Every once in a while it behooves even the kindest of people to be a bit of a jerk. The world tries to pull us each in different directions, and often it becomes necessary to put a foot down – and sometimes this cannot be done whilst maintaining the finest of decorum. If I had not learned this lesson, my “traveling-while-working” lifestyle would have come to a screeching halt long ago.
This is something that most any businessman has had to learn at some point or another. I learned it myself from dealing with clients (in my day job as the owner of a software company) within my first year of business. It is the art of saying no to a demand that you cannot (or do not wish) to meet. It is not letting yourself be taken advantage of.
The business world is competitive enough that entrepreneurs must either learn this or become a proverbial doormat. But what of the rest of us? Are people not generally good? Why would it be necessary to sometimes be a jerk to them?
The Best Intentions
As I have mentioned, I work from the road and travel on a budget. This means that I sometimes find myself camped out with my laptop in the reception of a hostel. Hostels are, by their very nature, very social places. People will often strike up conversations – we are all just travelers looking for a kindred spirit on the road, after all.
Unfortunately, my livelihood sometimes depends on my ability to turn them away. I quickly and politely explain that I am working, and sometimes go so far as to put on my headphones (with a smile, of course).
But sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes I have to ignore people or even (on rare occasion) tell them to leave me alone. Sometimes I have to be a bit of a jerk. I justify this to myself by understanding that if they are attempting to pull me away from what I need/want to be doing, they are not the sort of person I want to be around anyway.
These people are not bad people – they have good intentions that unfortunately are counter to my best interests. But surely not everything is so life-and-death?
You Know Best
You know better than anybody else what is best for you.
People will try to pull you into their world for a variety of reasons. Some need validation. Some are trying to sell you something. Some genuinely want to get to know you. Some are just looking for a friend. Whatever the case, you know best what you want – and it is up to you to decide when you get pulled into something new.
If you don’t like parties and clubs, why allow people to drag you into these situations? Why base so much of your time on the subtle peer-pressure of what we are told is “cool” and “fun?” You be the judge of what is cool and fun. For me, work is enjoyable – as is travel, cooking, reading books and so on.
I am not encouraging you to reject new experiences. Quite the opposite, actually. I propose that we stop doing what others tell us to do and pursue our own dreams, defined by our desires rather than by social pressure.
Surely it is a good thing to help others. Regardless of if you are helping a classmate with a project, a friend with a shoulder to cry on or a client with some free advice you are doing a good thing. Unfortunately, sometimes other people do not understand or appreciate benevolence.
Sometimes the classmate needs to figure it out for himself. Sometimes the friend needs to pull himself together. Sometimes the client needs to be reminded that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Being a jerk is, if done correctly, the equivalent of giving someone a reality-check. The trick is knowing when the line has been crossed and it is time to take a stand.
You’re Still Not a Jerk
It is one of the great ironies of the world that the very people who worry about being nice are the ones who probably don’t need to worry about it. The only true jerks are the ones that act the way they do without thought or regard for others. In fact, despite the title of this post, I don’t think that this is actually about being a jerk. Sometimes it feels like being rude to be blunt or say no to somebody, but in truth it is just a matter of standing up for yourself.
Have you felt the need to be a jerk lately? Why or why not? Let me know below!