5 Simple Steps to Not Being a Total Asshole

If you are an asshole, suspect you might be an asshole, or just know an asshole who could use some help, read on to learn how to take the first little steps toward a normal life.
5 Simple Steps to Not Being a Total Asshole

Listen: You're an asshole. It's who you are. But lately you look around and you see your fellow men peacefully coexisting with one another -- skipping through meadows, riding tandem bicycles, and just generally not being total cunts all the time -- and you want a piece of that action. The only problem is: You just don't know how to go about not being a complete shithead. Where does one even start? Well, I'm here to help. If you are an asshole, suspect you might be an asshole, or just know an asshole who could use some help, read on to learn how to take the first little steps toward a normal life, bereft of scorn and shell necklaces.

Stop Hiding Behind the "Alpha" Label

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You are not an alpha male; you're just being marketed to. Some jaded hipster dickhead in lensless eyeglasses that cost more than your house used the entire "alpha" movement to sell you energy drinks and those shirts that look like douchebag scrimshaw.

Human beings are not wolves. We're not even pack hunters anymore. Modern society has no place for an alpha, a beta, or anything resembling a carnivorous predatory social structure. "Alpha" is just a positive-sounding synonym for "asshole," and it is not an acceptable excuse for behaving like a cocksock, because the sad reality is, there is never an excuse for behaving like a cocksock. Wouldn't it be nice if there were? If there were some social theory, psychological disorder, or gypsy curse you could use to excuse your off-putting behavior? It sure would. But there never has been, and there never will be. It was all a giant lie sold to you by Big Energy to trick you into a mild stimulant addiction, an untruth you received free with every three-pack of TapouT shirts.

I understand why it seems reasonable at first. What is an alpha male if not a beloved antihero, a Wolverine or Han Solo type? Did you agree with that statement? You shouldn't have. It was a trick. See, the alpha mentality slipped through our cultural defenses on the back of an actual truth: Confidence and, yes, even cockiness is attractive.

Here's the difference: An alpha male embraces the label because he secretly suspects that he might be a face full of dicks and he needs a way to spin that into a positive thing. A confident man would shun the very concept of labels because he knows that that's the shit insecure people use to feel accepted. The very second you open your mouth to self-identify as "alpha," you're admitting that you're too insecure to face life alone and on your own terms. You're giving everybody who speaks to you a disclaimer: "I'm going to be a dick to you, and here's why it's OK and you still have to like me." A truly confident man would never give enough of a shit to make that statement.

Being an asshole is like being an alcoholic: The first and most important step is realizing and admitting it. You're not a party animal if you're throwing up rotgut in the parking lot of a Circle K, and you're not an "alpha" if you're harassing uninterested women and trying to start fights with the smallest guy at the bar.

Realize Empathy Is Not Just for Pussies

5 Simple Steps to Not Being a Total Asshole
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Empathy has a bad PR department. It seems like something that should be taught by a soft-spoken man in a pastel room that doubles as a yoga studio on weekends. Empathy is for pussies, and that's why you only hear people advocating it in weak, begging tones.

"Have some empathy," the Rick Moranis lookin' dude pleads, as you headbutt his wife into submission for looking too long at your neck tattoo.

Besides, you, the asshole, are probably most comfortable displaying strong, negative emotions. You don't cry; you rage. That's fine (I mean, not overall -- that's a crippling emotional problem that's going to shatter your entire life if left unattended), but we're starting small here. You can empathize with any emotion, so start with the only one you deem acceptable: self-righteous fury. Next time you're bro-ing out in a bar or passive-aggressively belittling your co-workers, just think of how much you would bitch about that happening should your roles be reversed. How would you tell the anecdote to your friends, later in the day, if you two switched places? Would you be the villain in his story? If so, knock it off. That's empathy! It's that easy! Using this simple trick, even the most twisted sociopath can pass as a normal!

But damn, now that you've objectively realized you're being an asshole, what's the out? How do you stop? You're far too insecure to man up and apologize (that's OK, that's a pretty advanced step), so for now, try yelling something nonsensical and storming off. Pick a line, any line, from the Full House theme song, yell it in indignant fury, and then walk away.

"It's a rare condition, this day and age, to read any good news on the newspaper page, fucker!"

It will give the other party something to think about. Hopefully they'll be too distracted by the non-sequitur to dwell on what an unreasonable prick you were being. Or at the very least, they'll think you were having a mild stroke and therefore they cannot hold your prior outbursts against you.

Make Sure Others Know and Understand Your Internal Rules

5 Simple Steps to Not Being a Total Asshole
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Let's get personal: I am an asshole.

Why else would I try to help you, my people? Oh, I don't drive a truck with balls on the hitch or try to fight strangers in bars or anything. But I'm an asshole nonetheless, because I have a very strict set of internal rules for how a respectful and decent human being should operate, and if you violate any of those rules, I will completely write you off from now until the heat death of the universe.

Now, the rule thing on its own? That's fine. That's how society operates -- with a set of expectations we all have to meet to be considered valuable members. The problem arises when you start harboring private rules: Rules that only you know about and agree to adhere to, but that you still use to judge others.

How were those callous, discourteous rule breakers informed of the law? Was there a sign above the entrance to the mall that said "slow walkers to the left, please"? Did they take a class on the appropriate volume to speak in a public place? Some of us agree on these unspoken rules, sure, but we never consider that the offending party has no idea they're even transgressing. Hence the really confused look on their faces as I dive-tackle them into the salad bar for using their fingers instead of the tongs -- which are right fucking there, seriously.

If you're going to get pissed at somebody because he beats you off the line at a stoplight, stop and consider: Does he even know he's racing your F-350, or is he simply trying to race a savage case of diarrhea to a safe, non-judgmental waste space? That dude talking to the girl you like -- does he know you consider that a punchable offense? Does he even know you were talking to her earlier?

Until you reach the point where you can liberate yourself from your own self-righteous rule sets, at least you can treat it as ignorance and not disrespect if people break them. If they're really obvious rules, however -- if somebody, for example, merges onto the highway at 35 mph without so much as looking -- feel free to unleash the middle fingers.

For the birds are hungry, and they feed on injustice.

Question Your Motivations

5 Simple Steps to Not Being a Total Asshole
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Let's try another emotional shortcut to help you fake your way into behaving like a decent human being. You probably think of your life like an action movie. I'm going to take a stab in the dark here and bet that you, a total fucking asshole, think of yourself like Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious series. Just an educated, almost certainly correct guess -- but feel free to fill in the blanks. Maybe you're Jason Statham. I don't know. We're all unique snowflakes.

Now, try to picture each human interaction like it's the start of an action movie. If the audience were watching these events unfold, do you think they'd sympathize with you? Would you be the hero, or the asshole the hero humiliates for comedic relief right at the start? Do you feel the need for revenge at some perceived slight? That's OK. But consider: Will the burning need for vengeance in your heart be understood by the movie-going public?

For example: If you want to beat the shit out of a guy because he murdered your family and shot you in the head on your wedding day, the answer is probably yes! You are entirely justified in your actions, and the audience -- your fellow man -- will likely sympathize. But would it make for a very good action flick if Uma Thurman, say, embarked on an epic four-hour quest for revenge against the old lady who accidentally stepped on her new Reeboks? Do you think Die Hard would be the classic that is today if Bruce Willis had thrown Hans Gruber off of Nakatomi Plaza because he looked at him snottily at a Sox game? We probably wouldn't have been on board with Taken if Liam Neeson was kicking the holy shit out of the guys who forgot to hold the door for him at Denny's.

If you're feeling the need to physically attack somebody, just stop and ask yourself: Would this make for a good plotline to Rambo 7? If not, consider just letting it the fuck go and moving on with your life.

And Ask Yourself One More Question Before You Do Anything ...

5 Simple Steps to Not Being a Total Asshole
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And that last, most important question is this: Does what I am about to do benefit me more than it inconveniences others?

That sounds selfish on the surface, but remember: You're not trying to learn how to be a saint here. You just don't want to be the biggest shithead on the city bus today.

If you have to cut a lady off in traffic because you're running late for an important job interview, that's probably not the biggest deal. She's still going to be pissed at you, and justifiably so, but she's going to be annoyed for a few minutes about something that might potentially turn your life around. It's still kind of a dick move, but it's understandable. You're stealing bread to feed yourself, not stealing wallets to feed your mistress' addiction to Prada. You're being an asshole, but a small and largely acceptable one -- like on a cat or something.

However, if it's a full month after Independence Day and you're thinking about lighting off some illegal fireworks in the middle of your suburban street at midnight, try asking that important question: Will the joy you get from looking at some lights and hearing a noise for two seconds outweigh the inconvenience of waking up your entire neighborhood -- dogs barking, babies crying, everybody trying to get back to sleep to catch a few hours before work tomorrow? Unless you're Jackson Pollock on LSD, you probably don't like pretty colors enough to balance out the fury-debt of an entire residential street. Maybe you can put off the Fourth of August celebration until morning.

That's it for now! There's tons more to learn -- don't talk when the movie starts, don't gossip about your co-workers, don't yell at anybody who works for tips for longer than 20 seconds, never talk to strangers about your pecs -- but them's the basics. Have fun, and enjoy your new life of not being the biggest hat full of asses that somebody had the misfortune of running into today!

5 Simple Steps to Not Being a Total Asshole

Read more from Brockway at his own monument to narcissism/website, The Brock Way. Follow him on Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

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