Although I was dead-set on writing about butterflies and daisies this week, my Johnny-Depp-with-a-beard look-alike editor kindly pointed out that there is far more to a douchebag than the mere fact that they are a douchebag, as I had outlined last week.
And that’s when my last two brain cells started thinking. What makes a douchebag such a douchebag? How do you deal with said douchebags?
There are two ways to deal: a) DON’T, and if you must, b) annihilation is the answer, baby. Recently it came up in one of my classes that a once-suggested method of dealing with criminals was to send them to self-governing reservations. If this was how society dealt with douchebags, it would make for some totally fly reality TV.
But to find the real answers, I turned to the people who really actually know what they’re talking about. Namely, psychologists and etiquette experts.
To get a psychological perspective, I sought out Dr. Philip Shaver, a distinguished professor of the UC Davis psychology department.
He explained that it is, firstly, important to establish that there is a distinct difference between self-esteem and narcissism. Narcissism is a defensive show of the ego that people use in response to criticism, i.e. suggestions that they may not in fact be the most amazing people on earth. Things that make them question themselves are likely to upset them.
People with normal levels of self-esteem exhibit fewer signs of narcissism – that sense of entitlement, arrogant behavior and belief that they are “special.” Narcissism can be measured by Raskin and Terry’s scale of responses to statements that range from “I wish somebody would someday write my biography” to “If I ruled the world it would be a much better place.” The range of responses varies from the mild: feelings of authority, to the extreme: feelings of entitlement.
Now that we know what internally causes narcissism, why do some people exhibit massive amounts of it while others don’t? It’s not just as simple as saying that wealthy, successful people become full of themselves and act out. Like everything, it roots back to a variety of factors. Often those who were discouraged by an authority figure and therefore motivated to succeed through negative reinforcement are more likely to be narcissistic.
Take for example football players who share credit for a touchdown with their teammates versus the ones who gloat, “Hell yeah, it was all me,” on ESPN. Or what about those divas you hear about who freak out and cancel concerts because someone forgot to put chilled Evian water with a twist of lemon in their hotel room?
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are two men who’ve accomplished similar astounding amounts of success, yet one is known for being remarkably arrogant and abusing his employees while the other is more likely to make the news for donating massive amounts of his income to charity.
It’s not that one is completely good and one is completely bad, it’s just that one displays more signs of narcissism than the other. This just goes to show that being full of yourself isn’t really about the level of success you’ve achieved.
There will always be people who feel entitled to treat others like crap. This summer, my friend’s boss asked her to call a list of clients demanding that they pay outstanding money because the boss didn’t want to do it. And she stood over her to monitor as she did it. How are we supposed to deal with people we wish would get hit by buses?
Shirley Willey, an etiquette expert who has in the past run student workshops on campus regarding professional business etiquette, shared some insight. She stated, “What we can do ourselves is set a good example and not lose control when responding in professional manner. The golden rule is to treat people the way you would like to be treated.“
It may not be the most fun or satisfying way to respond, but I guess there are times when you have to leave it up to karma and hope that it’s a sassier bitch than you ever could be.
MICHELLE RICK is now frantically scanning the scale to see if she has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If you think you have what it takes to be the next king of Australia, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn the truth about yourself.