This week, I have been performing some last-minute rewrites to my soon-to-be-published Kindle book, Raccoons Respect My Piss But Watch Out for Skunks. The chapter, “Diagnosis A-hole” (I spell it out in the book) was giving me a hard time. We all know one when we see one, but how do we deal with them? Ah! That is the question.
Barbara Oakley’s 2007 book, Evil Genes, is devoted to a certain breed of A-hole, what she describes as the “successfully sinister.” These are the people likely to make your life totally miserable, as they tend to be your boss or someone you can’t just ignore. These are the people out for themselves, who get their way through a blend of charming, manipulative, aggressive, ruthless, and cold-blooded behavior, who show no regard for the lives they’ve wrecked on their path to success.
These individuals typically exhibit a blend of odious personality disorder traits that prove advantageous in their climb to the top of the ladder. And, yes, sick as they are, according to Dr Oakley, they reach the heights in business and politics and other pursuits.
Then there’s the type of a-hole who is merely annoying. This could be someone who ignores you for a year, then expects you to drop everything to brainstorm on a project of hers, sent on an email she never responded to in the first place (this just happened to me). Or a so-called friend or family member who embarrasses you in the company of others (ditto).
In my experience, a-holes totally ignore universal nonverbal social cues, such as shaking your head or rolling your eyes or falling to the floor and clutching your chest. They also miss out on just about all of the verbal ones as well.
Another trait: A-holes only appreciate the concept of reciprocity if they see an advantage to it. There is a science called games theory that effectively divides the world into two camps: the blatant self-aggrandizers vs those who cooperate. There is also an evolutionary theory that posits that we developed our frontal lobes as protection against the predations of the opportunistic members of our species.
We see this dynamic playing out in society, with some interesting paradoxes. I think most people would agree that we live in a far more conservative cut-throat society than we did in the 1960s. Yet, women and people of color and gays and lesbians are far better off today than they were during a supposedly more enlightened era. Crazy world we live in.
So, here we are, struggling to survive, our entire well-being depending on negotiating a world populated by those who don’t have your best interests at heart. We are all fully aware that the slightest thing going wrong can trigger an episode. Sure enough, something happens. It could be your evil boss is on the warpath. It could be your silly Aunt Tilly is about to mention your last girl/boyfriend in the presence of your current girl/boyfriend.
Evolving a larger set of frontal lobes would be a very good idea, but that takes time. You have a bomb to defuse and the clock is ticking ...
Question: What are your coping techniques for dealing with A-holes? Feel free to write a book.
Comments below ...
Published On: March 10, 2012
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