Five Ways to Triumph Over Jerks


by John Horn for The Potentiality

This article tells the story of five ways to triumph over jerks and other mean people who will infect your community.

Recently, I encountered a wide variety of jerks. Let me tell you, it took adaptability, creativity, thoughtfulness, and great leadership to win against the meanies who tried to ruin my days.

Here’s my story.

First, there was the gauntlet of smokers. These guys thumb their nose at civic bylaws designed to build and sustain healthy communities by clogging the sidewalks near my home with cigarette smoke and hundreds of littered butts.

Next came the possibly steroid-fueled punk who careened past me on his bike as strolled down the sidewalk with my son in a baby carrier. When I complained about his recklessness he tried to fight me (all as I held my baby who was dressed in an outfit adorned in peace symbols – sigh).

After that incident I traveled to BC Place to watch Vancouver Whitecaps FC draw with Seattle Sounders FC because Ismail Elfath is a terrible referee who is probably on Microsoft’s payroll.

Finally, an unapologetic a-hole double-parked in front of three cars and, when we confronted him after waiting for 10-minutes, he was completely unrepentant and also claimed everyone who he inconvenienced were liars.

Sadly, for the briefest of moments I let these mean people get to me – I was argumentative with my wife, curt with my friend Kurt, and trolled the Internet lamenting a referee’s bad call in a game that brings great joy to my community but, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t really matter and shouldn’t affect my well-being like it did.

Luckily, I possess a great toolkit for overcoming jerkiness and I’m also part of a network of awesome human beings who are also very capable of dealing with negative, mean and curmudgeony people. Here is our community’s co-creation of five tips for triumphing over jerks.

Breathe Deeply, Be Happy

Friend of the blog, Tomiko Collins, deals with jerks by putting everything in perspective: “I just try to be thankful that my life is not so hard that I take it out on others. Behind every [jerk] is a struggling person!” Another friend of the blog, Zac Whyte, simply suggested that I – and you – get more sleep. Being restful , according to Fast Company’s Drake Baer, upgrades your quality of life, which will allow you to take a more relaxed and happy approach to life’s assholes!

Focus on the Positive

After some pretty hilarious riffs about the power of swearing (as it relates to getting over something), my friend and co-worker Kristin encouraged me to embrace the great things in my life: “[H]ug your handsome boy and your beautiful wife and remember that your life rocks. P.S. find your inner hula.” A former colleague, Gayla, riffed off of Kristin’s idea of embracing positivity and suggested that I count my blessings. Whether they’re blessings or my “inner hula”, my family, my social and professional community, and my pretty darn awesome well-being are all things with which I’m blessed. Want to learn more about how positivity enhances career potential generally? Just click here.

Plot Revenge...(strike that)...I mean,
Trust the Universe

It’s easy to reduce oneself to the level of a jerk – matching meanness with meanness is easier than reacting with kindness and empathy when someone steps to fight you, after all. “Take comfort in the indisputable fact that you’re much superior to those jerks,” says The Potentiality’s Copy Editor, Godfrey von Nostitz-Tait. Superior? I’m not so sure. Okay, I’m lying. A drunken monkey could’ve refereed a better match than Ismail Elfath, and I consider myself to be a superior person to a drunken monkey. The point here is that you should trust the universe to reward kindness. If you ask the Harvard Business Review’s Jeffrey F. Rayport, kindness can actually be a business – and life – strategy. Trust me. Good things happen to good people.

Indulge Yourself

When I asked my friend Nick what he does when a-holes disrupt his community, he spoke to me of withdrawing from the world and focusing on oneself. “I bust out my favourite movie, buy some comfort food, and hang with my favourite people. Improvising songs about what you’re doing as you do it always helps, too. If you need lyrics to a song about making bacon, let me know.” Not only did I receive a great tip about how to re-charge my batteries, but Nick and I will soon talk about a bacon-related sing-along that I can teach my son!

Besides, anthropologists like Wade Davis and many philosophers and physicists will tell you that – from genes to atoms – we are all connected, even to the jerks. So it makes good sense to be kind to others in a way that we want others to be kind to us.

Pay Kindness Forward

“Go do something nice for someone – like buy the coffee of the person behind you in line,” says Rory Green, a fundraising guru who knows a thing or two about giving. “Doing nice things for other people has been scientifically proven to improve happiness.”

Not only has kindness been scientifically proven to increase happiness, but it is also the recipe for success in work and life, which I’ve written about on this blog before.

Recently, The Globe and Mail’s Erin Anderssen explored how human beings can do a better job of spreading civility and triumphing over the jerks who taint our community: “Rude people are stealing our time, our good night’s sleep, our attention. If we feel, wow, we are being robbed, we can get mad about standing up to what is essentially social thuggery.”

So, our busy, crowded, stressed-out, and overwhelmed communities might produce a few more jerks than they once did. Thankfully, you have some strategies for defeating the next mean person who tries to ruin your day!

For many other fascinating articles, vists The Potentiality and be sure to subscribe to their mailing list!

About John Horn:

John Horn is a Co-Founder of The Potentiality and is also the blog’s Editor-in-Chief and Career Architect. Over the past 15 years, John has helped leaders reach their community-building potential, bringing a unique professional, intelligent and edutaining style to his seminars, presentations and essays. John applies his talents at Vancity Savings Credit Union as the Manager of Learning and Development, as a Board Member for the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC), as an Associate for the Bold Career Project, and as a Volunteer for Vancouver's Writers’ Exchange. He is passionate about helping people tell their story in person, in print and online.

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