Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

Self-Preservation Tactics for Dealing with the Suckiness of Others

Posted in awareness by Jason Gray on March 20, 2010

Over the years, I have worked a scathing succession of soul-scorching jobs, encountering along the way, all manner of irascible persons, egomaniacs, and just utter jerks.  As an itinerate in the land of workplaces (I have been both manager and underling), I have developed tactics for dealing with people who just can’t or won’t be nice.

My first strategy is to remain topical, in my conversations with co-workers and customers, by adopting the mindset of a bartender or a barber.  A smart bartender doesn’t engage him or herself in conversations that require taking up a stance on one side or the other of potentially contentious topics meant for debating.  Working in cafes, this approach was especially helpful, and I set up parameters for myself that I refused to cross.  For instance, I never discussed my position on religion, or went too deep with my politics, and I never, ever criticized my co-workers (although, on a case by case basis, criticizing management was sometimes an effective strategy).  The idea is that people just want to talk about themselves, which is fine, so long as you don’t begin talking about yourself.  The bartender realizes that their co-workers need to vent, just as their customers need to vent, and allows them to do so; it’s a healthy and necessary process.  However, the key to avoiding being drawn into other people’s bullshit is to always listen, and never incite.  Even though it may seem like these people are looking for advice, they don’t want it (at least not from you); rather, they are looking for an outlet and the affirmation that their sucky routines haven’t yet made their lives unlivable.  The smart bartender or barber doesn’t offer advice, he/she merely says, “Yes”, and moves on.  “Make the drinks or cut the hair, shoot the shit, and get the hell out”, my mantra.

My second strategy is to take on the role of the cultural anthropologist, immersing him or herself into the maze of confusion that is the territory of primitives and savages*.  The anthropologist is necessarily ambivalent; “hmmm, the savage is currently eliciting the most unusual behavior, eating a cheeseburger and Cheetos for breakfast; how interesting.  The primitive is stomping her feet and making a terrific commotion, possibly in a territorial display meant to intimidate me from encroaching upon her habitat; how intriguing.”  The idea in this case, is that the anthropologist merely observes and remains distant.  He or she understands that it is pointless to attempt to correct or confront the behavior of the savage, and that assimilating permanently isn’t the goal anyway.  Instead, the goal is short-term, remain yourself intact while penetrating the tribe of the culturally estranged in order to complete your purpose in being there.  It is important however, that the cultural anthropologist doesn’t appear aloof, since that suggests superiority, but rather separate or unengaged, and thereby, non-threatening (but still productive to one’s own purpose).  A strategy, such as this, has kept me sane in work situations that either involve catering to a class set opposite myself or when working with a crew of people who are either completely unalike or intensely competitive of one another.  Remember, the goal of the anthropologist is to not get sucked in; you, after all, get to return home to sanity, whereas the savages, well, God help the savages…

Personally, I have also been lucky in that I have an extraordinary partner to return home to; one who is gracious enough to be the bartender to my own bitchy complaints and attestations.  And that is what’s really great about love.  The secret to everlasting love is finding someone who knows how full of shit you are, but is willing to stick with you anyway.  Anyone that is fooled is merely a customer…

*”Savages and primitives” are phrases used for this blog entry in utter facetiousness, and should be taken as such.

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3 Responses

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  1. curtmiester13 said, on March 20, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    i like a combined anthropological slash hieratical approach myself. that way i can silently observe with my obviously-superior intellect, and then verbally lambaste the faulty human with some type of horrifying threat of the eternal hell of ignorance that awaits them!!!!

    haha 🙂

  2. jasongrayfineartist said, on March 20, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Buying a coworker a book to enlighten their understanding of the world= $10-25

    Pointing out their inevitable condemnation to an eternal hell of ignorance= Priceless

  3. PTZ IP Camera said, on November 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Hey can I copy and paste this post on my web site? What references must I give? You might give this info for other people too.


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