.

Kind regards,

Sophie M

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome

I used to be very black and white say 35 years ago. I'm 65yo now. In 1987 I attended a therapist for 12 months. He said "Tony, you are a black and white person in a world of 8 billion people all with different shades of grey". I was in quasi law enforcement which meant I went by all the rules, but people arent all so robotic.

So what did people do that made an impact on me more than anything and how did they combat it?

Firstly, these differences can cause ongoing arguments. "Ongoing" because differences are so basic and inflexible. IMO what you need to do is to use your wit and think of very good examples in your delivery of your stance. This along with avoidance might get you by. Another tack is to ask questions, that forces him to explain his black and white stance.

You say "Our child needs feeding"

He says "No he doesnt, remain seated and watch the TV"

You say "Why do you believe he doesnt need a meal?"

Now at this point he might well come up with a surprise answer eg "He might need a meal but for the next 15 minutes I wanted you to watch this show with me". So your question leads to clarification. That avoids conflict and corrects his poor communication.

Using wit can be quick but you need to be a thinker. It also ends with a question- eg

You say "I'd like a rose bush on the balcony, I think I'll buy one"

He says "Dont buy a rose bush they have thorns"

You say "Some dont have thorns"

He says "yes they do just less of them, I hate pruning them"

You say "well that settled that, I'm going to buy a thornless rose bush and prune it myself".

He cant come back at that witty answer as he has stated the boundaries of his dislike for roses and those boundaries only has effect if 1/ they have thorns and 2/ he has to prune it. Here is a thread I wrote on the topic-


The other issue is conflict. I also have a thread on a technique my wife and I use that does work for us.


I hope that helps


Thank you Tony, for your great suggestions. I will try to use the peace pipe technique.

Thanks everyone for your time and care. I have found that staying neutral does seem to be effective for me, so I'll try to keep doing that.

Community Member

Hi jollydolly,

yep! I am male and black and white. Not in regards doing things by the book but in terms of what is right I hate wrong. From what I read your partner is very emotional but won’t let on to it. Because it is too hard to deal with it. Empathy is a read flag. I know it well. In my case any kind of reasoning or strategy or blaming I find highly offensive. What always works for me and rarely anyone gets it, is being objective and neutral. Take all emotional handgranade’s out of it and just talk like to a complete stranger. That’s what black and white people are like. Not that we lack emotion and empathy on the contrary. But we are not capable of mixing it with the facts m. The whole world is living by feelings and are in everything emotional encolved. I am not talking about empathy. That is for me not emotional but full of compassion and understanding. Emotion stop me right in the tracks. It’s very easy to deal with black and whit people as long as they are understood. And that is the problem in my experience.Think of it this way most if not all black and white people are somewhat on the autistic spectrum. Emotion freak us out!!

I just read your reply to white knight.

that is a good approach and it can have good results but only if it is genuine and you’re really mean it and not just a strategy to get your way. The consequences could be even worse. Sorry to be so straight.

Hi Motz,

Is this the objective side of which you described?

Over the 9 years I've been here I've always endeavoured to pass on positive vibes in my guidance and left the negative possibilities aside.

There is always the presence of a "but" or "if's" channeling such focus to look hard enough for it. I personally don't entertain any of those thoughts at all as it clouds the messages I'm sending.