Saturday, November 22, 2008

On Dealing With Jackasses

This post and this post by Ambivalent Academic have got me thinking. If I achieve my goal of entering academia, I'm probably going to end up making a name for myself - whatever expletives get tied to my name, I'm not sure. It could go either way. 

Let me explain. The most fundamental aspect of my personality is based on my family experience. Namely, that my mama taught me to "never take shit from anyone." I learned it and I live it. Often to a fault. 

Over the years I have learned a bit of finesse in dealing with assholes. Emphasis on a bit. I can still get a little rowdy if someone pushes the right buttons. 

Now I don't know how I would've reacted had I been in that woman's position of a face-off with a high-ranking dipshit. Depending on how many allies I had in the room, I might've repeated his own statements back to him after his presentation: "No, no no. That's IMPOSSIBLE."

But here's the thing: you can't really do that. What I have learned in my relatively few years on this planet is how, when someone starts flinging shit in your direction, to fling it back harder with a smile. 

This is going to sound incredibly bitchy, but the key is to patronize the other person. If they have an ego, attempt to cut it down a little. A well-timed patronizing smile directed at an arrogant prick of an old man can go a long way. It's kind of like a silent reminder that they're on their way out the door and you're the newer, fresher, more savvy generation who will take his place. 

Picture it - the woman in AA's scenario hears this guy say this shit to her, and instead of being shocked or stammering, she looks at him for a second, and then slowly breaks into a smile, shakes her head slightly, looks back at the guy and says, "I believe you may have misunderstood me when I previously explained X."

It's not perfect for every scenario. It also takes a lot of practice to do it without coming across as cocky. You need to have developed a confident smile first. But once you have it, that's all you need. 

Think back to a time in your life when someone has made you feel really, really stupid. Made you feel like a total asshole. Chances are, they weren't yelling at you. They weren't angry and didn't act offended. They most likely had an air about them that said, "This poor, stupid, ass. I pity them." It cuts to your core. 

I really hope this makes sense, because if not then I have just convinced the entire blogging community that I'm a bitch. LOL. 

I'll summarize, just in case I've been misunderstood at any point in this post:

When someone gives you shit, it doesn't matter all that much what you say in response. It matters that whatever you choose to say, you say it with a confident smile. 

12 comments:

Stephanie Zvan said...

JLK, I think I love you.

PhizzleDizzle said...

You are so right. The worst thing to do is be back on your toes and/or get emotional. The best is to act like you have the upper hand, without being too obvious.

Hope you are having an enjoyable sunday!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Yep! The most important thing is to not attempt to substantively defend yourself against a disingenuous attack, but to turn the tables around and attack the attacker.

I believe you may have misunderstood me when I previously explained X.

Why say, "I believe..."?

I would say, "“Clearly, you are misunderstanding the point. Feel free to approach me after the talk and we can try to figure out where you are going wrong.”

Ambivalent Academic said...

CPP - Because "clearly you are misunderstanding the point..." is also perceived as a personal attack on the other person's intelligence. This is a problem for two reasons:

1 - If that person is just being a dick then they've got that coming to them, fair enough. But what if you misunderstood them - they're not being a jerk, but they're not articulating their question in such a way as you can understand it and they are acting jerky bc they're frustrated? Then maybe you're being the jerk. Given my nerves when speaking to a group I find this misunderstanding on my part to be an entirely likely possibility. There are a few cases like the one that I described in which it is entirely appropriate to throw back, but there are many more that aren't so clear cut.

2 - Why stoop to their level? Sometimes the only way to fight fire is with fire. But sometimes that just gets you into the "nu-uh!", "nu-huh!" bullshit that is a waste of everyone's time. Women are conditioned from a very early age to use the slightly more passive language that JLK describes and you take issue with. It is sufficiently patronizing to let everyone know that this jerk is not playing well with others and is being a dick, but it also allows him an out. (This is why my initial response came off as so apologetic when it wasn't meant to be-- I didn't mention the snarky tone of voice.) An open attack causes him to lose major face (and to a woman - yipes!) and could be enough to initiate further attacks. I just don't like to go there, so I'm fine with offering a bit of an out most times...except for those clear cut asshat cases.

I don't think that this kind of cultural conditioning that says boys can be tough but girls must play nice is right or good, but it's still pervasive enough that it's worth picking your battles.

Procrastinating Postgrad said...

To my rather junior ears, letting Grand Poohbah make his accusations in public but substantiate them in private is quite a problem. It's a tactic which works well for him and leaves Speaker in a very difficult position. I'm making a note to self for eventual session chairing tasks, too, because chairs can be helpful,too.

scicurious said...

Unfortunately, I've gotten yelled at for standing up to dipshits, even when I do it with a confident smile (and this may very well be an example of girls being conditioned to play it nice. It totally sucks. But I think I'm stuck 'til I graduate). I've consequently found that the best way to do it is "I'm sorry, I must have not been clear the first time (go back to slide, explain again)" in the process making it quite clear the person is being a dipshit and that this was clear as day.

And BTW, JLK, LOVE the color change! You have saved my eyes from excess monitor-burn. And pink is awesome on a science blogs.

JLK said...

Stephanie - Thanks! I think I love you too! But be careful, from what I hear 'round these parts people may think we're having a scandalous affair....

CPP - I'm in the social sciences. We're trained to use "I" statements, what can I say.

AA - I'm with ya. It's really hard for me not to go on the offensive when someone comes at me. That's why I had to learn the backhanded condescending smile technique. :)

Postgrad - that was my thought when I read the original post too. I'm a person who thinks it's better to hash it out right then and there. I don't know how these meetings work, though, as far as whether there are time limits or whatever. But I feel like I'd rather deal with it in front of everyone than have them wonder if he's right after they leave.

Sci - Thanks! I'm normally not a "pink" kinda gal, but I'm really anal about things matching and the pink goes with the picture I used. LOL. I'm happy you like it, and I'm even happier that you stopped by!

JaneB said...

Yay, someone else who goes for the 'smile, look cool and collected' approach. Considering that less than half the information taken in by the brain comes from the words of a speaker, and the majority comes from tone, body language etc., I think it actually matters less whether you say something with apologetic words or firm words or simply re-explaining words, what matters most is that you are not thrown, that you remain confident in your work (and YOU are the expert in your work). You're more likely to do that successfully if you answer in a style not TOTALLY alien to your normal personality...

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I'm sorry

No. Never, ever, ever, say you're sorry when you give a presentation. No matter what.

...tom... said...

...

Hey bitch, nice post.

I will be back to share more when it is not past one in the morning and I do not have to be 'up' in four hours.

Keep it real till then mutha fu... . .OK, OK, ...I can not go quite that far.


But I am all over that e-mail link real soon homey...


...tom...
' working hard on his new on-line image . . ..'
.

JLK said...

I'd be offended, ...tom..., but a known nice guy calling me "bitch" is like a kitten acting fierce toward a stuffed mouse - it makes me laugh.

And like I said on Isis's blog, women dig the guys who make 'em laugh. :)

...tom... said...

...

hey there J...

Ya know, as I lay in bed later I considered getting up to delete that comment. Perhaps I did stretch the humor a bit thin there. Thank you for 'getting it'.


Though now thoughts of kittens and mooses (..??) locked in mortal (if not playful) combat are filling my mind.


Seriously, thanks. ...:minism:...


...tom...

P.S. Talk at you shortly homey.
.

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