Some people are simply irresponsible.

They may be careless and capricious or outright reckless. They “forget” about appointments. They’re chronically late. They neglect to plan ahead. They’re financially irresponsible. They don’t take care of their stuff. They make rash decisions that get them into trouble. They ignore deadlines. They act as though others should bail them out of whatever trouble they get into.

We all know people like this. And they’re not all adolescents. It could be a friend, a family member or a colleague. We may love them yet we experience them as terribly frustrating. We want to shake them. Yell at them. Knock some sense into their brains. But none of this seems to make a difference to them. They shrug it all off.

Why? Because they have Responsibility Deficit Disorder (RDD), a much-needed diagnostic category that I have just created.

RDD is prevalent in our society and is a growing problem. Those who have it do not “suffer” from it. Quite the contrary. The people who “suffer” are those loved ones who must deal with the rat’s nest that is so often dropped in their laps.

If all this sounds familiar to you, here’s what you must do to save your own sanity.

  • Be direct with them.

    Don’t mince words. Not all irresponsible people realize the chaos that they are causing. Be specific about how their actions (or lack of actions) create havoc for you. They may blow you off, or accuse you of nitpicking, or of being judgmental. Think about their responses. They may have a point. But if you know, with your head and your heart, that their irresponsible behavior is what’s causing the difficulty, trust your own judgment.

  • Know what you will do the next time you feel dumped on.

    Irresponsible people tend to be irresponsible. Duh! That’s obvious. But sometimes you forget, especially if you’re an incurable optimist. So, make sure that you know what you will do and what you won’t do the next time an RDD person leaves his mess (literally or metaphorically) for you to deal with. Though it may be tough for you, stick to your guns — even if you are called all kinds of reprehensible names.

  • Know where your power lies.

    Reflect on where your power lies with this particular person. If you’ve been cleaning up his mess, don’t. Let him suffer the consequences. If you’ve been enabling her behavior by bailing her out – once again, don’t. Sure, you may feel guilty that you are no longer doing what you used to do. But that’s how you change the game. It’s much harder for people to be irresponsible when nobody steps in to make it all OK.

  • Make them an offer they can’t refuse.

    Hey, it works for the Mafia. Why not for you? If the person really wants what is in your power to give, use it. I don’t mean that you continue to enable his irresponsible behavior. I mean you offer him a bribe (or reward) if and when he changes his behavior.

  • Sidestep the problem by being less involved with your RDD person.

    It may make you feel bad if you are an inclusive person and you begin to exclude. You don’t ask her to go on vacation with you because you don’t trust that she won’t bail out at the last minute. You don’t go out to dinner with him if he will expect you to pick up the bill once again. Excluding is a preemptive survival mechanism. Use it when it feels appropriate.

  • Unfortunately, change begins with you.

    Why should you have to change? It’s the RDD person who should change. You don’t want to stop doing what you’re doing. You simply want the other person to be more responsible. Great fantasy! Terrible reality! Dream on that the other person will change. He’s got it good – especially if you’re enabling his dysfunction. Why should he change if you’re always there to rescue him? So, as much as you dislike it, know that the change process begins with you.