As a part of orientation this past August for the University of Richmond, the entire Class of 2020 listened to a man on stage telling us that the key to college and life is simple: “Just don’t be assholes.” Listening to him list multiple situations and his methods to avoid coming across as an asshole, I couldn’t help but think of how beneficial this would be if everyone heard it. So, I’ve decided to give my own, personal rendition of “How Not To Be An Asshole”. I pray that for most of you this isn’t mind blowing. But I also want to emphasize, before I begin, that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s okay as long as we learn from them.
Stop judging people. I cannot stress this enough--you NEVER know what people are dealing with on a day to day basis. Why would you want to add to their problems by making them feel like crap? Granted, it is so accepted that everyone just judges everyone else all of the time. But, just because it is accepted, doesn’t make it right! So often people like to say “it is what it is”; news flash: you can change anything you want to change. Instead of looking at someone and seeing their flaws, train your brain to just not care. I’m not saying that everyone has to love everyone else and the world will be perfect, blah, blah, blah. I’m just saying, why does it matter what YOU perceive as negative? Why would you want to bring more hate and negativity into your life and someone else’s? It’s the ultimate cleanse to learn to not care.
Admit it when you’re wrong. Okay, so you do make a mistake. Maybe you said a nasty comment, lacked some empathy, or just didn’t think something through. Too late to take it back, but it is never too late to be able to admit you screwed up. This is something I know I really struggle with--we all would like to believe that every decision we make is worth defending. In reality, sometimes you just have to take the L and realize that everyone has those moments when frankly, you come across as an asshole. Take a step back, swallow that ever-present gulp of pride, and apologize.
Accept apologies! This seems like an obvious thing, but trust me, you’d be surprised how uncommon it is to actually accept an apology. The second anyone does something wrong, we pounce on them. If they’re willing to put in the effort to apologize, that means that all hope isn’t lost! You don’t have to constantly remind them of their mistakes. Clearly, if they’re recognizing that they did something wrong, they’re already beating themselves up about it. Accept it, and move on.
Speak up when someone is being offensive. This correlates to the first article I wrote for the Odyssey, Discard the Filters, Ask Questions and Initiate Discussions. If someone is saying things, unknowingly or knowingly, that are offensive to you or to ANYONE, then all you have to do is speak up. Chances are others feel the same type of discomfort. By having one person say something along the lines of, “Hey, that’s not cool,” you’re creating a better environment for more than just yourself. You’re altering how that person acts, improving how others around you feel, and you’re changing the outcome of a situation in the future.
And guess what: the way discrimination, inequality, and racism gets perpetuated is by everyone allowing it to happen. Someone comments on how “slutty” a girl is and no one speaks up? We are allowing women to feel inferior to men because their actions have more negative perceptions tied to them. We are allowing inequality to continue from generation to generation. We are hypocrites: we say we want change, but we don’t act to ensure that change.
While a lot of this seems self-explanatory, clearly it isn’t. It’s easy to disregard some of these rules as common-sense, but if they were all common sense, the world wouldn’t be full of assholes. As long as you’re consciously aware of how your actions affect others, you can work on being better.
“‘Ninety percent of all problems are caused by people being assholes.’ ‘What causes the other ten percent?’ asked Kizzy. ‘Natural disasters,’ said Nib.”
- Becky Chambers, THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET