5 Ways It's Perfectly Fine to Harshly Judge Someone
Getting to know someone can take a long time. And frankly, who has the patience? This is the 21st century. We're all high-speed Internet and microwaves. But what if there were shortcuts? What if there were ways to get to know someone really well very quickly? Well, I'm here to tell you there are. (I'm also here because this is where I live. I pay rent and stuff, so where else would I be?)
Hmm, I guess I'd rather be over in this place to tell you, but I digress.
Anyway, here are my techniques to really get to know someone as quickly as possible, whether it's a friend, a potential lover, or your boss. It's all right there for you!
See Them at Their Worst
Have you heard the expression, "If you can't handle me at my worst, then you don't deserve me at my best"? Then congratulations, because you know some awful people. That is just an absolutely awful thing to say, but it is actually very close to something helpful. A more instructive yardstick would be: You don't even know if you want to see someone at their best until you've seen them at their worst. Seeing someone at their worst helps you make an informed decision in the same way you ponder worst-case scenarios.
Do you have a friend who's generally amusing, but at his/her worst has the tendency to get drunk and wreck your apartment or punch you in the face or reveal all your secrets to your enemies? Or maybe they say the most cutting, damaging things they can think to say. Guess what? That worst-case scenario is a deal breaker. But what if someone else's worst is just some harsh words? Petty bickering. Well, if that's as bad as it gets, maybe they're worthy of a further commitment.
For example, let's say you've made a new friend and you want to get to know them better. Sure, you both love Rush's 2112 and hate Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime, but are you really meant to be BFFs?
You'll find that last sentence and more in Webster's Big Book of Terrible, Esoteric References.
Here's what you do. Invite them to lunch and very slowly stab them in the eye with a fork. I mean, wow, that's got to hurt, and holy cow, what kind of a dick would do that? But it's OK. Once the retina is reattached and the searing corneal pain ends, you and your new bud will have moved into a new area of trust and it will be worth it. Actually, that's a terrible idea, but I do know it honestly does say a lot about the content of someone's character if they can still not treat you too terribly when they're under duress, so I stand by my advice.
They Say "All Is Fair in Love and War" as Rationalization for Bad Behavior
I've written a lot over the years about stupid expressions. This one expression, however, never really pissed me off until I thought about how (in its use today) it's nearly impossible to say or believe it without being morally bankrupt. If you know someone who enjoys regaling you with this phrase, take two giant steps back. Then grab the rubber mallet you keep 4 feet behind you at all times, take two giant steps forward, and beat them to death with it.
Conventional hammers work too.
Let's think about what this phrase means. We'll start with war, which, as most people agree, is pretty awful. Why? Because it is a source of death and destruction, and, as the phrase indicates, despite Geneva Conventions and whatnot, there are no rules in war. The only rule is to win despite all the death and destruction it requires. OK.
Next, this expression equates love with war. Now, that is not necessarily problematic. After all, the point of the phrase is to say that this emotion we call "love" can be as destructive as war. It can drive people to win at all costs. It's not a rationalization. What I'm talking about are the people who use this phrase today when they're unmoved by the inequities of the world. People who see bad behavior and just raise one eyebrow and offer, "Well, yeah, all's fair in love and war," as if that's fine.
"Did you hear the boss gave the promotion to his mistress?"
"Well, all's fair in love and war."
"That rich donor was moved to the front of the hospital's organ transplant list."
"Yeah, well all's fair in love and war."
If you encounter one of these people, try telling them something less generally horrible and more specific to them. You'll get a different reaction:
"Do you know that someone took your parking space?"
"Well, all's fair in ... wait, really? WHAT THE FUCK?!"
They Make Telling Assumptions About You
Here's another way to get to know someone quickly: Watch how they treat you. Where are they defensive? I've found that, typically, people assume that their own worst qualities are present in others. Liars tend to think you're lying. Passive-aggressive people tend to think you have a hidden agenda. Cracked's own Felix Clay tends to think you have a puppy under your bed that you abuse sexually.
So sometimes the best way to get to know someone quickly is to just be completely open and honest with them about what your agenda is and what you want. If you're being honest (and don't have a reputation for being dishonest) and they don't believe you, they're probably liars. If you're being clear and they keep waiting for your hidden ulterior motive, they're probably passive-aggressive types. And if you tell Cracked's Felix Clay that you don't sexually assault a tortured animal nightly and he goes, "Surrrrrre you don't," then please contact the authorities immediately.
"Seriously, don't even wait for that last test. Call now."
Watch How They Treat Service People
This entry is, quite simply, not as good as the others because it's not as foolproof, but seeing how people treat workers in the service industry can be incredibly telling. There are plenty of assholes who manage to say "please" and "thank you" to waiters who are still monsters.
"Thank you so much ... (*whisper*) and please die in a fire."
But if you're hanging out with someone who doesn't even believe people in the service industry deserve to be treated as equals, then it's time to run for the hills. It's not about manners. Anyone can have manners. It's about placing value in the belief that you are no more entitled than anyone else. Don't get me wrong; I like good service. I expect people to do their job. If my plumber or pizza delivery guy or server is rude or lazy or incompetent, I'm going to bitch about it. You've read my column long enough, you know I'm going to bitch about it. But I'll be bitching about what they've done to me -- not who they are.
"Sorry about not fixing your toilet. I smoked crack in your bathtub instead. Cool?"
You go into a restaurant, you expect to be given a menu, and you expect them to bring you the food you've ordered. And if that doesn't happen, you can be displeased with the service. But if you walk into a restaurant and believe you have a right to have your food faster than other patrons or deserve a table right away without a reservation, then you're an entitled prick. And if you treat those who work there as if they have the audacity to stand between you and your special requests, then guess what, you're awful. And not in an "Oh, Miranda, you're so deliciously awful" sort of way. Just in a "You are a terrible person who should not be allowed out in the world" sort of way. Stay in a room with yourself and make a sandwich.
See if They Can Laugh at Themselves
There are lots of markers out there that people use when judging others. A big one is "Oh, he's so nice!!!!" That, my friends, is a shitty marker. People can be nice because they're nice, or because they want you to think they're nice, or because they want you to be nice back. There are just too many reasons a bad person can seem nice. But there is another marker that is very hard to fake: the ability to laugh at yourself.
Ideally, this laughter is done in some sort of context and doesn't just occur spontaneously for no reason.
For my money, the ability to be made fun of by those you love is one of the most important traits a person can have, and I simply do not trust anyone who can't laugh at themselves. Laughing at yourself shows confidence because you can take a joke. It shows introspection, but you understand the parts of your personality that are being ridiculed. It shows perspective because you realize no one should be above being taken down a peg. These are all admirable traits in a friend, and it's very hard to fake the ability to laugh at yourself. It's quite simply a wonderful test. I recently had a great time having a room full of friends make fun of me as we got drunk and sold my book in a Google hangout.
Yes, question the source. You shouldn't just let anyone joke about you, I guess. There are people out there who are cruel, who want to prove some selfish point with their jokes or passive-aggressively manipulate a situation. But that's why you insist upon friends that can also laugh at themselves in return. I like giving my friends shit. I also like it when my friends give me shit. And somewhat surprisingly, all this shit production proves we're not assholes.
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