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There is no excuse for rude behavior |

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There is no excuse for rude behavior

COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio - The Philippine Star

There is no escaping difficult people. You will meet them everywhere: at home, at work and at play. They come in varying degrees and configurations, and they affect your professional and personal life in varying levels as well. There are assorted ways to label them: bullies, creeps, tyrants, tormentors, despots, backstabbers, oppressors, persecutors, egomaniacs, and — pardon the profanity — assholes.

The word is not listed in the dictionary or thesaurus I use and it sounds like a curse, but it’s one colloquial word that delivers the appropriate connotative meaning in situations where you encounter people who are unreasonably difficult. You will tend to believe that the word has been accepted in business and in life, knowing that a Stanford University professor by the name of Robert Sutton has written a book on the issue of social friction among corporate colleagues entitled, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.

The tome is dubbed a definitive guide to understanding and counteracting “assholism,” and how to avoid becoming a person with bad behavior. How to avoid being an “a-hole” is perhaps playing in your head now.  No big deal; here is this writer’s take on what Sutton wants to say:

• What you did in the past predicts what you will do in the future. Confronting your past is a key predictor of future behavior.  Studies show that if you grew up in a household with difficult-to-deal-with parents and siblings, chances are you will imbibe a difficult-to-deal-with manner or style. If you were a bully in grade school, you’ll probably turn into an aggressive person who intimidates or mistreats weaker people in your adult years. Having the self-awareness that you can be an obstinate person is the first step towards change.

Kicking the habit early on is good advice. Avoid making people feel coerced, terrorized, debased or disparaged. Examine your own behavior. If you see yourself doing any or all of these, it’s time to have a behavioral shift.

There is no excuse for rude behavior. Don’t flaunt your power if you are powerful. Worse, don’t act powerful when in reality you are not. Mistreating others who are weak is a sure sign of “assholism.”

Being and playing difficult can be contagious. When you act like an a-hole, you are likewise teaching other people that it is okay to be one. Have the graciousness to not spread bad behavior around. It can truly be communicable.

Aiming for win-win games is more gratifying.  Train your sights on them. Your existence is too short to be in a conquering state of mind all day, every day. Besides, it can really be tiring. As you get older and hopefully wiser, realize that you win some and lose some in the game called life. After all, nobody comes out of it alive.

Feeling and acting superior is bad for your health. Believing so much that you’re more chic, more good-looking, more intelligent or more influential than others can turn you into a fiend, not a friend. Shameless self-promotion is good, but only to the extent that you don’t put other people in harm’s way.

Finding similarities rather than differences is the preferred mode. Direct your attention to how you and others can have similar goals, desires and passions, and you will see yourself less uptight, less angry and thus less difficult to handle. You can’t be contemptuous if you move around with people with the same frame of mind and analogous heartbeat.

Contentment is a panacea of “assholism.” And envy is your worst contra-indicator.  You can be happy, beloved and successful without having to kick people out or tread heavily upon them.

Assuming you’re not an “a-hole,” how then do you cope with people with such behavior?  Sutton provides some answers.

Recognize who is an “a-hole.” Sutton’s blogpost illustrates one method he calls the Starbucks Test, and it goes like this: If you hear someone at Starbucks order a “decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n’-Low and one NutraSweet,” you’re in the presence of an “a-hole.” It’s unlikely that this petty combination is necessary; the person ordering is trying to flex his power because he’s playing difficult.

Be aware of other telltale signs of “assholism.” They include the use of personal insults, sarcastic jokes, invading one’s personal territory, verbal and non-verbal threats and intimidation; withering email flames; status slaps intended to humiliate their victims; public shaming or status degradation rituals; rude interruptions; two-faced attacks; dirty looks; and treating people as if they are invisible.

Accept the fact that it can be very disappointing.  One of the most exasperating human interactions is dealing with difficult people. It tests your interface abilities and patience and it makes you question the very value of human beings. Lower your expectations so you reduce your disappointment, but not low enough to make you slip into your own cynicism that can possibly turn you into a difficult person yourself.

• Never allow difficult people to get to you. Develop a calculated level of apathy and emotional aloofness towards them. You may not readily agree to this but some psychologists agree that being uninterested and impassive may be a good thing in work environments littered with “a-holes.” It allows you to survive and permits you to go on with your business and life unencumbered.

• Be contented with small victories. They can keep you going and help you survive hurdles. Most difficult people enjoy self-importance and the feeling of complete control and unqualified domination. Don’t permit them to do that. Believe that wins, no matter how small, can add up and lead you to winning the war.

• Build pockets of safety, support and sanity. You can do this by avoiding meetings and interactions, or if you can’t steer clear of them, limit your exposure. Find a sanctuary where you can hyperventilate to release harmful toxins.

Meet difficult behavior with calmness. This requires the acceptance that the difficult person you’re dealing with isn’t an unceasing, chronic and barefaced bad guy. It means facing appalling behavior with serenity instead of meeting it head-on armed with a “tooth-for-a-tooth” mindset.

Stand up to them. Pushing your own position in front of a difficult person shouldn’t necessarily make you frightened, especially if truth is on your side. The sun always rises the next day, and you will feel better knowing that you have given him a piece of your mind.

Delete, delete, and delete bad behavior. The choice is yours whether to be an “a-hole” and be branded for life as such, or to be good and show others the nobility of being good.


Email or for comments, questions and suggestions. Thank you for communicating.

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