Four Ways To Stop Mean People by Creeping Them Out

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.

* * *

1. Shhh…

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.)

Dumb and Dumber
Shhhh… Say no more. Your words enter my spirit through the air without sound.

* * *

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.

Litter is sad
Remember the Crying Indian? Pretend you’re him and someone just told you about litter. Channel stone-faced, contained non-rage.

* * *

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?”

"So, if you're from Africa, why are you white?"
Think Amanda Seyfried’s character in Mean Girls and how she threw everyone off balance with her spacey questions.

* * *

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.

Talladega Nights: An Allegorical Piece of Cinema for the Ages
Hug thine enemy.

Good luck.


  1. I have dealt with a lot of mean people in my job and my favourite way to deal with them is to be super nice, to the point that I feel sick, but I know that the sarcasm has got to them and they can’t complain about me because I was only being nice…Hug thine enemy with empty words

  2. In a few years, if you apply your kids to Woodward, you will learn another method – make sure your interview (parents are part of the interview) is with Rusty. He is great – he gives amazing perspective on your child, and excellent life advice for you and your child. My favorite part of the interview – the tips he gives your child on dealing with the meanies in life. I would say it is a blend of 1 and 3.

  3. I think because of having been hazed in college, I have an abnormal amount of patience with assholes. I pretty much give a blank stare and say “ok…” That doesn’t teach them a lesson though, does it? Maybe it behooves me to try some of these techniques.

  4. We also enjoy pointing and laughing hysterically at someone who is having a temper tantrum. This is especially wonderful when someone is yelling at you in traffic for a delay that is out of your control. They may or may not have an aneurysm as a result forcing an ambulance through the stopped traffic. Creating EVEN MORE of a traffic jam. Which will teach them not to get so angry about things that are out of their control and blame them on you.

  5. My spouse has mastered number three, which also works on anybody who is on the verge of a conniption fit. The trick seems to be randomness— much harder than it looks, IMO.

    My goal is number four. I once worked for the master of number four. But—here’s the kicker—she was actually just that nice. She nice-d people into being nice. Her nice was so powerful it was a verb. It was amazing to see.

    Thank you for writing this hilarious, pitch-perfect essay Ms. Blink! You’ve just made me ridiculously happy!

  6. I think the hugging one is my favorite. I was raised in a non-hugging home, and I’m still a pretty awkward hugger. (Are you supposed to lean to the left or the right?!?) I think the awkwardness would only give it extra creepiness. Awesome blog as always. ((hugs))

  7. Blank stare and blinking a couple times works for me sometimes I think it helps that my normal blank face is naturally kind of mean looking. I’m pretty shy and quiet too but when someone personally attacks me or someone I know I’ll move past the slyly creeping out stage and go straight to baring my teeth… not literally.. okay well maybe sometimes but mostly death glares and sharp words( not always recommended in all situations though)

    I need to definitely try these methods more often seeing as I live in a city where assholes seem to pop out of the cracks in the sidewalks!

  8. I love your list and would add “Ouch.” I never think to use it! Usually I am so dumbfounded and my mind is racing to understand what provoked the jerk into speaking to me that way!
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  9. I’m SO going in for a hug the next time I encounter a total asshole. Talk about unsettling!

    I LOVE this post — thank you for the incredible ideas. It seems a meet a jackass almost daily these days, so I have a feeling these suggestions will come in handy.


  10. I once got in a tight spot in an alley with a woman in a BMW and me in my Fiat going in opposite directions. She wouldn’t give a cm and I didn’t give a flying….When she wound down the window to call me naughty names I leaned out of my window, put my thumbs in my ears and my tongue out flapping gargling and chortling like some giant five year old. It was really satisfying. Sadly though she turned up in the front row of a public speech I had to give the next week and it completely threw me…I forgot what I had to say as her powers of hate mesmerised me!

  11. I’ve always gone for sarkasm that comes off as sincerity…
    but the weird-factor is great, I shall try this the next time I meet a mean member of our species.

  12. When dealing with certain a**hats, I usually just raise my eyebrows a bit and give an awkward smile. I know better now. Best advice I’ve heard in a long time – thanks! I don’t think I could pull off #2, but I know some excellent candidates to try #1, 3 and 4 on.

  13. Oh my so many spectacular moments in this post. Thank you for starting off my day with this. Emotionless emotion. Love it!!! I think the hug made me laugh so hard I scared my dog.

  14. According to Warren Buffett, Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars. Would you agree?

  15. This is great! Laughing at them whilst they’re being mean to you is also a good one. They will always stop and ask ‘what’s so funny?’ to which you respond ‘nevermind’ and carry on! They won’t understand what’s going on, it’ll more than likely creep ’em out and thus should stop them in their tracks!

    Beat those bullies!

  16. I am going to be a completely literal prick here and spoil everyone’s fun, but you have to be VERY careful with #1. This could be construed as battery, which is defined legally as unwanted touching. If someone is a big enough asshole to need shutting up, they may be a big enough asshole to call you out on the battery thing.

  17. I was once told that the phrase, “Thanks for that.” is a sentence which the human mind is incapable of processing. It therefore silences most people.

    Then I tried it and it worked too well. The person has still not forgiven me.

  18. This is pure gold lol, very clever! I’ve done the hug one before and the person was so worked up that I got shoved away, but I kept smiling and going back in for it so it actually made it all the more uncomfortably funny :).

    I literally can’t wait to try out the Shhh…!

  19. Number 3 is something I managed to do it several times back at Law School, usually to rescue my friends from a total douche or dickheads with self-glowted moments of academic enlightment. The jerk would look at me giving time for my friends start time for other subjects or a run away excuse. Will practice on that second one… I don’t show emotions already, so that creep tear thing should be useful in any situation for me. Cheers.

  20. I would like to add giving the crazy eyes and a creepy, huge smile, followed by “that’s awesome!” There is no way for that not to be awkward. Those who know you will get it and, with enough repetition, the jerk will try to avoid you at all costs.

  21. #3 is fantastically effective. It also works well against people who are yammering on about something nobody else listening cares about, such as how My Little Pony is really an intelligent show made for adults and how deep the characters are (I’ve been subjected to this kind of talk, yes.)

    Admittedly, doing this puts you into grey-area jerk territory, since the person you’re shutting down wasn’t exactly being a jerk but just talking about something he has an interest in but you don’t. Better to be straightforward in such cases.

  22. Congrats on the FP! I love the idea of shushing someone. I often do that to my boyfriend to be funny…but I will now entertain the thought of doing that to assholes on the street.

  23. I heard a story of when Jim Carrey was being hounded by the paparazzi, he got out and gave all the photographers a really long hug, until they got so awkward they went away. I think it was him. It sounds like the sort of thing he’d do. Anyway, I just love the idea of that 😀

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  24. Um, I am definitely interested in alternate responses to bullies. They are definitely in order, yet the tear is practically impossible and iffy in terms of lessening gossip about oneself; the question is worse for the same reason; and touching people in the ways you suggest could be considered actionable forms of assault — especially in the workplace. Better to creep people out verbally and let the air out of their tires with innocuous statements (or Miss Manners-type rejoinders) about the bully’s intent that leave the speaker smelling like a rose.

    If this is a purely humorous post and not a real tutorial, then I beg your pardon.

  25. This is amazing. I am at work and laughing so hard I am tearing up. I am just trying to do it all silently. I like the idea of being a freaky, huggy love monster.

  26. #4 totally makes me think of Groundhog Day when Phil goes in for the hug with Ned the Head. Awesome.

    Mostly I stick with #3. It rarely fails.

  27. So so funny. I had a friend who once calmly said to a screaming boss, “Mike, have you had your medication?” or you can start repeating whatever they said, really quickly, in almost a whisper. Then pretend you aren’t doing it.

  28. I find that, in addition to the hug, when you’re in nice and close, it helps if you whisper in their ear, ‘it’s okay. it’s okay. I understand,’ as you begin rubbing their back. You might find a crier, but that’s what it’s about – best to attack the roots fuelling the bully, after all.

    Thank you for the morning chortle! And yep, I know I’m welcome!

  29. I once asked an asshole (who was in full asshole venting at the time), “Why do you bob your head side to side when you’re shrieking at me?” It stopped her absolutely cold.

  30. I so needed this after today, thanks for the post. I would try “the shh” but I’m not sure I can pull it off without getting decked in the face. #3, the unrelated question is always a great one though, and I notice it gets used a lot with executive power games (although not so Amanda Seifried). It’s basically a way of marginalizing what the other person said by suggesting you weren’t listening.

    Brilliant post!


  31. You know how you just posted something on your blog and are so stoked because you thought it was sooo clever. Then you go to Freshly Pressed and read a post that’s wayyy more clever than yours. Yeah, that was just me.

    I wonder how good at the single tear I’d be. I think I would laugh and blow it!

  32. My youngest brother has the hugging thing down pat. He’s 12 now, but he’s always used hugs as a tactic to shut down anyone who is being unpleasant to him. If you try to tickle him, he hugs you. if you try to yell at him or scold him, he hugs you. And then he goes for jugular by saying “I love you so much!” I mean, really… what are you supposed to do with that? It works every time.

  33. I really enjoyed this and congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I really can’t stand jerks who are jerks for no reason so when someone is being snarky to me I get a bit confrontational and say something like “How did you even get in here? I thought this was supposed to be for intellectuals only?” I can’t help but have the last word.

  34. Lol.. The tear one made me lol.. I truly loved ur post..
    And u know wat people cal the hug one here in india??? JADDU KI JHAPPI meaning MAGIC HUG
    its actually from a bollywood movie Munna Bhai M.B.B.S 🙂

  35. …A soft answer turneth away wrath …. I think I could do the shhh and the totally unrelated question. Would have to work on the implied affection ones. I am not good at faking feelings. But then again, feelings sometimes follow actions and I may get more tenderhearted with practice.
    Congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  36. I’m going to try the “shhh” approach the next time a sub-editor pisses me off. If that doesn’t work, I’m either going to use unexpected affection or a fast-moving fire extinguisher.

    Thanks for sharing these handy tips and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

  37. I thoroughly enjoyed this! I think I’ve been particularly prone to using “the unrelated question,” as I often find it’s all I can do to stop myself being rude to these people. I don’t know whether I’d have the gall (or the skill) to try the others…

  38. Brilliant! I’ve already shared with half my office, and we’re all onboard to “I can’t help but wonder… Are the invisible eyeballs of our ancestors watching us from the clouds?” the sh*t out of our office drone(r).

  39. Not to burst your bubble… That jerk in Talladega Nights kisses Will in that scene, it’s much more than a hug, and it would probably get you in a heap more trouble too 😉

  40. Reblogged this on karikruger13 and commented:
    Ah came across this blog while doing research for a project on abuse… I Somehow wish I too had an opportunity to try these steps one day! They seem fun 🙂

  41. LOL! I will definitely try these out. I love the Unrelated Question. Will have to come up with a few. Everybody knows someone like this. Congrats on FP. You are on the brink of becoming an advice column!

  42. Reblogged this on Milkshake and commented:
    Ah came across this blog while doing research for a project on abuse… I Somehow wish I too had an opportunity to try these steps one day! They seem fun 🙂

  43. hahaha… cute!!… i love the tear drop one…how so ridiculous… i think i d love to try these out because yes jerks r out there all the time, one shud really take control of the situation and make it horror for them… haha… will give u feedback

  44. This made my day! Thank you very much!
    Have you ever seen Jenna Marbles on YouTube? She has 2 videos on how to make annoying people go away. This post reminded me of it. The first is a crazy face you have to make until the person goes away. the other video mentions techniques such as acting like an animal. Perhaps some of those may work as well?

  45. I couldn’t possibly hug my horrid husband (who i am trying to divorce)but I think I could just about bear to touch him with the ‘shhhh’ . You have also made me laugh, well played.

  46. Awesome 😀 I just imagined randomly squeezing out one slow tear when some bragging jackass was upto his business. I burst out laughing instead. Maybe I’ll try the hug one.
    For the record, have you ever gone ahead and done one of these? Or are they theories that you want to test?

  47. “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.
    – – – – –
    xD You my friend, are epic.

  48. Love it! A worthy FP if ever I read one! You know your post’s good when the comments are hilarious! 🙂

  49. I let the other person speak, sometimes later they get bored, as there is no change in my behaviour or expression, no reactions, therefore they don’t find any interest.
    To counter i just smile or laugh gently.

  50. That was excellent – the hug is by far my favourite. Mind I still automatically go for the ask and unrelated question response, never fails.

  51. One of the things I do in my home-based business is marketing and I deal with a ton of librarians that fit the snooty/uptight/stick up her ass stereotype. I just act overly sweet and equally as high and mighty, but in my best most positive tone, and make sure I say “And have a beautiful day!” when I hang up the phone. Who cares what they think, I hang the phone up with a smile on my face!

  52. This is a really great post, I hate jerks – I always want to tell them off, but that just gets me all annoyed which isn’t really great for anyone. Thanks for sharing this, it’s refreshing – reblogged to

  53. Hilarious! I have to do the SHHHHH one all the time at work. I think the best response to that was: “that’s a strange laugh” ……geez…. 2 weeks later, he may get the picture.

  54. Beyond hilarious and completely useful, I tried the hug, I don’t think that idiot is EVER going to attempt another conversation with me!

  55. Brilliant! I shall be applying these very soon I’m sure – I think I may be using the Shhh technique most often along with running aaway screaming like a loony bin.

  56. I should try a couple of these when I’m faced with a grumpy doctor while I’m on duty, hahaha. Although answering with a non-related question may get me transferred to the psych dept, for admission… I enjoyed this so much! 🙂

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