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15 June 2010 @ 10:00 am
and fuck you, too!  
What is it about being called on being a jerk makes people pull additional jerkiness?

The other day, a friend and I were walking in downtown Boston. About to cross the street, we were nearly run down by a guy tearing through a red light. My friend shouted, "Hey!" and the guy flipped her off. About a month ago, I was driving, and a person cut me off to turn left in front of me, and flipped me off while doing so.

Does doing something MORE assholish make them feel righteous? Wtf!

But, then, I can see this in myself, too, in that urge, when someone says, "Hey, you hurt my feelings," to respond with, "Dude, get over yourself. What do you want from me?"

I guess it's like saying, "I'm not as good as you think I am, and I feel shitty when I fail you, so stop asking me to be better." Framed that way, it seems not only outrageous but kind of sad.

Does this happen to you? How do you deal with it, either from the giving or the receiving side?
I'm feeling: sadsad
Co-conspirator of Squeemuffyjo on June 15th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
I think of it as more of an "aggression v aggression" thing rather than actual thinking. Someone yells at you, you yell back. It's more reactionary than action-oriented.

We don't have time to think. Or energy left to consider people outside of our own little worlds. They are all "filler" people in our lives, not the real ones that matter, right? I've heard them referred to as inconsequential strangers.

But frankly, I'm with you. If everyone put their brains back in gear and thought things through, they might actually enjoy their world more. And make it more pleasant for everyone.
Susan Constantsconstant on June 15th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC)
Right, that. Or the person doesn't think they did anything wrong, so you yelling is the first "attack". As for the cutting off bird, I always assume in that case that I somehow had done something to that person earlier in my trip (either actually or just in his/her perception) and this was him/her catching up to me and "punishing" me.
veek on June 15th, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)
It does happen to me. When I notice it, I try to blurt out an apology as soon as I can (with an explanation signaling I get *in what way* I was an ass), because the longer I think about it, the more difficult it is to overcome the stubbornness that got me into trouble in the first place.

So, I tend to prefer noticing when I'm physically near the other person.
drwexdrwex on June 15th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
A few aspects
Things that occur to me in reading this.

One is that there's a presumption of shared view in the judgment. You say "someone cut me off" which may well be true from your or even an independent perspective. But perhaps the person doesn't share that perspective. Perhaps the jerk thinks he did nothing wrong and so there's no justification for calling him out. Being called out for "no reason" could provoke hostility or defensiveness.

Two is that there's a presumption of superiority in the situation. You assert not only your viewpoint but a situation in which you're permitted to pass judgment on the other person and enforce it in some way, at the very least by calling to attention his deviation from (what you see as) expected norms of behavior. In crude terms, you're acting like his mom.

As a parent I'm particularly sensitive about #2 because Pygment and I need to enforce behavior codes for the children, but we do not want them attempting to enforce the rules on each other. In particular, we do not want the elder attempting to act as parent-enforcer on the younger - which he does all too often. It's tricky to explain to them why, particularly when we let them call us on our own rule violations.

I don't know many people who enjoy having their errors or flaws pointed out to them, particularly in emphatic or unexpected ways. In some situation where you could have a real dialog with the person I doubt you'd yell "you jerk why did you do that!" at him. But if you did, it might not be surprising to see that he responds with hostility, even if it's just the juvenile "Oh, yeah, let me show you what a REAL jerk looks like" reaction. Flipping the bird isn't very eloquent but it does convey the point.
David Policardpolicar on June 15th, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
I rarely do this specific thing... I'm more likely in that situation to apologize and slink off.

But I certainly do analogous things, like defend a behavior I know is indefensible.

In terms of dealing with my tendency behave like this, I try to be aware of the power of cognitive dissonance. That is, I try to be aware of myself as always trying to construct a consistent (but not necessarily accurate or useful) model of myself, as trying to justify all of my actions as being coherent.

I find that tendency is at the root of much of this sort of behavior for me, and that being aware of myself doing it tends to weaken the strength of it. Relatedly, I work hard at owning my own inconsistencies and looking my own absurdity in the eye.

In terms of dealing with the tendency of others to behave like this, well, that's different.

In general, I don't deal with it very effectively.

Sometimes I try to invite others to be aware of their own inconsistencies and absurdity, and to reject the tendency to construct a coherent storyline.

Sometimes I argue with others about it.

Sometimes I metaphorically throw my hands in the air and wander off.
Roy Battyroy_batty on June 15th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)
1) The perception thing that's already been mentioned. In their reality tunnel, perhaps they see you as the asshat.

2) There's a commonly observed phenomenon wherein when person a wrongs person b (either knowingly in the wrong from the beginning, or as "a" becomes aware of it) "a" can often develop a coping mechanism to assuage guilt/responsibility discomfiture. Essentially "a" wrongs "b", then subconsciously feels bad and deals with it by vilifying "b" in an effort to justify the wrong already done, often leading to doing more wrong.

It's messed up, but has a pretty solid history of occurrence.
vito_excalibur on June 15th, 2010 03:36 pm (UTC)
I have stopped apologizing to people in traffic because it enrages them even further.

I was biking on the sidewalk one day, which I know is illegal but which I will do for like a block or so along particularly unsafe stretches of road. And a guy yelled at me as he passed for doing it. At which point I realized, shit! I had been absent-minded; this was a place I should be biking in the road. So I stopped the bike, turned around, and apologized.

I ended up biking away before he started throwing things at me. It made him furious that I admitted I was wrong. And this is only one example. My working hypothesis is that if you get mad, people assume you didn't mean it, whereas if you say "Oops, I was wrong," they think you knew at the time you were wrong and did it anyway. Some situations, you can explain; yelling in traffic is not one.

So now I just yell back, or ignore them, and that's why.
Chris Xnminusone on June 15th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
What is it about being called on being a jerk makes people pull additional jerkiness?

You're insulting them without the proper authority. When you attack someone like that you're passing judgment on them. Unless they accept you as an authority figure your judgement is an insult. It's like a priest of a religion I don't respect telling me I'm a sinner and expecting me to take it seriously. Um, no. Some will laugh it off, but others will get angry.
Chance: blue guymiss_chance on June 15th, 2010 05:16 pm (UTC)
I have found that I will try to "justify" being a jerk by de-humanizing the person I'm about to victimize (or have just victimized). So, say I cut someone off in traffic... I don't like to be the kind of person who is insensitive to innocent by-standers and co-habitants of this planet. BUT if I lower them to a status that is somehow below mine, then it's okay, right? I didn't cut off a peer, I cut off some jerk in an SUV. Obviously I have moral superiority, Now, presto! I'm not an asshole, I'm little-David up against the Goliath of all that's wrong with society! I'm taking back the streets for decent people like ME!

I hope it's obvious that this is not a mental process I respect or accept in myself. It's something that I notice my mind tries to do. Sometimes I catch it in time, and don't do the jerk thing in the first place. Other times I catch it in time to stop myself from validating and reinforcing the behavior I don't want to see in myself again.

Anyway, that's something I catch myself doing sometimes.

On the other hand, the dude might just be a jerk.
Statistical Outlier in All  Studies: zomg!chaiya on June 15th, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC)
I was biking uphill in the bike lane recently, along a long stretch of straight road (Beacon St going away from Porter Sq). A guy had apparently been sitting in his huge truck for a while and decided to open his door *just* as I cycled by (at mayyybe 15 mph, max). When I screamed and veered left because he'd startled me (he definitely hadn't just parked his truck, or I would've known he was in there), his response was "Well, don't go so fast, then!"

Because my going too fast up an incline was causing him to nearly hit me with his door.

It takes all kinds. :P
D. Fennelfennel on June 15th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
I try to laugh when faced with antisocial behavior from other people in public. Well, that, and (if it's aimed at me specifically) doing the 'do I ever do that, to people from whose perspective my reasons are as bad as that person's seem?" dance.

But I only really got to the point of ever doing that by... training my reflexes? I guess? Like, I still react *almost* as unthinkingly as I used to, but the reactions are different. I'm not sure what I did to bring that about, other than be pleased with myself when I happen to react in a less upset way.
Chance: bicyclemiss_chance on June 15th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
I was thinking about this question today while riding and realized another occasional factor: adrenaline. If some thing happens in traffic, and there's a calling-out about it, likely everyone involved is going to be a little chemically-altered in the moment. If there's any adrenaline involved I think that many people would tend to get either more aggressive, or more defensive, or otherwise hype up their response in the moment.
kimcobkimcob on June 16th, 2010 11:21 am (UTC)
I have a tendency to become paralyzed by the wrongness I have done. I apologize profusely but it seems to make people angrier that I am sorry.