Are They Really a Jerk or Are They Low Skills?
Yesterday, someone who I alluded to in a prior blogpost yelled at me in front of a group, saying I was at fault for something when in reality the thing they were upset at had nothing to do with me at all.
When this was pointed out (by someone else) they didn't acknowledge their error and persisted that they were in the right and had a point.
People who know my history with this person reached out and asked if I was "ok".
I would be lying if in the past this sort of thing didn't make me completely unhinged. Upset, angry, sad, coupled with a burning desire to see that person punished (preferably in a public, poetic justice sort of way).
This is what I've learned. Although I'm still pretty sure bad people are out there, I have a different understanding about how I perceive that. And here it is.
Some people are "low skills". Low skills can look like defensiveness, combativeness, inappropriate behavior, low empathy and a number of other expressions that make them look like "jerks". They have not learned the behaviors needed to communicate well, argue skillfully, and manage their effect on others.
In the case of this one individual I can see they have low communication skills, low impulse control, and low empathy--this continues on because the combo seems to work for this person!
What I mean by "works for them" is that their success hasn't been impacted enough to motivate them to grow and change. In a word, they don't want to and the people surrounding this person aren't motivating the change themselves (some call this enablement).
If you indulge in social media or even just look around you, I'm sure you can see lots of examples of people with low skills being rewarded for their behavior, much less being held accountable for it.
Now, while I don't appreciate this combo of low skills in the people I surround myself with, it takes the charge of the person in question being an evil "jerk" off the table.
I have a frame of reference for how to deal with them.
I now expect their low skills!
Just like I wouldn't put my hand in a tank full of scorpions, I won't give this person additional opportunities to fumble the ball with me. I no longer expect anything from this person above their skill level.
For me this is very freeing! I don't have to spend my time worrying about this person or being angry about their behavior. I manage the interaction in the most minimal way possible and spend my precious energy on the people who can communicate and interact peacefully and productively.
I hope for this person's benefit, as well as for the ease of those who have to interact with them, they choose to grow and change. In the meantime, my headspace is my own again.