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How to deal with idiots and jerks: 16 effective tips

I try to respect everyone I come across, but sometimes it’s hard.

There are so many idiots and jerks out there that it can be hard to keep your cool.

Here are some survival tips to making your way through the swamp.

1) Make the rules

If you want to know how to deal with idiots and jerks I’m going to be very direct:

You need to stop them from controlling interactions and situations.

When a foolish or unkind person realizes they can run you they will do so until you curse the day you ever gave them any credit.

Idiots and assholes basically invented the phrase: give an inch and they’ll take a mile.

You just can’t relax too much around these people.

If you’ve seen someone behaving very rudely or stupidly, or seen somehow acting in a brash and insulting way then pay attention!

Don’t give them a promotion at work or introduce them to go out on a date with your sister.

Be cautious. They’re showing you who they are.

2) Give yourself an upgrade

Irritating people and fools are energy leeches.

They give you endless opportunities to waste your time, energy and mental efforts.

But you never get anything out of it!

So what can you do to deal with jerks and stupid people?

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3) Help them out

One of the biggest tricks for how to deal with idiots and jerks is to help them.

I know it sounds crazy, but stupidity and aggressive behavior is often the result of someone who feels powerless or frustrated.

Helping them with something can be like a sudden wake-up call.

They feel embarrassed and ashamed of their other behavior and start respecting you.

It doesn’t have to be anything over the top either…

Maybe you explain Excel to a super-annoying colleague at work or help a guy who can’t say a sentence without peppering it with “fuck” every second word how to install a super useful app.

4) Be their sage

Some idiots and jerks have just never been shown another way to be.

Tell them why they’re wrong in the least personal way possible. Let them know what it is about their actions, words or behavior that rubs people the wrong way.

They may genuinely not be very aware of it.

For example people who are convinced they are always right often act out of a deep sense of insecurity.

When you communicate with them in a compassionate way and let them know how others could take their words the wrong way they will often pause and consider what you’re saying.

Make sure to emphasize that it’s nothing against them as a person, it’s more of a thing about how others might take their behavior and actions and interpret them.

Give them an ideal or goal to work toward as well, and make sure to also highlight that you yourself have lots to improve about yourself as well.

5) Silence is golden

Sometimes the best reply to an idiot is nothing at all.

Speaking is easy to misunderstand, and everyone knows that actions speak louder than words.

People who aren’t too bright or have a bad attitude tend to have a habit of not hugely respecting what someone says.

That’s why sometimes your best bet is just to not say anything.

When they crack a rude joke or scowl at you and insult you act like you suddenly stopped noticing them.

Just go about your day.

Their behavior just lost your attention, the most valuable currency they crave.

6) Defuse things with a joke

Humor is the universal language for a reason: it works.

Once people are laughing they forget about the act they’re trying to put on and all the games they’re playing.

They open up for just a second to the magic of the moment and become humanized.

Look at what they find funny and try to touch base on that aspect.

It can be a lot of fun, and also sometimes you can see a side of this annoying person that you didn’t know was there.

Humor can be the key that opens that door.

That’s why sometimes the best reaction for how to deal with idiots and jerks is to tell a great joke.

At the very least you’ll get to try out your material on a hard crowd.

7) Physically avoid them

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution.

If you’re dealing with folks whose stupidity and horridness has got you at your wit’s end, don’t torture yourself.

Just physically avoid them.

It sounds childish, but it works.

Give them a wide berth because you value your time more than wasting it on toxic and foolish people. It’s just not worth it sometimes…

I’m not saying to duck into a broom closet when they walk up, but go ahead and don’t answer their calls…

Let their texts sit there…

Give them a nod when you see them in town but say you have somewhere to be when they start engaging you in conversation.

As Donald Miller says:

“Positioning yourself within 25 feet of a toxic person means your chances of catching the disease and getting fired more than doubles.

“One of the best strategies for dealing with a toxic person at work is to treat that person like you would a toxic substance.

“Stay away.”

8) Be as patient as possible

There will be situations at work, in your family or even in your love life where you may have to deal with idiots and jerks without an easy or nearby exit.

You just have to weather the idiocy.

In this case, I highly recommend that you grow a thick skin and become patient.

Think of it as a meditation on human folly.

They talk and you smile benignly and sit there and get on with your day as far as possible.

Some people are idiots because they’re simply not intelligent, at least not in the way which is important at the time you’re dealing with them.

For this reason there are often times when simply having the patience of a saint is the best you can do.

9) Take a look in the mirror

I’m not saying you’re an idiot – sometimes I am – but I do think it’s important when dealing with stupid folks and assholes that we make sure we’re not a pot calling the kettle black.

It’s easy to get frustrated in various situations and notice how unsatisfying and ridiculous everyone else is around us.

But what about us?

Think about the lst time you did something very stupid.

Then try to forgive yourself and forgive the stupid people around you if they only slip up a time or two.

Nobody’s perfect.

“Though it feels easier and safer in the short run to place the blame on unreasonable or incompetent co-workers, it is simply not a useful story to tell ourselves.

“It is a distortion of reality that can undermine our decisions and alienate our teams,” writes Cy Wakeman.

10) Get them off their butt

One of the best cures of jerkism and idiocy is motivation.

There are times when you can be a cheerleader who helps cure assholes by getting them energized and enthusiastic.

Sometimes the best way to address people whose heads are up their butts is by getting them off their butts.

In a work setting this could mean setting proactive goals instead of criticizing.

In a friend setting this could mean encouraging an annoying or dumb friend to work on a goal that he or she has been thinking about but hesitant to try.

In a family setting it could mean thinking about home improvement projects or other things you and your family could do to bond more.

If there are people you just can’t stand, think about motivating them to become a better person.

Start small and dream big: anything is possible.

11) Turn them

I hinted at this earlier in talking about how sometimes helping idiots and jerks can be the best approach for how to deal with them.

Basically, if you get an idiot or jerk on your side, you defuse them.

Their asshole vibes stop being directed at you, which is like having a nice umbrella on a scorching hot day.

Their stupidity stops hitting you as well, because they now know not to bother you with silly questions or complaints.

You achieve a win-win scenario, simply by basically befriending them.

Think of the idiot or jerk as an enemy spy:

You entice them with rewards and positive feedback for being on your team and encourage them to defect from their terrible behavior around you.

It can really work.

As Art Markman writes:

“The trick is to turn this person into an ally. The really conscientious people in any workplace are wonderful, because they make sure that things get done.

“Try to enlist their help and support in the productive things you are doing at work.

“Engaging them to help work through the details of a project lets them use their orientation to detail as a force for good and at the same time keeps them too busy to be focused on nitpicking.”

12) Think about context

Some people are major assholes at work but the best people you’ve ever met when you go to their house for a barbecue on Saturday.

Leaving aside the more disturbing and schizoid aspects of that and what it says about modern capitalism and labor, let’s just be honest…

Context can really create some monsters.

Nobody is completely one thing or another, so one of the best ways for how to deal with idiots and jerks is to pay attention to their natural habitat.

You don’t want to see me when I’m hangry for example. I’m the biggest idiot jerk who’s ever walked the earth.

If you notice what brings out the inner fool and jerk in those around you, then you can avoid them in those situations and sometimes work to help them overcome or deal with those situations.

Like Eric Schwitzgebel says:

“No one is a perfect jerk or a perfect sweetheart.

“Human behavior – of course! – varies hugely with context. Different situations (sales-team meetings, travelling in close quarters) might bring out the jerk in some and the sweetie in others.”

13) Be better than them

Life isn’t a competition, but it also doesn’t play favorites.

In most situations, the more competent person wins.

Instead of trying to compete, argue or clash with idiots and jerks, just be better than them.

At work or in your personal life, you’re eventually going to come out on top.

Plus, if their behavior has ticked you off I can bet you good money that other people have also taken note of it.

Jerks and fools are rarely one-time offenders.

They generally have a long list of people who detest them.

Be better than them and outshine them in your work and in your actions. It will eventually put you in good stead as people grow tired of their antics.

14) Be prepared for stupid

If you go around the world expecting to converse with Nobel scientists and ethics professors you’re going to be sorely disappointed!

There’s a lot of us basic and flawed struggling human beings out here on the dirty streets and we’re not always the kindest or fairest people you’ve met.

That’s why it’s vital that you be prepared for stupid.

Because I can guarantee you that stupid is going to come your way, find you and ruin your day sooner or later.

“There are a certain number of jerks and idiots out there, just as there are a certain amount of racoons and deer in your neighborhood,” advises the Daily Stoic.

“Eventually, you’re going to see one. They might even do something to bother you—or put your safety at risk.

“But those are just the odds. So be ready. Be careful. And don’t freak out.”

15) Feed them honey

One of the most effective ways to deal with idiots can be to feed them honey.

Treat them as if they’re the greatest person you ever met.

Give them compliments that should be sarcastic, but which they take seriously.

Let them get confused and mentally wrecked over your sweetness.

Give them nothing but love and appreciation.

Where they expect to be told off and insulted, tell them they’re a very “thoughtful” person.

Where they make awful comments constantly tell them you’re “always interested in how they see things.”

Give them ideals to live up to.

16) Tell them to get lost

Part of building up your personal power is drawing lines you don’t cross.

As well as lines that nobody else crosses.

There are idiots and jerks in our world who are truly emotional – and even sometimes physical – predators.

If this is what you’re dealing with and you’ve already tried everything else, then sometimes you can’t do anything else but tell them to scram.

Sometimes idiots and jerks just plain need to be confronted and told to buzz off.

It might make you feel like a bad person, but if you’ve already tried other strategies and done your best, this can be all that’s left to try.

Put your foot down and put it down hard.

Let them know you’ve had enough and you have better stuff to do.

Tell them it’s nothing personal but you have a lot to get done and you just don’t have time to talk right now or deal with whatever they’re on about.

If they want a fight, tell them you’re not interested, you’re just done with their behavior and moving on.

Simple as that.

Take a hike, Mike!

I have nothing against people called Mike, but hey – it rhymes.

The point here is that if we take a theoretical guy called Mike who is a jerk and an idiot, he should get lost…

You don’t need to be stepped on and think that it’s somehow inevitable.

You deserve better.

And you can and will find much better once you stop accepting the unacceptable treatment of idiots and jerks.

Let them choke on their own fumes.

You have better places to be.

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