Some people are jerks. You know what I mean, right? Some people are aloof, tiresome, rude, and unforgiving. They behave like they are owed, like you aren’t worthy of using the same air as them. They scowl and bicker, trying to make their point of view the right one that everyone should agree with. They are eager to tell you how hard done by they are; how life and everyone they know have failed them. You know who I’m talking about, right?
Think for a moment and I bet you know at least one of these people personally. Yah, I see you grinning, shaking your head with that wry smile. You know who I’m talking about. You avoid this jerky person at work functions, social gatherings, family reunions. When caught in a chat with them, you offer placating platitudes and make a quick getaway, rolling your eyes as soon as you’ve turned your back, thanking your lucky stars you made it out alive. “Bob’s in a real mood tonight. Avoid asking him ‘how’s it going’?”
You get the picture, hey? When you read the next line of this blog, don’t turn away, hit escape on your laptop, or laugh – well, you can laugh – but please keep reading.
These people need our kindness most.
I know, right? I must be naïve or crazy to think jerks need our kindness. And, I’m not.
In my experience, the people who are the biggest jerks are the most wounded. They guard their vulnerability and hurt with a fierce commitment to pushing people away with their behaviour. I suggest to you that this isn’t a conscious decision. They didn’t wake up one day and decide to push people away by being rude.
On the contrary, this is a survival instinct for their wounded hearts. And they need our acknowledgement and kindness most.
Recently I was at a meeting giving advice and insight on how to engage community. One of the people in attendance behaved like a jerk. She is a senior citizen, ailing, rude, and has a definitive posture to her being that says ‘try and impress me.’ In the middle of my speaking, she said “You’re an idealist.” (like that is a bad thing!) She rolled her eyes and laughed caustically. I replied “I sure am.”
I could have been openly offended. I could have called her out. I could have taken a defensive stance. But I didn’t. In fact, I did the opposite. I acknowledged her. And moved on. I make a point of saying hello and smiling at her every time I see her. I firmly believe being rude and a jerk is her way of pushing people away. And that’s okay. Her cultural persona likely involves hard times, illnesses, I don’t know what – but something made her this way. No child is born a jerk.
I believe those who are the walking emotionally wounded need our compassion and kindness. They need to be seen and acknowledged even if with a nod, smile, or simple greeting. They need to know they are not alone in this world.
It can be difficult to be kind to someone who is behaving rudely to you. I’m not suggesting you allow abuse or any kind of attack, verbal or otherwise. Those are situations that are different than what I’m talking about here. Those require attention of a different kind. I’m talking about that guy you avoid at work or that woman on the bus – or that uncle or that cousin. I’m talking about the people in our lives who behave rudely. Those folks, we can be kind to. In simple ways.
I have seen jerks turn around and become quite pleasant when acknowledged. That old idiom ‘kill ‘em with kindness’ actually has merit and works.
Try simple kindness the next time you’re face to face with a jerk and see how it goes. Let me know. I would love to hear about it.
~ Blog by Beth Harding
Hmmmm Beth, a great resource I found to understand and then deal with “rudeness” or “snark” – “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense” by Suzette Elgin. I imagined going into the book it would help with snappy retorts and quick replies but instead it investigates, explains and models 4 response types to bond or engage for rapport. “WOW!” moments abound in the book.
Kindness works in certain situations,sure.