A couple of months ago I read a book called “The Asshole Survival Guide” by Robert I. Sutton. This book brings up a topic that everyone deals with but not a lot of people talk about: having to deal with assholes. Sutton has written a lot about dealing with jerks in corporate situations. In fact he wrote a prior book about dealing with assholes (or “bossholes”) in the workplace.
“The Asshole Survival Guide” is more geared to everyone, a direct response, as he explains in his introduction, of receiving so many emails and questions from other people who wanted his help in dealing with problematic people. By its very title, it legitimizes a discussion using words which would be traditionally viewed as taboo (after all, “asshole” is considered swearing). Not that this in itself makes for a meaningful read, yet by just putting it out in the open like that, there is power. Just as there is power in learning “how to deal with people who treat you like dirt,” as the book caption says.
At the time I checked out the book from the library, I was sorting through a recent experience I had with someone I was working with. This person was quite professional in many ways (did his job, showed up on time, etc), yet I realize now that there was an ever pervasive scent of asshole about him: he liked to mess with authority, he made underhanded and slightly passive aggressive remarks at times when we were engaged in activities, and he purposefully refused to join the group and be sociable when it mattered. While I was cordial with him and never made it a problem, the truth is, I found his presence quite stressful, especially since he was working directly under me. Unfortunately, interacting with him made an otherwise pleasant experience into a challenging one.
So, when I read the book, a little light bulb went off in my head. Yes, I had met an asshole. The book helped me to realize that I am not alone. Many people have had this experience, I am not crazy. There is healing in getting this, even if it doesn’t completely eliminate the slightly stressed thoughts I admit I still have when I think of that encounter.
The bottom line for me is that we shouldn’t let the assholes stop us from being ourselves. I am on a campaign of personal liberation from assholes. In fact, that is what this blog is! And in particular, that is what this 365 Day Blogging Project was intented to cure. This is my manifesto of personal expression: not to be tainted, ruined, or set off course by idiots.
Part of why this is so important to me is that, in the past, I have let my experience be tainted, ruined, or set off course by idiots. I have realized that this isn’t a great way to live. It is not satisfying to change oneself because there are jerks around. In fact, it is downright sucky.
I thought of this book right now because I believe that people should be themselves. Yet don’t expect that you will never encounter stinkers out there. They exist, yet just because you meet them doesn’t automatically make you wrong or crazy. You may have simply encountered an asshole. Know that you are not alone, and use books like Sutton’s and discussions like this to find a way to triumph through any situation you might encounter.