Calling People Out on Their Bullshit

As I’ve aged, I realize that I give zero fucks about so many things that used to be so important to me. I recognize that it’s part of growing up, you’ve got to invest in garbage before you realize what’s treasure. In our current political and societal climate, I’m becoming even more aware of things that are more bullshit than they need to be. Below is an indefinite list of issues that I would call BS on because they exacerbate and enable the same bullshit behavior, preventing people from growing and actually connecting with each other.

  • racism
  • homophobia
  • passive aggressiveness
  • presumptuous, know-it-all behavior
  • inconsiderate behavior, especially in public
  • one-upping for attention

I know it’s easy to build a wall around your feelings about these sorts of things, or to even excuse them. Oh grandpa comes from a different generation! He just doesn’t know any gay people! No. Don’t be a dick, accept other people, it’s none of your business what people do.

There’s also a right way and many wrong ways to call out bullshit. When you call bullshit on someone, you want to do it productively. You want them to consider their behavior so that they don’t repeat it in the future. So, how do we do this?

  1. Call bullshit on the behavior, not the person. Say something like, “I don’t believe that’s correct, motherfucker,” [motherfucker added at your discretion] or “That sounds like hate speech to me,” instead of “Why are you so racist/homophobic/holier-than-though/etc.?” or “That’s bullshit!”
  2. Be prepared to say why their behavior isn’t correct and be respectful dammit. It’s hard, I know. You probably want to yell at them for their unseemliness, but you have to help them see the error of their ways. People don’t want an infodump why they’re bad, so don’t list off all the shitty things they’ve said or done. “I don’t know about you, but in my family we were taught to respect others.” “How would you feel if So-And-So heard you say that?” “Excuse me, I’m right here.” I use that last one A LOT at the grocery when people pretend not to see me. Or a tasty one… respond with silence and hard eye-contact. When they ask what’s up, ask them why they would say such a thing when they know it hurts you. Be prepared for a real conversation after that one.
  3. Some people do the things they do because they’re covering up for deeper issues. For example, those people who one-up a conversation with something bigger and brighter than what you were talking about in order to shift the conversation to themselves. This is where you can say, “Yo, bro, I was talking about this thing, we’ll talk about yours when I give a shit.” Ok, ok, you can think that, but it’s probably better to dismiss them completely rather than feed that fire they want to stoke. If they try to bring up their one-upness again, a casual, “Oh, I thought we were talking about my thing,” may shut them up.
  4. One of the biggest things that irks me is people being passive aggressive. It’s definitely one of those behaviors that’s hard to detect until you’ve experienced and been burned by it. People who tend to be passive aggressive desire to feel dominant in some way. Diffusing their statements with humor may turn the tide. Some feel like they don’t have a voice or think they aren’t being listened to. Acknowledge them and ask “How would you resolve this, then?” Directly telling someone they’re a passive aggressive bitch isn’t going to get you anywhere, as much as you want to just tell them that. You aren’t their therapist, but diffusing and ignoring are your best tools.

Be prepared for the worst. People are shit sometimes. Don’t surround yourself with toxic people, and if you can cut them off, do so. Connect with people on a deeper level, try to see from their perspective, and if it’s a shit perspective, try to educate them.

The End. -A

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