Some weeks, not being a jerk feels like a full time job in self-monitoring.
I bet even you are a bit of a jerk sometimes. Few of us are considerate without fail.
Being a jerk arguably makes us feel worse than being on the receiving end of some jerk-like behaviour. Unless you happen to be a sociopath, you probably don’t enjoy the idea of leaving behind a trail of destruction in your wake.
This post is about becoming less of a jerk with every passing day.Being less of a jerk is ultimately about self-awareness Click To Tweet
I probably haven’t covered the full spectrum of human jerkery here.
Being passive aggressive
Passive aggression, which author Robert Greene in his book Mastery identified as one of the ‘seven deadly realities’, happens because of the human fear of direct confrontation. We are terrified of the emotions that a conflict can churn up and the loss of control that ensures.Passive aggression can ruin other people's lives Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, at its worst, passive aggressive behavior can ruin other people’s lives.
“We are all passive aggressive to some extent.
Procrastinating on a project, showing up late, or making off-hand comments designed to upset people are common forms of low-level passive aggression.
When dealing with this low level variety in others, you can call them on their behaviour and make them aware of it, which can often work. If it is truly harmless, ignore it. But there are people out there seething with insecurities who are veritable passive aggression warriors and can literally ruin your life.”
One other common form of passive aggressive behaviour is agreeing to do things whilst being grouchy about it.
The good news is, we can reduce passive aggressive behavior by noticing it (or having it pointed out to us) and making the decision not to do it anymore.
It’s never too late to modify passive aggressive behaviour and stop being this particular type of jerk.
Being angry/impatient and ill-tempered
If you aren’t being a passive aggressive jerk, then perhaps you are just aggressive.
Hey, we can’t all be Pollyanna. In his book Authentic Happiness, psychologist Martin Seligman highlights that our emotional set points are largely inherited (and therefore predetermined). Unless we are deliberate about it, we can default to grouchy.Routinely releasing your anger on others is not only jerky, but pointless Click To Tweet
But expressed anger doesn’t do anything good. Researcher and psychologist, Diane Tice, found that ventilating anger is one of the worst ways to cool down.
How best to handle anger and low mood? Tibeten teacher Chögyam Trungpa said ‘Don’t surpress it. But don’t act on it’.
Easy said than done perhaps.
Although some forms of self-entitled behaviour are non-subtle (rudeness to service staff being the obvious example), most of it slips beneath our radars.
Feeling justified in moaning and complaining is an insidious form that most of us are guilty of. Failing to apologizing for poor behaviour is another. Being careless with disposing rubbish, or the reach of our cigarette smoke. Sometimes its a lack of awareness, but mostly we know we shouldn’t.
Not being self-entitled is a decision we can make once we are aware of self-entitled behaviour. Here is a slightly longer rant about that.
Excusing jerkiness with ‘just being honest’
Honesty is great and it’s definitely better to be honest than fake. But brutally honest? It’s a bit jerky.
The main difference is the intention. That, and the delivery of the honesty. Is it said with kindness? Is it said with the aim of helping? Will the other person benefit?
Being a flaky jerk
Maybe you think it’s a bit extreme to call flakiness jerk behaviour.
But it’s unsettling and difficult to be in any sort of relationship with people who can’t keep their word. Nothing makes me feel like a bigger jerk then agreeing to do things only having to let people down because I didn’t really want to make the time.
Gossiping behind people’s backs
It’s human nature to have a bit of idle gossip about people.Gossiping can have the effect of making us feel suspicious that others are doing the same to us Click To Tweet
We just need to check that it remains pretty harmless, otherwise we can end up feeling self-conscious which has the knock on effect of causing us to act jerky and defensive.
Taking things personally
The reason this is jerky is it really takes its toll on others.
I personally find it a lot more relaxing to be in the company of those who I know won’t immediately take anything careless or dumb I say as being personally about them. Don’t you?
Take note of Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom: ‘Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.’
Discourteous dating behaviors
Several common ones to mention.
Dating people just because we are bored/lonely/procrastinating/getting over an ex
Dating people when we aren’t taking them seriously and we know they are is a little bit jerky.
Unless we are being honest about our intentions, we are likely to wind up hurting others and ourselves when our true intentions emerge. It is short term thinking at its worst.It's jerky just to use people because we are bored, lonely, or procrastinating Click To Tweet
Rather than having a string of meaningless (to you) relationships, figure out some more worthwhile pursuits. Spend time with the friends you already have, for example. Or read.
Treating people like lepers cause they hit on you and you aren’t interested
I have observed that women are more guilty of this than guys. Perhaps that’s partly because woman are less delusional about when guys are actually interested in them, and are therefore much less likely to make unwanted advancements.It is probably unnecessary to overact with coldness or hostility because some dude hits on you Click To Tweet
You are probably being a bit of an over-reacting jerk if you find yourself the subject of someone’s attentions and this causes you to become unfriendly or even hostile towards them. Unless the person is ultra pushy (see further below), it should be possible for you to make your intentions clear whilst sparing their ego and your character.
Trading jerkiness for a bit of empathy should do the trick. Treating people like you feel sorry for them is jerky of itself. Better to practice a bit of direct but compassionate communication.
Pretending you don’t know someone is interested in you – stringing them along
Pretty jerky too is being deliberately unclear with your intentions whilst you bask in the ego boost of some hapless (and hopeless) attention.
Not reading signs of a lack of interest
Guys, pay attention. It should be clear if a woman is interested in you. If it isn’t, then bide your time until you know. Never assume interest. This is jerky.
Ignoring people – ghosting
Some would argue that ghosting – disappearing without a trace – isn’t jerky, but just modern dating.Cuffing is jerky. Ghosting is jerky Click To Tweet
I think that unless the circumstances are exceptional (for example, the other person refuses to get the message), it is pretty jerky.
Yes I know it’s cold outside. But relationships shouldn’t be seasonal (not deliberately anyway).
Impulsive behavior is at the root of a lot of all emotional self-control. The reason it makes us jerky is because it results in inconsistency and rashness, both of which undermine connection, trust and intimacy.Being an impulsive jerk makes us difficult to trust Click To Tweet
From Emotional Intelligence:
There is perhaps no psychological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse. It is the root of all emotional self-control, since all emotions, by their very nature, lead to one or another impulse to act.
Plus, being around highly impulsive people is really hard work.
Finding fault with others
If you find yourself homing in on other people’s negative traits a lot, you may be being a jerk.Being overly critical is jerky. This isn't X factor and sadly, you aren't Simon Cowell Click To Tweet
Counter-intuitively, when we notice a lot of judgment, the response is turning the focus inwards. Whatever we are inner jerking about is probably something we are harsh towards ourselves about. Embracing other people’s quirks is a good way to practice accepting our own.
A couple of additional tactics to help counter the temptation to behave like a jerk.
Cultivate interpersonal intelligence aka social smarts: The opposite of being a jerk is having what author Daniel Goldman defines as ‘interpersonal intelligence’. Socially artful, those with great interpersonal skills are adept at social analysis: ‘being able to detect and have insights about people’s feelings, motives and concerns.’
From Emotional Intelligence: People with great interpersonal skills “are the kind of people others like to be with because they are emotionally nourishing – they leave others in a good mood, and evoke the comment ‘what a pleasure to be around someone like that’.”
The research suggests that there are four elements of interpersonal intelligence:
- Organizing groups – leading people.
- Negotiating solutions – preventing conflicts and helping to resolve those that come up.
- Personal connection – having empathy.
- Social analysis – being able to detect and have insights about people’s motives and concerns.
No need for us all to become the next Benjamin Franklin. But practicing empathy and standing back to observe every now and then instead of hogging the limelight are probably both good ideas.
Crowd out jerk tendencies with generosity and gratitude, etc: Another strong anti jerk tactic is crowding out opportunities for jerk behaviour by practicing heartfelt action, generosity of thought and action and gratitude. This way, when your defenses slip and you are a jerk, people will be more likely to forgive you.
Ultimately, becoming less of a jerk is about self-awareness.
And it’s win-win because as we behave less like jerks, we feel much better about ourselves – and we waste less time and energy on the consequences.