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How to Deal with Jerks and Win

You’re going to run across people that you just don’t mesh with. There is just something about the way they speak, or the how they say what they’re saying that really gets on our nerves. It’s just a fact of life, an inescapable inevitability.

Most people can simply walk away and rid themselves of the annoyance, but working with the public does not allow you that luxury, specifically in the service industry. You’re forced to deal with this person for at least an hour. If they’re sitting at the bar, you’re in for three hours of trying to avoid them while also doing your job. To add insult to injury, you have to pretend that you don’t hate them with every fiber of your being. Alright, maybe hate is too strong of a word, but they certainly aren’t your favorite person.

So how do you deal with this situation? You can be cold to them, try to say as little as possible and hope they leave sooner rather than later. If you’ve got someone working with you, you can pass off the problem. If you’re alone you’re going to have to deal with it, though, and the cold shoulder isn’t necessarily helping anyone. You’re going to lose out on a tip, or a repeat customer. You might be happy with that–this person is a jerk after all–but you can short circuit all of that and have some fun nudging them to a place where you can tolerate them without them even noticing what you’re doing.

Seriously, it’s like magic. You get to keep your tip, make them happy, get them to come back, AND keep your disdain for them (although that’s going to eventually fade. Sorry). You might be thinking that I’m crazy and it’s impossible to pull off, but it’s not. I’m doing it to you right now, actually, although the effect is limited and I don’t hate you.

The secret is really less of a secret and more in the way that the human brain works. There are these things in our brains called “mirror neurons” that help us learn and empathize with others. These incredibly important structures were actually discovered in monkeys before humans. Scientists observed that it didn’t matter if a monkey was doing something or just watching another do something, the same brain cells were activated.

It’s literally monkey see, monkey do. As far as our brains are concerned, there is no difference between doing something ourselves and watching someone else do it. If you think about it, these cells are probably the reason that we learned anything when we were too little to speak or understand anything, it was probably faster too. I mean, do you show a baby how to eat, or do you try and explain it?

Anyway, these neurons are integral to being human. They help you empathize with others, they help you, “walk in someone else’s shoes,” and they can help you deal with the jerk at the bar. No, I’m not saying that you should be more understanding or that you need to care about why this person is so sucky (although you should practice that too). What I am saying, is that if you are aware of the reflexive response of the mirror neurons in someone else, you can hijack their brain.

I’ll go into more detail about body language in another article, but you can start to influence the douchebag’s mind with your body language. Be aware of your shoulders tensing up when you walk near them and relax. Is your step a little different? Do you want to cross your arms when you normally wouldn’t? These are all giving off signs that you don’t like this person.

If you change it up, and have more of an “open” stance with you body, you’re inviting them in, which is the only way that you’re going to be able to hijack them. If you use some of the same words, the way they talk, and match some of their body language, you start to build some trust with them. They don’t know this of course, all they know is that they are starting to like you more.

You’ll feel a sort of connection with this person, it’s not like you’ll magically like them, but you’ll feel less like they’re a complete stranger. When this happens, you can now dictate the conversation and how they act. Whatever you do, they will follow. You’ve engaged them in a mental dance that they are going to enjoy, and secretly they are going to want to please you, which is going to make you happy, which makes everyone else happy. It’s going to become your secret magic trick, and probably your favorite way to deal with people.

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