Thanks, Jerk!

The best book I haven’t read is entitled Thank You for Being Such a Jerk. To be honest, I don’t know if such a book exists, but I hope it does. The title alone inspires us to reflect on the challenging people we interact with throughout our lives.

I often think of the thousands of coworkers, business partners, supervisors, and employees In-Accord has helped struggle through—and then out of—workplace discord. Each project invariably involves participants declaring, “[The other person] is acting like a jerk.”

Professional conflict resolvers have an internal translator that converts such comments into something like this: “[The other person] challenges my beliefs about how others should behave and communicate.”

If you aspire to be the same person you’ve been since your first birthday, then it’s fine to fling the “jerk” label at everyone whose point of view, approach to problem-solving, and communication style differs from your own.

If you value personal growth, however, there’s tremendous potential in reframing your negative interpretations of others by asking introspective questions about what you can learn and improve about yourself from having to engage with such people.

Suddenly, their “jerkiness” becomes an opportunity for you to consider why you react in certain ways. If you’re willing to do the deeper work, you will be able to make leaps like these:

  • How interesting. When David seems blasé about the problems that stress me out regarding our team dynamics, I accuse him of being indifferent. But what can I learn about myself and how I react to his attitude and the stressors in our team? Maybe I’m being too…
  • I accuse my supervisor of shirking responsibility when I think she fails to communicate clearly about why she’s made important decisions. But perhaps I should slow down and listen to what she has shared. In fact, this is a trend for me. I probably need to take the time to be sure I understand other people’s points of view before I leap out with an emotional reaction.

Plug in your own jerky people and their jerky behavior and you’ll quickly understand the full potential of this paradigm.

The next time someone acts like a jerk, take it as a reminder to pause, reflect, and learn. You’ll earn extra credit if you can also take a moment to sincerely thank them for the lesson.