The Art of Dealing with Unavoidable Jerks

Sour-facedThe topic of this post was suggested by a reader.

Get in touch with your inner rock. That is, start behaving as neutrally and blandly as possible when you’re around the person who is pushing your buttons. Make your responses as interesting as it would be to talk to a rock. Sometimes people act like jerks because they enjoy stirring up conflict. If you can succeed at disengaging, they’re (probably) going to grow tired of you and move onto someone else.

Change your environment. If it’s possible, change when, where, or how you spend time with them. Sometimes people are much more aware of how they’re behaving if they have to interact with you in public or in a place they don’t find quite as comfortable. It can also be helpful to change who you have around you if you’re able to influence who else is in the room. Some combinations of personalities work better in these situations than others do.

Play bingo. I’ll admit that this is one of my sillier tools for dealing with people who really rub me the wrong way. If you know they’re going to say the exact same things every time you see them, start playing bingo with their monologues. I like to keep a mental scorecard of what I expect them to say and then check things off as they’re introduced into the conversation. (No, I don’t randomly exclaim Bingo! out loud. This is only something that goes on in my private thoughts).

Reward yourself. I do give myself small rewards later on for earning bingos, though, and I usually spend little to no money on them. Watching an old, favourite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer can soothe a lot of irritation away. Long walks work well if the weather is decent, and chocolate is appropriate for almost everything else.

Get really comfortable with silence. Not everything the unavoidable jerk says actually requires a response. Sometimes the best thing you can say to them is nothing at all. I’ve just started to use this technique, and it can be a good way to keep yourself from getting sucked into conflicts that you never wanted to be part of in the first place. I’ll admit that it feels extremely awkward in the beginning. If you can stick with it, though, it can be a great way to keep some emotional distance between you and them.

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