Thursday, March 22, 2018

Book Review / The Asshole Survival Guide: How To Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt by Robert I. Sutton

Mr. Sutton doesn't resort to euphemisms for designating people who sow discord, never learn to improve their noxious interface, and like a huge syringe of poison, inject their venom into each and every situation in which humans may find themselves. He references a popular quote found on social media often attributed to Sigmund Freud but actually written by the Twitter handle @debihope which succinctly sums up how harmful assholes are: Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes. Unless you can identify assholes early on (some can be charming and brimming with confidence at first impression), ease into protective mode, they will harm not only you, but also others plus their high-conflict, non-reciprocal interface is contagious. A common misperception is that being an asshole is essential for getting ahead. Except in extreme situations, where your life is pitted against another, long-term success is built on co-operation, transparency, creativity, focus, consistency, innovation, and other constructive aspects.

This book could be considered a sequel to his The No Asshole Rule which was written in 2007. Though the earlier book had a chapter on how to deal with assholes, its emphasis was on building positive work environments. Its success resulted in an outpouring of communication with the author for strategies and tips that enable people to escape from, endure, battle, and force out bullies, backstabbers, and arses. One part of his research was derived from ploughing through eight thousand emails sent by people driven to distraction by assholes along with his own experiences and various interviews. The other was based on scholarly research regarding the topic. His conclusion is surviving assholes remains more of a craft or skill than a science.

One defence among several methods against assholes is not complicated. If possible, increase your physical distance as much as possible from the asshole even if it is just a few seats away or across the street or in another room. In the last few months I have applied this simple approach and have watched my stress level deflate. I highly recommend it. The equivalent for online interaction is not only blocking the asshole but also their enablers.

How do you know that you are not one of the asshole brigade?  Or an asshole enabler?  The authentic asshole and their enablers won't even ponder that she/they could be since assholes lack insight and accountability. However, non-assholes do make an effort to question themselves. A helpful mantra for non-assholes to keep crankiness, bias, and irritation on bad days to a minimum is Be slow to label others as assholes, be quick to label yourself as one. I would temper this advice with the realisation that kind, considerate people need also to be less hard on themselves which they do too easily, and accept more readily that assholes exist. In other words, it is not a case of two sides, or the other side, but yours. The protection of your mental, emotional, and physical health is imperative.


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The Asshole Survival Guide at Amazon

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