September 30, 2018

How to deal with assholes


Someone asked me recently how to deal with assholes. The person asking the question suffered from a compulsive desire to ‘clear the air’, talk things through and explain to an asshole that he or she isn’t right. With predictably poor results.

I gave the answer, and then thought it’s a good idea to post it here.

Now, if you look carefully through my blog, you will find these (or similar) ideas explained elsewhere. Trouble is, these articles are not talking about assholes specifically. And when you meet one, you will forget all the general good advice you read. Assholes are extremely irritating. When you meet one, you tend to concentrate on wanting to punch them in the face. Not extrapolating all the sensible ideas about dealing with distressed people.

There’s a pretty good book on dealing with assholes, ‘The Asshole Survival Guide’. It classifies assholes and gives strategies for dealing with each type. Do read it if you have time, you won’t regret it. It’s especially useful if you are stuck with an asshole. If it’s somebody you have to meet and deal with every day, or often.

But I can give you a much more basic advice that will help you cope with assholes immediately. This is particularly helpful for a random type of asshole. And let’s face it, those are the most dangerous ones. Someone you know and meet every day is probably not going to kill you. A driver you challenge on a highway, on the other hand… According to statistics, over 60% of traffic deaths are the result of aggressive driving.


One way to deal with assholes is to try to explain away their behaviour by assuming they have a legitimate excuse. The driver that cuts you off is in a hurry to see his dying mother for the last time. The person pushing you in a supermarket checkout line just came back from Afghanistan and is still nervous at the site of food. A stranger yelling at you just lost his job. It’s a fun game to play, if you have good imagination.

An example of this kind of thinking – I decided years ago that I wouldn’t challenge people trying to sneak by me to steal my spot in a line. It used to bother me a lot until I rationalized it. I said to myself – ‘if they are willing to go through the discomfort of jumping the line, then they must need to get to the top of that line much more than I do’. It has been working ever since! What I do sometimes when I notice someone trying to position themselves ambiguously in the line next to me, is that I turn to them and say – ‘I see you are in a real hurry – please, step forward’. Usually the person becomes all embarrassed, thanks me and takes my place. And I feel that I’ve achieved a moral victory and helped a person in need, all at the same time.

Of course, for this trick to work, you shouldn’t be in a hurry yourself – and I normally have time to spare.

Another, much simpler way of dealing with assholes, is to accept that assholes are a part of life. They are part of the normal distribution of the human race. Hell, a certain proportion of the population are supposed to be assholes. These poor people drew the short stick. They are suffering for the rest of us, the decent people.

So, mathematically, if (for argument’s sake) 5% of drivers are assholes, you are bound to come across one once in a while.

Why be angry about it? You can’t possibly expect to travel on public roads asshole-free. That’s not the way our universe works.

So let the asshole pass you in peace. Have compassion – not everyone is as enlightened as you are. Some people will give assholes a hard time.

An asshole is an accident waiting to happen. So don’t be a lamppost to crash into, step aside. Let the asshole roam freely and eventually bump into another asshole.

That way they can teach each other a lesson, and no regular people get hurt.

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