How to Deal With Assholes

If I asked you to identify the biggest asshole in your life right now, how quickly could you come up with a name? Some of us might list three or four assholes we talk to on a daily basis, as well as all the anonymous assholes who cut us off in traffic, cut us in line in front of us, and otherwise make our lives miserable.

I interviewed Robert Sutton, a Stanford University professor of business and author of The Asshole Survival Guide: How To Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt , to learn how to spot an asshole, how to deal with assholes, and how to get rid of assholes when needed. …

How to spot an asshole

Wondering how to spot the assholes in your life? Start with your own emotional responses. “You have an asshole problem if you’re dealing with someone who makes you feel humiliated, de-energized, disrespectful,” Sutton says. “The one who makes you feel like filth.”

The problem is that sometimes our feelings can play a trick on us, and meta-emotions associated with workplace and family hierarchy issues mean that we may be too hasty to attribute stupidity to what might otherwise be called assertiveness or setting boundaries. (No, your kids aren’t dumb because they don’t enthusiastically answer your “how was your day?” Question every time they return from school, even if their reluctance to talk can make you feel dirty. )

If you want to make sure you are dealing with a real asshole, look for clearly unpleasant behavior, especially intentionally demeaning or rude behavior. Another good way to tell if someone is an asshole is to ask other people for confirmation: Do they interpret that person’s behavior the same way you do?

Keep in mind that there is a difference between someone who exhibits nasty behavior from time to time and a certified asshole. As Sutton explains: “All of us, in the wrong conditions, can be temporary assholes. Certified assholes are people who make people feel like filth over time. “

There is another reason why you may feel like you are surrounded by assholes: you are actually an asshole . “You treat people like dirt, and they throw shit,” says Sutton.

How to deal with assholes

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for dealing with assholes. If this asshole is run-of-the-mill, non-offensive material (think of the line cutters, breakers, people who have every conversation about themselves, or feel obligated to comment on every little thing you do), you might have to grin and endure – literally.

“Reconsider the situation,” Sutton advises, “so it doesn’t touch your soul and doesn’t upset you too much.”

Sutton suggests using one of five strategies:

  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Decide that the asshole thinks you are funny. (It’s best to keep your entertainment to yourself – that’s part of the fun too.)
  • Create a physical or emotional distance between yourself and this asshole. If you’re sharing a conference room with an asshole, sit as far away from him as possible. If one of your family members is an asshole on social media, turn him off or unsubscribe so that you no longer see (or emotionally react to) his messages.
  • Tell yourself that you are doing psychological research for assholes. Keep track of how many times your coworker interrupts someone or how often your new significant other dominates the conversation.
  • Be polite to this asshole – as pleasantly and calmly as possible. Do not react to their behavior or encourage them in any other way.

How to get rid of an asshole

If an asshole is insulting or makes so many people feel like filth, which is causing serious problems, it might be time to get rid of that asshole.

The first step in getting rid of the asshole, Sutton advises, is to think about how much power you have over them. Do you have the ability to fire them? Can you stop inviting them to group events or family gatherings? Sometimes it’s relatively easy to get an asshole out of a situation – although it’s never easy to tell someone he’s getting fired.

If you don’t have individual authority over the asshole, you may have more authority in the group. Sutton notes that there has been a tipping point for rapists Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, with more and more people sharing their stories. “Each of them has more and more strength, and the asshole has less and less.”

This is not intended to combine vile behavior and sexual assault – although it is probably fair to name sex offenders, among other terms – but it is intended to give you guidance on how to deal with such behavior if you don’t have a lot of power. in the situation. For example: ask your peers if they see the same vile behavior as you do. Some people may rejoice that they are not the only ones who noticed this, and together you can find a solution – or get someone with more power to pay attention to it.

How do you deal with assholes in your life? Which of Sutton’s strategies are you most likely to apply in your next meeting with an asshole? Let us know in the comments.


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