Human Interaction is undoubtedly one of the most complicated endeavors we face on a daily basis. Every day we meet and greet a varying array of other ‘beings’; human, animal, insect or other. Some individuals interact with hundreds (if not more) of these ‘beings’ on a daily basis. I cannot say I envy them.
Everybody knows (or should know) that no matter what your profession is, almost all of us have to deal with those we work with. Things don’t get done if you fly solo, at least not as efficiently. As the overly simple yet effective adage goes: “Many hands make for light work”. Thinking one can do everything oneself can and will drive you into the ground, leaving you alone and desperately sleepless.
There are, of course, a wide array of positive attributes that can be granted to the notion of working as a team, with your colleagues, with your partner, and yes even family. Even if you freelance from home, you are working for somebody – be it next door or on the other pole of the globe; even if your family lives in Japan and you live in Greenland – you attempt to communicate with them (hopefully you want to). One has to exercise an appreciation for social skills, daily, even if you have had the worst night, day, year, life ever – otherwise you don’t get anywhere and might as well emulate the life of a mole which we stereotypically assume is a lonely, subterranean, and an isolated existence.
Human beings are distinctly and necessarily social, from birth to death. Our societies and cultures did not develop at the wave of a wand. They grew and flourished over a span of millions of years of cultural evolution. As our primate ancestors gradually approached being human, a shift occurred whereby our behaviour was more influenced by cultural evolution. Biological evolution did not cease obviously, it did however alter direction resulting in the emerging human body evolving to fit its ecological niche, to survive as a living creature. The emerging human mind now evolved to fit its cultural niche, to survive as a social creature. (Leakey, 1978)
After years of evolution I cannot help but query why we continue to struggle so in this ‘social’ environment we now inhabit? Connected through the means of a perpetually growing global network with a snowballing social media (facebook, twitter, LinkedIn etc.) we now not only deal with others in the ‘real’ world but in the virtual world too. We can even attend mind boggling conferences anywhere in the world by simply creating an avatar version of ourselves. Take your avatar anywhere you want, whilst you rest on your spreading loin’s day in and day out. So, what ever happened to the idea that, practice makes perfect? One could assume that our interconnectivity would have diminished prejudices, broken borders, and united human beings on several fronts. One could safely assume that these technological advancements would catapult our cultural evolution into a level of high speed development. It is safe to say that it has. I do not disregard the admirable work that has been carried out using the internet as a means of bridging borders, as a means of fostering improved International relations through bridging intellectual gaps and encouraging greater understanding for different cultures and traditions. The World Wide Web has indeed done as its name implies, it has created a web of interconnectivity that has joined the world into a unified entity. We do not, however, find ourselves living in some sort of Utopia, by virtue of the Internet. The Biblical story of the Tower of Babel rings true in our daily lives. We do not speak the same language, even if we now are connected by the unifying language of the internet which aims to translate our differences . In order to climb the tower of Babel – we must understand one another, in short we must speak the same language on a series of levels.
Human interaction is a complex matter, which I do not assume to be able to decipher here today, or ever. Perhaps it boils down to just not being an asshole? The other day an esteemed mentor of mine mentioned a book which highlights the "No Asshole Rule". This seemingly simplistic title delves deep into the working relationships that hinder a business from functioning effectively. Assholes in the work space should not be tolerated. Of course there is a difference between a "temporary asshole" and a "certified asshole". I would advise reading Robert I. Sutton's fantastic book - "The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't" - if you have a strong hunch that you work in the vicinity of an asshole, and if you have the ability to realize that you potentially are an asshole.
This approach of avoiding assholes could be applied to our daily lives, not just in the workspace, for let's face it, assholes can be found everywhere. How many times have you had to deal with someone, anybody- and thought "what an asshole!" [You may of course have described said person with other florid adjectives such as: dick, jerk, wanker, pendejo, cabron etc.] Don't be coy now, sainthood is an honor, but even Saints have endured inbiciles, perhaps even Mother Theresa had her days when she wanted to lay the cards on the table and call a spade a spade, i.e. call an asshole an asshole]. It is human, and indeed part of the mosaic that comprises our social behavioural responses towards people who are frankly not very nice. Nobody has the right to be an asshole, at least not a certified one.
At times, some humans supersede others, in their actions, behavior and comments. They intentionally attempt to put you down. This, the most natural high, results in an inevitable sense of self, heightened disproportionately, no doubt, but heightened nonetheless. Human beings love to feel ‘better’ – we smoke and savor the nicotine as it pushes all the right mortal buttons. Issuing scathing comments intentionally and even unintentionally can have a similar effect – we may indulge in a temporary sense of satisfaction resulting from demeaning another person, or simply just putting them down. This sensation, as much as a cigarette, is addictive, and if nobody challenges your actions, you will remain and grow as an Asshole.
We must not forget those who fall victim to the Asshole’s endeavors. I say victims as a manner of identifying them, but honestly I do not consider these people victims. These are the people who have the skill, wit, knowledge, intelligence to supersede these Asshole characters; these ‘victims’ have the choice of either continuously receiving such unnecessary abuse or cleverly learning how to manage Assholes.
I have encountered Assholes, (just like you have), and I fear I always fall back on what some consider baloney, others the truth, but we must all agree it is a damned great piece of literature, The Bible. I admit I have never read the Bible, I have merely profusely enjoyed parts of it at Christmas sermons, referenced in a book, article, or by someone using a phrase to get their point across. The Bible is home to some pretty good phrases, and constitutes a valuable piece of Literature, despite ones beliefs, one cannot argue this. When I have encountered vacuous and void comments at times spewn thoughtlessly in my face I always remember the phrase: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12)
It seems human beings have far more evolution to go through before we learn how to communicate more effectively. This is not news, nor any novel thought. It is merely a reminder that when you hear, witness, or experience somebody thoughtlessly elevate themselves above others to hurt, insult, discredit, or dismiss anybody – inform them of their actions. These actions come from a nurtured sense of indifference, and permitted sense of apathy resulting in a diminishing level of empathy. Calling people’s actions into question could aid in what hopefully is not a bleak social evolution culminating in social mayhem and destruction where humans become immune to others and empathy fizzles into the null and void of our universe.
We all must aid in making a difference – start small. Perhaps five simple steps, for example:
1. Identify if you are an Asshole
2. If you are, change.
3. Identify Assholes around you.
4. Decide if they are certified or temporary assholes, and if so whether you can talk about their Asshole qualities, helping them shed their Asshole coat.
5. Do not give certified Assholes the time of day, and surround yourself with people who contribute to making your life better, more inspired, and just plain good.
On that note, I leave you all pondering and wish you an Asshole’less week, month, year and life.