The Art of Being a Tactful Asshole.




There are times in life, where you simply can’t be a nice guy.

You can’t go up and say, “gosh, would you really mind, if at all, not doing that?”  Then you go back to your cubicle, thinking, “yeah, I really showed them.”  Only to find out a day later that nothing changed.  You’re still getting screwed, and another day has gone by where instead of having a problem fixed, the problem stays right where it is.

So when doesn’t being nice work, and why?

Because you don’t come across as a man.  You come across as weak.  Afraid.  Cowardly.  If someone else is treating you poorly at work, at home or just on the subway car, and being polite doesn’t work, then you have to roll up your sleeves, and throw down the gauntlet.

You’ve gotta take off your Clark Kent glasses and put on your superman cape.

That person needs to know that you won’t tolerate their behavior, and they need to know it fast.  The thing is, you can’t just assault someone for being rude.  You can’t just say “fuck you you fat man, with your stupid glasses and your stupid bow-tie.”  The latter gets you an equally rude response and no solution, the former lands you in jail.

Neither are desirable alternatives.  But, not getting what you want isn’t acceptable either. What you need to do, is walk a fine line between being polite and being an asshole.  You need to be what I like to call, a “tactful asshole.”

How do you do that?  Here are some suggestions:


Don’t Give in To Knee-Jerk Reactions

Never, ever, flip the fuck out.  Just don’t do it.  Breathe brother, just breathe.  Even if someone is breaking into your home and is going to kill you and assault your wife, you can’t flip out.  You can’t panic.  You can’t scream and shout.  You’ve gotta keep a level head, and think “how I do assert myself as a man, and solve this problem?”  Whether that means calmly standing before the door with rifle and peering through the scope, waiting for that meth-head to meet his end, or calmly typing an e-mail to someone who has crossed a professional line, the key thing is to be under COMPLETE control when you do it.  The man who loses his shit doesn’t always win, because losing your shit robs you of being able to think clearly about the best course of action to take, and that is always to your detriment.


You Catch More Flies With Honey

After you’ve assessed the situation in a calm manner, you need to think, “how do I communicate my message in a way that is polite, but forceful? It’s easier than you think.

A good rule of thumb I use is “be 90 % polite, 10 % an asshole.”  For example, the other day I had to have a meeting with someone who had a major mistake in working with me. Previously, I had politely told him that I needed different results than the one I was getting, and he continued to screw up.  Needless to say, I wrote him an e-mail that very much let him know I was fed up with that result.  Then I had a meeting with him.  Was there a lot of tension in the room when I walked in that meeting? You bet there was.

But guess what? The first thing I said to him, even though he had in all honesty, done a piss-poor job of managing my interests, was “thanks for your good work, and thanks for being here.”  I didn’t walk in and say “you bastard, you incompetent moron, I’m tired of your shit.” What good would that have done? He would have immediately been on the defensive, and in all likelihood, our working relationship, which I had no choice but to keep, would have been terminated beyond repair.

However, when the time came, I had to be blunt.  I told him, “look, thanks for being here, and thanks for all the good work you’ve done, but here’s where I had a problem.”  I made damn sure he understood that I wasn’t going to tolerate that problem happening again, and that I wasn’t going to let him make excuses the entire time.   If you do that, you lose.  As a man, you always have to let another man or co-worker know that you demand their respect, and that you won’t let incompetence slide.  You just have to do it in a professional manner that does not involve obscenities or physical contact.  But never let them intimidate you.  Which leads me to….


Sometimes, you gotta step on the gas

Most of the time, it’s always smart to start off polite, but direct.  You say “hey, i have a problem, but let’s work together on this.” However, if that doesn’t work, that’s a problem in itself.  That means that you are not feared, or respected, because if you are, the other person knows that even though you are asking in a polite, professional manner, you mean business.  So you have to ramp up the intensity a bit, but again, in a calm, professional way.  You dispense with being nice in favor of being blunt.  You say, “Hey.  This isn’t working. this is not acceptable.”   Then you lay out clear, concrete, reasons for why the problem needs to be fixed.  But don’t stop there.  A mistake I made in the past was demanding that a problem be acknowledged, but not the solution.  What good is that?  Ultimately, what you want, is a solution.  So you then say “Here’s my plan.  Here’s what I want. I want it done right, and I want it done now.”

Is that nice? Not really.

Is it effective?  Absolutely.

NOW they know that you mean business, and they can’t say “hey, that was unprofessional, or completely uncalled for.”  They just go “Oh shit. I better fix this problem, because this guy doesn’t take any prisoners.” They can’t file a police report, and they can’t point to your lack of character.  All they can do is fix it, and fix it fast.


As a concluding note, remember that the most effective, powerful men in history such as Bonaparte, Crazy Horse, Lincoln, Truman, and Churchill weren’t known for being world-beatingly nice.


They were known for being diplomatic, assertive, problem solvers.  And in the end, they won.

Be like them.  Be a tactful, asshole.


Yours in Virtues and Victory,