5 Personality Flaws That Seem Impossible to Change (Part 2)

I've spent the better part of a decade attempting to undick my personality after three decades of donging it right on up. It's a classic game of Personality Cock Jenga, and it takes forever to win. Each move has to be slowly and carefully executed, lest the whole thing come crashing down like an avalanche of flaccid, flopping tube steaks. Flopalanche. Flaccilanche? Either way, I'm just saying that some of those bad personality traits feel impossible to change. For instance ...

#5. The Inability to Say No

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The Problem:

One of the most common bad traits I've seen in everyday life is people who find themselves unable to say no, even when the deed they're performing dumps their own lives in the shitter. How many of you have contacts in your phone that make you cringe as soon as you see them light up? The ones who are so bad that you've assigned as their ringtone a recording of your own voice screaming, "DON'T FUCKING ANSWER THAT! BURN YOUR PHONE AND RUN AWAY!" But you find yourself answering it anyway, and before they even get to the part where they ask for the favor, you already have your bank account, calculator, and calendar open in front of you.

There's nothing wrong with people asking for help, and there's most definitely nothing wrong with you supplying that help, but there are some people who pop up only when they need something. They're not calling to see how you're doing or to catch up. They may start off that way, but it's just the opening act, meant to soften you up for the big question later in the conversation.

"Hey, while I have you on here, did you hear about my accident? I was ramping my monster truck over a lake for charity, and my wallet flew out of my pocket mid-jump and was shot out of the air by a goose hunter. So now I have no cash until next payday. Do you think you could float me some money until Friday?"

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I'm sensing some irregularities in your story. But here's $300 anyway.

Time after time, you find yourself buckling to their requests. Even after you've told yourself that you're going to harden up and tell them to blow a cactus, you still give in. You can't help it. You're a nice person, and if you have the means to help them out, who are you to turn them down?

Why It's So Hard to Fix:

In my experience, the people who fall victim to this generally aren't big into confrontation. Maybe more aptly, they avoid confrontation like vampires avoid sunlight and sharp wood. Unfortunately, the only way I've found to fix the problem is to have a no-horseshit talk with the people who take advantage of it.

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"Now, how do I say this without using the word 'twat'?"

You don't have to be a dick about it or let the conversation devolve into back flips and spin kicks, but if you want it to stop, you do have to let them know that they can't call you only when they need something. That's not a friendship; it's a government cheese line. And I'm not just talking about favors that involve money, either. I know tons of people who get calls only when their friends are in an emotional crisis. That's a really fine line, because friends should always be there for support when the world turns to shit ... but that shouldn't be the whole goddamn relationship.

Taking that plunge is hard. Many people fear the confrontation so much that they'll never attempt it, choosing instead to always be the go-to solution for others' catastrophes. Just know that the ones who take advantage of you aren't going to have an epiphany on their own and say, "I'm so sorry for the way I've used you over the years. What a fool I've been to have taken advantage of you. Here is a million dollars and some sex to make up for it."

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"Legally change your name to Human Turd and we'll talk."

#4. Defensiveness

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The Problem:

At my last job, we had special rules and procedures for reprimanding defensive employees. Which is good, I suppose, since my suggestion was to elbow them in the temple and send their girlfriends breakup texts with their own phones. But it turned out that the company was much wiser than me, because defensive people are extremely difficult to deal with.

I'm not talking about people who use defensiveness as a response to the occasional bad situation. There are times when you have to stand up and tell the boss, "No, it wasn't me who threw human shit at your son. I know I've been very vocal about wanting to do that, but I didn't do it." I'm talking about people who meet even the slightest critique with a full-on army.

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"My song parody was funny, you son of a bitch! Take it back!"

Your supervisor gives you a polite reminder that your report needs to be finished by 4 p.m., and you respond with "I know! I've been working on it all day. Every time you put me on a project, you act like I'm putting it off until the last second. I'm not just sitting around and playing video games all day, Chad!" Or maybe your spouse points out a minor mistake you made in the checkbook (you forgot to carry the 1, or you drew a dick where numbers should be). Instead of correcting it and moving on, you tell her that your mind wasn't focused because you had a bad day ... and then you explain every bad thing that happened leading up to that mistake. It was out of your control. The world screwed you once again.

Why It's So Hard to Fix:

I'd say that I used to be like this, but the truth is, I still am. I'm not as bad as I used to be, but ... oh, wait, that statement in itself is defensive. Shit.

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Now I must reflect upon my very being.

It's so hard to get over because abandoning a defensive attitude leaves you open and vulnerable. It forces you to accept responsibility for mistakes or not living up to expected standards. It is, by definition, a means of protecting yourself from virtually any negativity. If scientists told me 10 years ago that they could make a physical shield that would protect me from negativity using one of my lungs, I would have scheduled the surgery before they had finished the disclaimer.

The only thing that's helped me make what progress I have is consciously suppressing the impulse to jump into that mode when my brain and ego are screaming for it. I have to consider the source, though. I'm not going to politely listen to critique from a random stranger, but if it's from someone I trust and respect, I tell my brain to chug a dick while I listen to and honestly consider what they have to say.

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Then I tell them to shut up because their opinion is stupid and I am awesome.

That's not easy to do; to a defensive person, every critique or even piece of friendly advice sounds like an attack. It can take years of exercising your willpower to see a genuine change, but it's worth it. It turns out people enjoy talking to you much more when your every response isn't "WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH?!"

#3. Arrogance

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The Problem:

Among strangers in real life, I am polite, somewhat quiet, and as respectful to people as their actions demand. On the Internet, I can be a ridiculous caricature of arrogance. An unapproachable dictator, rewarding those who follow my arbitrary rules and exiling those who dare oppose me. That's fancy talk for "I click the 'block' button."

In that universe, it's easy to tell someone to lick exactly half of your asshole and get away with it, because you have no connection to that person. Yes, I understand that the same can hold true in meatspace, but at least when you do it there, you have to look into someone's eyes and physically dodge their fist. Even on the phone, you have a human connection through voice, and that makes it harder than just typing out letters on a keyboard with your dick.

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Which reminds me -- never use my keyboard. It's for your own good.

The most common form I see this take is condescension -- especially when talking about intelligence. I see the phrase "I hate dumb people" on Twitter at least twice a day. Most days, it's closer to half a dozen. And this is coming from people who don't consider themselves arrogant in the slightest. That's one of the biggest problems with arrogance: It's only recognizable from the outside looking in, which is why Scrooge couldn't see it without the aid of ghosts or some wicked badass acid.

Why It's So Hard to Fix:

I'm not proud of that arrogance. In fact, the embarrassment of reading some of the things I've said to people is what caused me to make a serious effort in bleaching that skid mark from the tighty whiteys that is my personality.

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On second thought, we may need some acid and a blowtorch.

One thing that's helped is realizing that there is an entire world of people who dwarf me in intellect, wisdom, and virtually every aspect of life. In other words, I'm not nearly as special as I think I am. The other thing I try to keep in mind is that, yes, there are some truly dumb people in the world. It's not my job or my right to hold them to the same standards that I hold myself or my closest friends. They don't deserve to be chastised because they can't hold a conversation on astronomy or because their sense of humor comes with "boing" sound effects.

Humility isn't something you acquire with the decision to adopt it. It's a state of mind, and that takes an incredible amount of committed thought and empathy. It requires you to open yourself up emotionally and connect with a diverse group of people. Not many arrogant people are willing to do that, because they view others as beneath them. Throw them together in an orgy, and they'd connect all night long. But ask them to have a personal conversation, and they're likely to vomit blood.

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"No, seriously, you're interesting. Please continue talking while I drift away."

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