Let’s tackle an issue everyone has to deal with sometime: Jerks.
Whether it’s the guy at work who lords his higher spot on the totem pole over everyone else, or the girl who gossips loudly about other people, or perhaps the meat-head who makes fun of a shy person with a lisp. Assholes are out there. And they always will be.
It’s best to be prepared.
I don’t like confrontation, so believe you me, I’m not recommending we get up in the face of every jackass who says or does something mean. In fact, the key to these moves isn’t direct conflict at all. It’s all about understatement. The idea here is to throw the person psychologically off balance with weird, quiet, out-of-context reactions to their bad behavior. Even better, do it in front of a crowd, just to make the meanie extra uncomfortable.
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I just love this one. It’s great for when the person is blithering on arrogantly about their super-high standardized test scores or their naturally smooth hair or their golf prowess or whatever.
And it’s easy: As the person is droning on about who-cares-what, just gaze into their eyes and mash your finger against their lips and whisper, “shhhhhhhh.”
But not in a “shut up” way. In a “please, my dear, say no more, for I can hear the words of your heart even when your lips are not moving,” way.
(“But that reaction makes no sense,” you might say. Yes. That’s the point. Assholes don’t like it when they try to goad people into one reaction but get another.)
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2. One Slow Tear
This is another good one for when you’re held hostage by an endless rant.
It’s NOT full-on crying you’re going for here. No quivering lip, no sobs, no sound. In fact, no facial expression at all. Make your face completely blank. You’re a statue, devoid of feeling… THEN! Conjure one single tear and let it spill out of your unblinking eye and roll down your face. Even the most self-absorbed snotmonkey cannot help but be put off guard by your show of strangely emotionless emotion in response to his monologue on why he hates waiters who touch his plate.
This move is absolutely creeptastic, but it does take a lot of facial control. I recommend practicing it in the mirror every morning. You never know when you’ll need it.
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3. The Unrelated Question
This is best for when the mean person has just delivered what they believe to be a real zinger. Right when they’re basking in the afterglow of their one-liner and they’re waiting for everyone to high-five them for their cleverness – that’s your moment. Just wait a beat or two, blink a few times, and then pose a total non-sequitur, like this:
“I can’t help but wonder… Are the invisible eyeballs of our ancestors watching us from the clouds?”
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4. Unexpected Affection
I’ll give you a money-back guarantee on this one. When it comes to taking the wind out of some bastard’s sails, this does not fail. Now, it could get you punched. But everything comes with risks.
The best way to time it is to wait until the person says something completely snide and awful to or about someone. The kind of thing that should make everyone around them haul off and slap them across the mouth, but never does, because people like this seem to have a force-field of compliance around them.
You go in for a hug.
I recommend leaning in for an extra-long moment of uncomfortable bonding. Again, it’s dissonance we’re after here. That person is trying to get a rise out of everyone by acting like a prick. Instead, you’re going to be a freaky, huggy love monster.
Then just step back and maybe stir your drink and start whistling. Look up like nothing just happened. If they start up again, just hug again. Hug and hug and hug.