Under the right circumstances, it’s pretty easy to forget the first social lesson we ever learned: The Golden Rule.
A more adult version of the rule: Just because you have a(n) _____ doesn’t mean you can be a dick.
Fill in the blank with your own noun of choice:
- Different Opinion.
- Different Religion.
- Different Political Party.
- Anonymous Publishing Ability.
- Wealth of Experience.
- Huge Bank Account.
- Moral Objection.
Being a dick an addiction – it’s just as damaging to be addicted to drugs; it hurts just as many people and may eventually get you killed (or shot). Being a dick is powerful; you’re leveraging your “superiority” over someone else and letting them know it. It’s like flashing around your 4.0 GPA or guitar skills; it feels good – and when someone recognizes that by asking you to help them, it’s easy to perceive it as a challenge to your achievement.
I have this issue, and I’m guessing you do too sometimes.
If I’m in a creative mindset, and somebody asks me a technical question, my blood pressure spikes. It’s not something I do on purpose, it’s just so easy to forget that not everybody knows computers like I do. We all have expertise in something that goes way beyond surface-level knowledge.
That thing you do better than anybody else? Not everybody knows how to do that thing. Not only that, but there’s probably somebody out there who knows it better than you. Don’t forget it, or else you risk becoming a dick.
It only takes a split-second glance in the mirror to realize how we’re behaving. Most of us correct ourselves; sociopaths don’t (and can’t).
I’ve worked really hard to train myself to take a breath before I answer any questions and to put myself in that other person’s shoes, because if I don’t, I might snap off an answer. I always pay attention to my tone while I’m teaching somebody something because if I don’t, I sound condescending. I try never to take the mouse and do it for them, because if I do, they won’t learn what they were asking me for.
Call me the Geek Superhero or a good teacher all you want, but training myself to do those things is really fucking hard. I don’t always get it right.
I don’t tell you this to discourage you from asking me technical questions, I really do love teaching people how to use technology. I just want to put it out there because maybe you struggle with the same issues and I don’t want to bullshit you into thinking it’s something easy to fix. It is an addiction and it takes work to compensate for it – and the bad news: there’s no Dicks Anonymous.
Remember D.A.R.E.? How they talked about enablers and gateway drugs and all that? In terms of dickish behavior, the Internet is the biggest dick enabler of them all. It’s really, really easy for us to be dicks to customers, friends, and even complete strangers when the Internet is involved. There’s no filters except for what we impose on ourselves, and it’s time we each own up.
The knowledge that being a dick is an addiction is pretty freeing. It’s easy to fall off the wagon and be a jerk. It’s also easy to lose empathy for jerks, to write ’em off, to write ’em out of our lives. But – unless you’re dealing with a sociopath – empathy gives you an avenue and a reason to save important relationships. Isn’t that the better option?
Empathy is the nicotine patch for dickish behavior. Knowing that, who are you going to help?
[Blog Carnivalers – here’s that code you’re looking for: EMPATHY. Oh – and if you’re wondering what the heck the code is for, click here to join the Blog Carnival party.]