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Know when you are being jerk

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2008 Leadership Workshop
November, 2007

     I absolutely love this time of year.  The crispness in the air, leaves falling and the holiday season all bring back great memories. But, sometimes, I really just want to stay home.  It seems like every where I go, I seem to run into jerks.  You know these people, they just seem so stressed and angry, destined to spoil our holiday cheer.
     In reality, people get so ultra-stressed this time of year that even with the best laid plans, something or someone can wreck havoc on them.  I must admit that I too have found myself to be that ugly person, ticked off at someone who is joyfully and obliviously happy, despite it all...the nerve of them! 
    In truth, we all can find ourselves at both ends of the spectrum.  Stress does funny things to all of us.  Unfortunately, I don't think we can escape it, we can only manage it within ourselves and be compassionate when we see it on someone else. 
     Read on to see how you can do your part in smoothing out stressful interactions at work, at home or just out-and-about.
Know when you are being a jerk
...and have compassion for the jerks around you   back page
     Getting along with others is certainly an important and critical factor for your personal and professional success.  Sometimes, however stress can kick in and you can instantly lose some or all of your social graces. 
     When I address groups, particularly corporate audiences, I frequently get comments like "my boss is such a jerk, he/she needs to hear you speak."  The truth is we all have to be reminded of the basic human relating skills that are needed to "play nicely in the sandbox" with each other.  When you are in a work group, like in your family, you can take people for granted or start to focus solely on the negatives which can cause you to lose your kindness, especially when faced with stress. 
     Life balance expert and fellow author and speaker Mary LoVerde says "connection is the best reliever of stress".  In my book, "The Connected and Committed Leader", I also highlight the importance of connection as a way to lead people and your life more effectively. 
     Connection helps us to not be jerks.  Real leaders are not jerks. 
     Think about the last time you may have cursed someone out on the road as you pulled into the grocery store only to find that they were parking next to is a bit more difficult and awkward to continue your jerkiness face-to-face.  If you are like most people, you run off like some coward, not wanting to make eye-contact with the person you just flipped off in your car.  When you are too overly removed and have your armor on separating you from your co-workers and people in your life, you can be a jerk.  Trust me, it takes one to know one! 
      Connection to ourselves and to others is a great remedy to relieve stress, minimize our own ability to be a jerk and to deal with jerks that may come our way.
      Stanford Professor and author, Robert Sutton states in his new book, "The No Asshole Rule" that over 90% of people are subjected to abusive behaviors at work.  He doesn't soft pedal at all.  I prefer to use the term jerk, he's more blunt about calling them assholes.  However, whether you use the term jerk or asshole, it really doesn't matter because when you encounter them you know it.  And when you are being one, you better know it.  After all,  if 90% of people have been subjected to jerk behavior, we all must have contributed to it.  We can easily slip to the other side and become a jerk too!
     Since you can only impact your behavior and your reactions to the behaviors of others...calling everyone else a jerk and not claiming the potential or realized jerk inside of you is not a solution. 
     So as you enter  into one of the more stressful times of the year, and you encounter jerks or somehow manage to cross the line yourself, these tips should help you do your part this holiday season.
1.  Slow Down.  Remember to put it all into perspective.  If you were to get into a car accident, the to-do list certainly wouldn't get done.  Gain clarity on what can wait till another time.  Get connected to understand the critical things to do for you, your boss and your family.  Everything can't be #1 priority.
2.  Say No.  Don't get swept up in all the things you think you should do or should go to.  Liberate yourself from the list of shoulds to focus on what is most important.  Get connected to yourself to understand what is most important.  The holiday season is loaded with shoulds, try to sort through them.
3.  Be Empathetic.  When you encounter a jerk, step away without reacting and quietly say to yourself "Poor guy/gal, they seem so unhappy.  I understand, I have been there myself."  Don't let others spoil your happiness.  Get connected to others by relating to their commonalities.  We all see the differences of others more rapidly (in a negative light) rather than seeing the commonalities we all share. When you see that others are more like you, it is easy to find empathy for their mess-ups.  For persistent jerks, limit your exposure as much as is possible and try not to take it personally.
4.  Say You're Sorry.  When and if you cross the line and engage in some jerk-like behavior.  Stop, recognize it and apologize.  Say something like "I am sorry. I have lots going on and am stressed.  However, that is no excuse for my behavior."  Most people will react with empathy to a sincere apology. Get connected to yourself and know that you are fallible.  When you understand that you are not perfect, you are more apt to accept the missteps and slip ups of others. 
5.  Don't be a jerk.  Our mothers always taught us that "two wrongs don't make a right."  Sometimes we want to be a jerk right back to the jerk we encounter.  Don't be tempted to contribute to the mess.  Stop, breathe and think of something better to do with your energy!  Get connected to the things that matter.
Go to to post a question that I will answer via email and during my weekly teleseminars.
      Join Laura Lopez for a Leadership workshop January  19, 2007.  Click below for more details and to register:

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Laura Lopez speaks to companies and business associations about Change, Leadership and Branding.  Go to for more information on how to bring Laura in to speak at your next meeting or conference.

All the best,
Laura Lopez
Laura Lopez & Company
(713) 864-4633
toll free outside of Texas 1-800-861-4633