Look, on the surface, I’m the absolute last person who should be giving you advice on how to win friends and influence people.
Also, beneath the surface, I’m the absolute last person who should be giving you advice on how to win friends and influence people. I have the friends and influence of….well, literally no one you’ve ever heard of. Charles Manson has more friends. Jim Belushi has more influence. You get the picture. It’s not encouraging.
But I also know why I am this way, and if you want to have a better social life, I can tell you at least one way to not be like me. I’m not going to tell you how speak better publicly, or how to emanate likability, or how to not openly roll your eyes when others talk for more than eight seconds at a time. Those things, I don’t have figured out.
But before any of that even becomes relevant, you have to be open to enjoying other people first, and though I fail miserably at that one too, I at least have a really good idea of why.
You know that friend you have that drives like a complete asshole? Or that girlfriend with resting bitch face who seems to sulk through every group outing? Or maybe you have that buddy from college who hits on every girl you guys hang out with, and you’re constantly thinking, “Dude, can you just go jerk off in your car and then come back and act like a person?”
And with all of them, you want to tell everyone else, “They’re not really like that. You just have to get to know them.” But at the same time, you look at them and think, “Jesus. If I didn’t know any better, I would fucking hate you.”
Well here’s something to think about: with people you don’t know, you never know any better. So maybe, if we want to not die alone and miserable, we should try to assume that every awful stranger we encounter is really a good person–that they’re just like our friend who routinely sends their steak back because “That’s not medium-rare. That’s medium at best.”
The Conclusions We Leap To
We all know you can’t judge people you don’t know, but none of us live that way. Instead we sprint to judge on two things: 1) Assholery, and 2) Douchebaggery.
We’ve all had moments where we’re assholes. If you’re like me, you’ve had plenty of them. Just the other day I honked and flipped off someone for waiting to turn left and…that’s it. That’s all they were doing. They just happened to be doing it while I was stuck behind them waiting to go straight, and it annoyed me.
But that’s what assholery is. It’s a momentary emotional burst. If you sit people down in a low stress situation, almost no one is ever an asshole. It’s just not that common. They may be awkward, or on a different wavelength, or they might smell like a pair of balls, but assholery rarely carries over.
Douchebaggery on the other hand, is real, and it’s not necessarily momentary. It can be permanent. But here’s the other thing: It also doesn’t matter.
What do you think of when you think of a douchebag? Maybe a Jersey Shore douche with big muscles, gelled hair, and a stench like Abercrombie gave Hollister Syphilis? Maybe you think of a girl pretending to be two kinds of Indian, a hippie, and anything but herself at Coachella? Maybe that dude in a fedora and a duster who’s quick to correct you when you thank God your mom made it through her surgery with something like, “More like thank Doctor!”
So yeah, those people are all douchebags. But so what? They’re not perfect. They lack a little self-awareness. They’re obnoxious. You know who else this describes? Everyone. We’re all heavily flawed. We all totally suck in our own ways. So how about instead of assuming we know the depths of someone’s soul by a picture, or a clearly-covering-deep-insecurities bravado, we judge people not by the orangeness of their skin, but by the content of their character?
The Actual Reason You’re Alone
Consider that maybe you’re single not because there are no good guys out there, or because women are bitches, but because you’re kind of being a judgmental prick that gives nobody a chance. You ever thought about that? Maybe you should think about that.
I get it. Judging people is a satisfying knee-jerk reaction that helps you feel like you understand the world, which is comforting, and it helps you avoid any kind of emotional commitment to something you don’t fully understand, which is nice, and safe, and cowardly.
But think of how limiting it is. Think about some of the judgments we make about people.
“Another pruning selfie? Ugh, what a narcissist.”
Think of that as a reason to reject someone. “Oh fuck that. I need a girl who supports me, who makes me laugh, and WHO SHOWS HER TEETH IN PICTURES OTHER PEOPLE TAKE OF HER GOD DAMN IT! That’s what fulfills me as a person.”
“Ew, his profile picture is him with his car. Gross. Bye.”
Oh no! He doesn’t follow your dumb protocol for what’s important in a picture! Who knows what other problems he might have? Wife beater? Eats with his mouth open? AIDS? The possibilities are now endless!
“Oh God, she’s one of those people who uses ‘problematic’ and complains about appropriation? Swipe the fuck left.”
Sound the alarms! Someone sees things differently than you! Throw your phone in the pool! Surround yourself only with people who see things through your miniscule lens of life, and cuddle your teddy bear of cultural identification, you weird little totalitarian!
These aren’t cherrypicked examples. This is how we function. We seek out immediate reasons to judge and reject people over and over, and so we choose people not based off of actual, at length interactions, but whether they’re smiling the right way, or the shirt they decided to wear in that moment, or who else happens to be in their picture.
“Oh, there’s another girl in his picture? Is he with her? Is that his girlfriend? Probably.” You know…probably not.
Jesus Christ. And we wonder why we can’t find someone.
So Open Yourself Up, Idiot
We seek relationships almost exclusively by looking for things that don’t actually matter. We love to look for common interests, and then robotically deduce that that means we’ll get along.
But think about it. Statistically speaking, you probably have a friend–maybe even a loved on–who loves Kevin Hart. Fucking Kevin Hart. I know, right? I also think he’s as funny as bone cancer. But there are people that I love who love him.
And on the flipside, Kim Jong-Il was a huge movie buff, just like me and you.
So let’s maybe pump the brakes on that whole “seeking common ground” idea. Maybe the recipe for what makes for a friendship or relationship isn’t that simple. Maybe it’s completely unknown–like the recipe for success, or attraction, or Taco Bell’s beef.
It’s hard to see things this way, because we really think we know what we want. And we do know what we want. We have dream girls, and dream guys, and we picture our lives together, and we pursue them, and sometimes we end up with some mutated version of them.
But maybe having a dream spouse is fucking stupid, because while we know what we want, we have no earthly idea what we need. We have no concept of what is going to nurture our soul, bring out the best in us, or bring us the most sustainable, long term joy possible. “A drummer with a manbun who does graphic design,” and “a girl with boobs who will cook for me, and likes Batman,” don’t inform us about any of that stuff, but descriptions like that are often the basis for who we choose who to pursue.
So maybe you should let go of these ideas in your head. Maybe if you have like forty-six deal-breakers, that’s not you having high standards, but rather being a psychotic coward.
Maybe instead, what you need is a new perspective. Maybe your life is missing a certain spice, and maybe that spice is orange with shitty gross hair, and weird looking abs that it’s way too proud of. Maybe what’s inside that person is something you haven’t seen yet. Maybe that complete and utter douche is someone who can give you things you always needed–who can satiate your own douchey needs for thyme-scented candles and gluten free toast.
You can find enrichment from people you would have never dreamed of. You can find mouths that look better for kissing the more you hear words come out of them. There’s not just someone out there for everyone, there’s like, thousands of someones out there if you stop trying to fit the world into your box. So maybe open yourself up. You never know who might be the douche for you.