In pursuit of your aspirations, you will invariably run into humans who embrace their roles as Naysayers, Cynics, and A-Holes. These people have sided with Resistance† and as a result will do their best to thwart your efforts to do anything worthwhile or difficult. It’s very important to train for conflict with these creatures of the dark. They have the skills to drag you into apathy or worse— revenge fantasies.
This article focuses on dealing with A-Holes.
How to spot an A-Hole
A-Holes are more overt than most People of Resistance and therefore easier to recognize by their use of humiliation, self-aggrandizement, and power grabbing. Even if through socialization they’ve learned to hide these obvious symptoms, they usually can’t help revealing their tendencies to:
- Avoid the act of listening,
- Hijack conversations,
- Interrupt frequently,
- Refer to interrupting as a “style,”
- Base their arguments on anecdotal nonsense, and
- Use exaggeration as proof.
Oh, if we could only ignore them all, but it turns out A-Holes are everywhere and often have something we need, and so we must prepare ourselves with as many skills as we can master. Helplessness is not an option.
After my recent run-ins with one of the vilest versions, the A-Hole Neighbor, I asked a bunch of people for their approaches to A-Holes, and the main lesson I got back:
You don’t have to act like
an A-Hole to deal effectively
with an A-Hole.
Getting what you need from an A-Hole
Make sure you actually need something from an A-Hole you can’t get anywhere else. If you must engage, here are some good moves.
Laser Beam. Start with the basics. Stephen Keith who was my neighborhood beat cop knows A-Holes well, although he refers to them as “distracted individuals.” Getting information from A-Holes can be a tough job, but he has a practical approach.
“Skip over anything extraneous and get right back to the question at hand.”
Sugar Defense. Catherine George offers a more creative method for getting your way. (This makes me a little suspicious of my wife.)
“Ply them with pie. A happy tummy does wonders. First, stuff their face. Then deal with them while they are in a sugar / starch / happy coma.”
Sucking out the Poision
Psychic Mouthwash. Even the mere presence of an A-Hole leaves a bad taste. Try this cleanser from Sue Autrand.
“Acknowledge to yourself that they are [A-Holes] (today or everyday) and be glad you are not… Laughter always works for me.”
Disarming an A-Hole
The ultimate mastery is demonstrated by disarming an A-Hole. These folks have found the way.
Magic Mirror. David Perino suggests a simple approach I know but can rarely implement.
“Try rephrasing their insanity and ask them if that’s what they mean.”
Ball Breaker. I asked my mother what to do, and her first response was, “Moon ‘m.” (Sort of like Magic Mirror without the magic.) She then clarified that would be her last resort.
“I don’t really deal with A-Holes anymore, but I remember those sexist bosses at work. When they’d say something awful, I would ask, ‘Could you please repeat that? I’m writing it down.’ Then I’d check my watch and note the date and time. That would really shake them up. It was the 80s, you know, and men didn’t know what to do with an old lady who was prepared to go to court.”
Fool’s Lair. Finally, Ray Larabie offers a combination maneuver that requires some chops.
“I tend to obsess and spend too much time coming up with revenge fantasies . . . like hosing them down with gravy. But that stuff doesn’t really help. The only solace I found with bad neighbors is the non sequitur. Non sequiturs leave the victim confused and unable to come up with a comeback.
– Hey, what do I look like? Some kind of tuna casserole?
– Whatever, at least I own my own Lego.
– You can take three runner carpets . . . take them and place them side by side.
– Your head looks like the average human head.
– I’m sick and tired of this aluminum foil, and I want no more of it.
If they do have a comeback, just say, ‘What . . . ? That doesn’t make sense.'”
Got anything else?
†Resistance with a capital ‘R’ is thoroughly described by Steven Pressfield in his book, The War of Art. If you make art, you know Resistance. If you need a good kick in the pants, I suggest you read it, and soon.