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Have you ever left an interaction with someone wondering what could possibly make that person so miserable in their life that they feel the need to be rude to others?
I have felt this way countless times, both with strangers and with people I see on a more regular basis.
One of the worst places to have to deal with a jerk is at work. Not only do you have to see them at work every day, but chances are, you probably have to interact with them in some way also. This can make going to work dreadful at times, especially if you know you have a meeting with that person coming up.
Workplace bullying is shockingly common In fact, research has shown that 75% of workers have either experienced or witnessed workplace bullying at some point.
What’s your response to these unsavory people? I have found it to be difficult to think of something to do or say in the moment.
In this article, we are going to get prepared for handling these situations so you’re not left speechless. I will go over some techniques that can help you deal with the jerks in your life and not let their bad attitude get you down.
Before we get started, let’s take a look at what classifies someone as being a jerk, especially in the workplace.
How Do You Earn the Title of Being a Jerk?
A jerk is anyone who makes other people feel ashamed, humiliated, disrespected, or de-energized. This isn’t to say that everyone you have a negative interaction with is a jerk, as we all have our moments.
Rather, jerks are the people who are consistently painful to endure and who are seemingly never satisfied with other people. These are the toxic people in your life that you probably try to avoid, if possible.
Let’s look at 10 actions you can take to deal with the jerks in your life.
How to Deal with Assholes: 10 Tips for Handling the Jerks in Life
1. Maintain Your Physical Distance
What happens if you’re in close proximity to a jerk for the majority of the day? You overhear their conversations and interactions with everyone that they interact with. This can be draining for you by proxy to constantly hear this negativity during the day.
Also, by overhearing these conversations, you may start to pick up this person’s asshole tendencies and start being insufferable yourself. As it turns out, studies show that being rude is contagious. And you can probably understand why this is true, especially if someone is rude to you directly.
If you can keep your physical distance by not surrounding yourself with jerks, you can take the first step to avoiding them. You won’t be thinking about it as much while you’re trying to work and you can be sure that the conversations you overhear are (hopefully) mostly positive ones.
2. Don’t Be Quick to Judge
If someone is not usually a jerk, but has an asshole moment, give them a pass. They could be having a bad day, maybe they’re fighting with their spouse, or maybe they’re hungry.
Be understanding of people’s varying moods and be sympathetic to the fact that everyone has their moments.
It’s ok to let a bad moment slide. It’s just when someone is continuously harassing other people when you can confidently classify them as a jerk.
Don’t be quick to judge someone’s overall character after a single interaction, and be forgiving when other people are having a bad day–just as you would want them to do for you. Doing so will make your life easier and more pleasant for those around you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with the infrequent asshole:
Give the person a mental hug and move on.
3. Cut Ties
Do you have any people in your life who are constantly exhausting, make you feel bad about your life and your decisions, make demeaning comments, and drain you of your positive energy?
If these people add no value to your life, it’s time to cut ties. Even if this is someone who has been your friend since elementary school, your life has evolved and so have your needs in relationships.
Jerks don’t recognize enjoyment, pleasure, or excitement because they don’t often experience these emotions–but these are things that you want in your life. Because of this, you need to cut ties with people who aren’t open to these positive emotions, as they will limit your opportunities for joy.
4. Create Emotional Distance
Sometimes it isn’t possible to completely cut someone off, especially if you work with that person. In this case, create some emotional distance by not responding to their emails or texts right away.
Stretch out the time that you have between seeing them face-to-face and avoid crossing paths with them at work as much as you can.
Set boundaries by not connecting with jerks on social media or interacting in any way that isn’t strictly professional if they’re a co-worker.
While this seems obvious, it can be difficult to prevent your work life from becoming a big part of your social life because you spend most of your waking hours at work. This is especially true if you work at a smaller company where everyone knows everyone.
Reduce your interactions as much as possible, especially if you feel like this person gains a sense of joy from making you feel badly about yourself. Let them move onto someone else, which they will.
So what if it isn’t just one person who is the jerk? What if you work in an environment or profession where being a jerk is the norm?
Unless you run the business, it would be very difficult to overhaul office politics and inspire people to move away from backstabbing behavior and work toward cohesive team work.
If you work for an organization whose values greatly differ from yours, cut your losses and move on. Because when your profession doesn’t line up with your values, life doesn’t feel good.
You don’t feel fulfilled, content, or whole because you’re spending 40+ hours a week not being true to yourself. Make a decision and create a constructive plan for finding an organization to work for that shares your values.
6. Fight Back
Be careful with this, but it is an option. What will make this option especially acceptable is if there are other people who are experiencing this same disruptive asshole behavior from the perpetrator that you are.
If you don’t personally hold power over the jerk, you could have more power as a group. Consider your strategy, but think about confronting the person about how they make you (and others) feel.
But…proceed with caution. Don’t act impulsively by quickly responding to their next rude comment. Don’t be aggressive or try to get revenge.
If you retaliate with a snappy comment, you’re just becoming a jerk yourself and opening the door for future negative interactions. Instead, stand up for yourself and be the bigger person. Stay in control of yourself and your actions and don’t become an asshole in return.
And, the truth is, some people really don't realize they’re being jerks. They could be shocked when you nicely tell them they’re making you feel belittled. Others may know very well that they’re demeaning, but could lay off if you stand up for yourself in a civil–yet firm–manner.
7. Prove Them Wrong
Is this person telling you the same thing on a regular basis?
Maybe you continually hear from them that you will never be as good as they are at your job or your work is always subpar, at best. (Some jerks like to appeal to pity to get what they want. Don't let them.)
First, don’t start to believe this. Know your worth and don’t let anyone take that away from you.
Prove them wrong by doing your best work and showing them why you got hired. Continue to be passionate about what you do and it will be evident in your results.
8. Work Toward Creating a Jerk-Free Environment
If you hear someone gossiping or being rude to someone else, stand up for the victim and let the jerk know that their behavior is unacceptable.
Whether they respond with embarrassment or become defensive, you’ve eliminated the asshole behavior and communicated that you won’t accept this rudeness around you.
Spread positivity and be a supportive friend. This will help reduce asshole behavior by making people around you feel empowered and encouraged. Create a community of people who are proud to associate with each other.
As Jim Rohn famously said, “You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
9. Practice Emotional Detachment
If you have to interact with jerks, try to not let it affect you. Practice emotional detachment. Yes, this is easier said than done. But just try to go through the motions of your day when you’re in their presence without caring about what they’re doing or saying.
Don’t let a jerk’s actions have an impact on your day. Just ignore them and write them off as being the rude people that they are. Feel a sense of pity for them that their lives are so miserable that they need to take it out on other people.
10. Don’t Give Them Any Outside Attention
Don't talk about the rude person when they’re not around.
Nothing that you say while complaining to other people about this person will change how they act, and, people may think you’re gossiping if you talk about the rude person behind their back, which really just makes you the rude one.
If someone else approaches you to talk about this jerk, tell them that you understand how they’re feeling, and then gently change the subject. Discussing the jerk’s behaviors with other people could make things worse, especially if the person in question finds out.
Plus, a jerk isn’t worth your extra time or effort that would go into having a conversation about them behind their back, so spend your time discussing constructive things instead.
Final Thoughts on How to Deal with Assholes
It seems as if an increasing amount of people are making less of an effort to be on their best behavior these days.
If there is someone in your life who makes you feel small, belittled, or insignificant when you’re around them, it’s time to face it so you can move on. Use the tips laid out in this article to handle the jerks in your life and prevent them from impacting you and your success.
Do your best to keep your dignity when you’re facing rude people. It might make a jerk act out even more if they see that their words or actions can’t get to you and you’re able to maintain your composure without getting defensive, remember that the only person whose actions you can control are your own.
Now, if you're someone who's trying not to be an asshole, here are some articles that might help:
- 15 Habits to Be a More Polite Person
- 7 Strategies to Say NO Without Being Rude
- 29 Ways to Be More Positive in Life and at Work
Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.