I’m sure you didn’t mean it the way it came out.
Last week a friend of mine hit the breaking point after reading one too many articles about how a certain group of people is happier than another group.
The article that set her off happened to be about childfree women, who were sure that choosing not to have children made their relationships better, their careers more successful, and them superior to us poor slobs with kids. Hundreds of these sorts of articles come out every week, telling people that the writer’s way of life is the best way of life.
“Can you please write about how these articles are the worst? How about we all just be supportive and stop saying one group is happier than another? Title it ‘7 Ways Not To Be An Asshole’,” she texted me.
I don’t usually take requests, but just this once – here you go, my friend. Here are seven ways to not be an (unintentional, I’m sure) asshole.
1. Understand that someone else’s success is not your failure
Look, I get it. I’m a writer – jealousy is par for the course. But when someone else gets something you want – love, money, career success – that doesn’t mean there’s less available out there for you. In fact, it’s just the opposite. There’s plenty for everyone. Keep your head down and keep grinding, and your day will come too.
2. Don’t assume other people’s choices are an indictment of your own
Okay, so you chose to settle down young while your friend put off marriage and kids indefinitely, and now she’s telling you how happy she is not to be tied down. Try taking her at her word: she’s happy. Consider that her choice most likely has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with what’s right for her. One size does not fit all.
3. Be supportive of other women – no matter what
Don’t we have enough people trying to tear us down all the time without doing it to each other? The last thing women need to do is be at each other’s throats. Let’s build each other up instead of tearing each other down.
4. Stop making sweeping statements
Here’s a fun game: see if you can eliminate ‘always’ and ‘never’ from your vocabulary. Remember that you don’t, in fact, know what’s best for everyone all the time, or maybe any of the time. Practice speaking for yourself, and no one else.
5. Don’t be so sure of yourself
No one likes a know-it-all. If you’re one of those people who can never admit she’s wrong, refuses to cop to any insecurity, and starts a significant percentage of her sentences with the word ‘actually’, take note: you may be an asshole.
6. Give other people the benefit of the doubt
When it comes right down to it, most of us are just trying to get through the day. We’re all doing the best we can. Don’t jump down people’s throats when they fall short of your expectations, or rush to take offense at a comment that might not have been meant the way you took it. Let’s give each other a break.
7. Remember the Golden Rule
You’ve probably been hearing it since you were little, but it bears repeating: treat other people the way you’d like to be treated. For example, have you ever been annoyed at a friend for Instagramming schmoopy couple selfies with her new man, and then done the exact same thing yourself as soon as you got coupled up? Or talked about someone behind her back, then gotten angry at someone else for talking about you?
It’s so easy to forget in the heat of the moment – but keep trying. It’s worth it. I know you don’t want to be an asshole.
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Comment: What’s the worst way someone has been an unintentional asshole to you?