Got a Complete Jerk in Your Life? 6 Methods to Deal With Them

We all know someone who is a total jerk, but if you can’t identify the one in your life, you may be that one. A–holes come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and genders and from all socioeconomic backgrounds. So yeah, someone with less money can be just as much of a jerk as a wealthy person.

You can find them driving in the lane next to you, at your kid’s school, walking down the aisle in a grocery store, and especially at your office. Sadly, you can even find a jerk in your own home (aka, your spouse.)

Jerks usually suck all the energy out of you, fill you with self-doubt, and eventually make you question your self-worth. But what classifies someone as a prick?

According to licensed professionals, they act like they’re better than everyone who enters their personal space. They’re also hypercritical of anybody (or anything) who doesn’t recognize their perceived sense of dominance and superiority.

Diagnosing Someone as a Jerk

While there isn’t an official diagnosis for a jerk personality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, labeling an individual this way is the first step in learning how to deal with them and their personality.

Some mental disorder organizations define a jerk as a person who demonstrates a pattern of being rude or inconsiderate of the needs or feelings of others or who is intentionally irritating or unkind. You probably think this definition describes at least five people in your inner circle, but it goes much deeper than this.

The thing about jerks is that they commonly disregard how their actions affect others as they move through the world and live their life. Plus, they are completely unfazed by anyone’s disapproval.

Being unfazed by anyone’s approval or disapproval is suitable to a certain extent because it shows that you’re living your life without constantly trying to impress others.

However, a jerk kicks it up a notch. They’re intentionally rude and go above and beyond to show their lack of empathy or compassion for other people’s feelings.

For instance, you never asked for their opinion, but a jerk will make a disparaging comment about you for no reason at all. (That dress looks horrible on you!)

Even deeply empathetic people can have a jerk moment here and there. These moments can last for a day or longer, especially when they’re experiencing a rough patch in their life. This goes to show that humans aren’t happy-go-lucky all the time. At some point, everyone lacks compassion.

However, the people we refer to continuously demonstrate a lack of consideration and empathy for others across multiple (not necessarily all) facets of their lives, regardless of the situations they’re going through, the context they’re in, or the effect they have.

Are Certain Personality Types Most Likely to Be Jerks?

An individual who consistently acts like a jackass often has a deeply rooted sense of privilege and entitlement.

Even though some people have behaviors that meet the criteria for the diagnosis of specific personality disorders, or some display various personality types that are more likely to be called jerks, everyone is different.

What motivates someone to act this way may go beyond their personality traits. External factors can also influence their motivation, such as the various manners that treat people in a certain way and how that behavior is rewarded within varying societal contexts.

For instance, sometimes people take the “getting ahead at all costs” or “tell it like it is” approach, which can be viewed as a valuable asset because this mentality can make a person appear courageous or stand out.

When society perceives someone as unafraid to do or say whatever they want to get what they want, their behavior can be misconstrued as a positive trait.

Unfortunately, this can result in people aspiring to act like jerks. There are many examples of people climbing the corporate or social ladder because of their pattern of behavior.

How to Deal with a Jerk

Since you’ll never be able to avoid them altogether, you should learn how to cope. Sometimes, it’s more beneficial to think of how to remove yourself to minimize your exposure to a person behaving like an a–hole rather than how to get rid of them.

You’ll never be able to control anyone else. However, you can control yourself and how you respond to the people around you.

1. Never Engage

When you engage with jerks, it’s always a losing game. You will never win in an argument because, according to them, they’re always right.

They often love engaging in a debate with you because they crave an opportunity to point out your “errors,” whether or not they are mistakes.

Often, when people engage with a–holes, they become easily offended and frustrated by the condescending tone the jerk gives. The only thing arguing with a jerk gets you is elevated blood pressure. So, save your energy for something more useful.

2. Set Boundaries

The best way to deal with jerks is to set boundaries to keep them from infecting you with toxic behavior. To do this, be sure your set boundaries are consistent, enforceable, and, most importantly, clear so there’s no misunderstanding. This is especially essential for individuals you’re related to or coworkers.

3. Don’t Become a Jerk Yourself

When someone around you acts like one, you must be intentional and not follow suit. You don’t want to match their energy to get a rise out of others because that’s only fuel to a person behaving like a jerk. So what to do? Disarm them by ignoring them and their crappy behavior.

Think of it as dealing with a screaming toddler. Rather than get upset and scream along with the child, the only way to get the child to stop throwing a tantrum is to allow them to burn themselves out by not responding to their bad behavior. The same holds true for a jerk.

4. Stage an Intervention

Most often, you’re not the only one affected by the jerk in question. If that’s the case, gather up all family and friends who are also dealing with this messy behavior and stage an intervention.

It’s much easier to bring attention to their behavior when you have the support and backup of people you trust who have most likely had to deal with it.

It’s always best to focus on the task at hand and don’t let the jerk weasel their way out of it by taking the spotlight off themselves and turning it back onto you and everyone else. They may comment, “I don’t know why you all are making such a big deal out of this,” to make it look like everyone else is overreacting.

Instead, speak about their behavior, emphasizing their impact on others while avoiding judgment or sharing your opinion about their character.

When they feel cornered, they defend their actions instead of trying to understand everyone else’s viewpoint.            

People can change, but be mindful of high expectations when confronting someone demonstrating consistent harmful behavioral patterns. Remember, genuine change should come from within, not because someone else wants them to be different.

5. Walk Away

When someone acts like this toward you or others, how you deal with them depends on your relationship. For instance, walk away if a stranger acts like an a–hole.

Sometimes, it’s difficult, especially in public, but that’s the worst time to engage with them because now they have an audience, and jerks typically thrive with onlookers.

6. Keep Contact at a Minimum

If everything else fails, figure out how to steer clear of the person as best you can. Minimizing contact and establishing boundaries are the most effective ways to preserve your emotional well-being and mental health.

For example, consider changing your plans if you know they will be somewhere. Or, if they’re at the same party you are, keep your distance by staying on the other side of the room. You don’t want to constantly walk on eggshells around people, but you also don’t want a confrontation.

What if You’re the Jerk?

We previously stated that everyone knows at least one, but if you don’t, you may be that one. There’s always that chance you might be the jerk projecting your jerkiness onto others. So how do you tell if it’s you?

Woman Looking in the Mirror

One of the best methods to determine this is to look at the patterns in your life. If you find through your analysis that you are (and have been) consistently engaged with pricks, there’s an excellent chance you could be manifesting the same qualities yourself.

Steps to Take to Manage Your A–holeness

Some people can come right out and say, “My name is Bob, and I’m an a–hole!” But unfortunately, being a jerk is considered more of a personality trait than an addiction–even though some may disagree.

When you are self-aware, you may pinpoint yourself as a jerk, and that’s good. However, you still need to figure out what to do about it.

It’s not a case of simply being nicer to others. That’s like telling someone to be taller. Sure, you can temporarily “fix” the situation with a pair of heels, but eventually, you will need to take those heels off.

The same goes for changing a personality trait you may have lived with for a long time. You can smile and be friendly all day, but your original self will eventually return.

So we’re back to the question, what do you do?

Consider a therapist. Unfortunately, you can’t do a personality overhaul independently without finding the root cause. This is where a therapist can help.

So often, admitting your guilt means facing the shame of your bad behavior. Shame can be a nauseating, gut-wrenching feeling that keeps individuals from acknowledging when they’ve hurt someone. Everyone wants to be the good guy, so discovering we’re the villain hurts.

Another factor that stops people from facing their behavior is punishment. Too often, the penalty is the shame. Shame on you for making them feel this way!

If someone admits to a spouse that they have been harsh or overreactive toward them, will the person be forgiven for their behavior, or will they be repeatedly shamed and punished?

When you can take responsibility for your bad behavior, it’s in everyone’s best interest, especially yours. Being harshly critical, condescending, or explosive can occur in all of us.

Still, if left unchecked and unacknowledged, it can become a person’s identity and overshadow their higher, more positive qualities. Eventually, their behavior can damage or destroy their relationships with others.

What to do:

  • Separate the behavior from who you are. You can overcome the identity and not allow it to define who you are.
  • Focus on learning more about yourself rather than punishing yourself.
  • Be truthful with yourself. If you’re a jerk, then admit it. Identifying the issue makes it easier to fix.
  • Breathe and relax. Calm yourself and allow yourself to feel unpleasant emotions.
  • Take accountability for your behavior.
  • If possible, apologize.
  • Learn how to be the person you want to be. Envision yourself being that person.

What not to do:

  • Blame the victim for your behavior. (For example, I only acted that way because you said this.)
  • Lie to yourself (I don’t have a problem with being a jerk. I like how I am.)
  • Beat yourself up about it (ex, Here I go again, saying stupid things to people. I’m such an idiot!”

Support groups can assist people in regaining self-compassion and clarity to end their abusive behavior (self-abuse and self-loathing.)

These are mere suggestions and are sometimes easier said than done. To successfully conquer your issues, it takes time, patience, and emotional support from family and friends to help you work through these steps.

You may not immediately receive the forgiveness and understanding you desire, which is okay. You’ve been hurting people for a long time, so they will not likely forgive you overnight.

Just because you’ve finally become aware of your behavior doesn’t mean it will never happen again. But you’re making a start to recognize your issue, and you’re taking steps to correct it. With repeated commitment and awareness, you’ll become the person you want to be.

The damage level can be extreme for families with a history of physical or substance abuse, resulting in a greater need to ignore, justify, or suppress awareness of these behaviors. But understand that you’re on the right road to redemption.

No one is perfect. There is never any shame in growing, learning, and striving to be the best person you are meant to be.