More Advice for Assholes

Shortly after my post about what to do when you’re an asshole went live I received a rather kind message:

Amusing article. Would be nice to hear of some examples of how you have deployed your compensating strengths in practice. Oh, and for what it’s worth you don’t come across that way in your podcasts – quite the opposite. – Steven Leighton

Of course being an asshole, I read this as “funny post asshole, now why don’t you tell me something useful?” I know this was not the intent, but the man has a point. So, in honor of Steven, I thought it might pay to get a little more specific with some of my own strategies.

My Asshole Looks Different Than Yours (that came out wrong)

Much like snowflakes, the ways in which we are assholes tends to be unique. There are commonalities (I mean snowflakes are all snow after all), but your strengthens and weaknesses probably differ from mine.

Own it – I’m not suggesting you should proudly be an asshole. The only thing people like less than an asshole is one who revels in it. Self-awareness has always been a strong suit of mine. While I haven’t yet honed it to the point where my awareness of what I’ve just done stops me from what I’m about to do, it has helped in two ways.

  • It lets me own up to my actions, often immediately after my negative instincts get the worst of me. 
  • I’ve become far more aware of the kinds of situations where my assholic nature will rear its ugly head. 

Once again, this often isn’t enough to stop me from being an asshole, but the awareness allows me to address it ahead of time by saying things like, “Look, I’m probably going to sound like an asshole, but there’s something I really want to say”.

Understand it – Self-awareness is a useful tactic for cleaning up your messes and occasionally avoiding them, but it’s far from a solution. Try going a little bit deeper in order to understand why you tend to do things that get you classified as an asshole. As I mentioned in my first post, I can be defensive. I also tend to be annoyingly logical. Things are often binary in my world and this can make conversations with me challenging for others. A strong point of view is a powerful tool, except when it gets in the way of a better idea and no matter how smart I think I am, there’s often a better idea out there. I just have to force myself to get more comfortable with the gray areas to get there. 

Have a better idea – Cutting down ideas is easy and often enjoyable. It’s often not for sport, but it usually comes off that way. I mentioned I tend to be logic prone and while this can be a strength, it’s not enough if all you can use it for is to find the flaws in the logic of others. The same logic that leads you to flaws can often lead to a better idea, so keep going until you find one. While I’m not always able to keep myself in check, I do my best to try and keep my very large mouth shut until my logic leads me to a better solution. An asshole with an idea is preferable to an asshole who only has an opinion.

Treat your ideas as you do others – The trick here, if you read carefully, is to treat your idea this way and not yourself. In our recklessness, assholes tend to take a shotgun approach to feedback. Rather than focusing on the actual issue or idea at hand, we often accidentally attack the person attached to it. Start practicing on yourself and attempt to take a sniper’s approach. Attack your ideas with the same vigor as you do another. See if you can rip just the idea to shreds with tearing yourself apart in the process (spoiler alert: this doesn’t go very well). Even when we attack the idea, we often end up attacking the person. “That’s a stupid idea” or anything of the like is almost always perceived as “you are a stupid person.” Since I’d imagine that you like feeling stupid about as much as I do, this can help you start to empathize with those on the other end of your conversations.

Being A Better Asshole Is Not NOT Being An Asshole

None of these come close to my actually being less of an asshole, but they’re a few of the ways in which I try to compensate. Inevitably you’re going to have to deal with the source rather than these types of causes, but if you find that your approach tends to get in the way of your effectiveness, finding a few coping mechanisms can go a long way towards making the most out of your assholic ways.