Sometimes you run into people that rub you the wrong way, get under your skin, or you get upset when they’re around, or you just assume that they’re mean, when you could be quite mistaken. They could be unintentional jerks. Someone can come off as mean when the person in question has no intent of malice and idea that you (or others) are perceiving him or her as someone who is a jerk.
People only know what they know, and if you are able to take a look at what might be going on inside the jerk who is upsetting you, you might be able to reconsider your opinion of him or her, re-evaluate your judgment, cut him or her a little slack, and not take their words or actions so personally.
I know when I get intensely focused on a particular thought process or project, I can be less attentive to the real world going on around me. On more than one occasion, I have had an upset, potentially angry person interrupt my train of thought, expressing their dissatisfaction about trying to get my attention “X” number of times to no avail.
They were clearly on the verge of rage, but due to my attention being so focused on what I was working on, I wasn’t as aware as I might have been and missed the series of attention-getting activities escalating to break my trance, until it became an emotional outburst. And I look like an insensitive jerk.
I realize that I might feel the same way if the situation was reversed, and I was desperately trying to get someone’s attention, while they were distracted.
Like when unintentional jerks cut you off in traffic. You get all bent out of shape, but the driver who cut you off didn’t do so to make you mad or cause you to be the victim of any abusive road rage. The offending driver might have just had something else on his or her mind as they were changing lanes, and you might have been in the driver’s blind spot. (I know I have unintentionally frightened or made a few drivers angry in my lengthy driving career.)
Differences in personality or other character qualities might seem offensive because they are incompatible with your personality or style of communication. For instance, using cat personality types, if you were a Cool Cat and an enthusiastic Battle Cat was trying to explain something to you, you might be offended or angry at this jerk’s delivery method. You might feel slighted, insulted, disrespected, or condescended to, even though there is no malice intended, it’s just a difference in personality types.
Another issue might be that of jerks invading your “personal space.” You might feel safe with keeping a distance of arms-length-and-a-beer-bottle from a person you are communicating with, yet the person who’s trying to communicate with you is comfortable with about six inches. You feel like their being so close to you is offensive, and you would otherwise let no one encroach on your personal space, like that unless you were romantically intimate with them. So, you get upset, and you classify this person as obviously a jerk, even though it’s just a cultural difference.
Depending on your personality, someone else’s enthusiasm, or boisterousness might seem over-the-top or offensive (I’ve been accused of this periodically).
Even in conversation, someone might inadvertently become an unintentional jerk by striking a nerve by just making small talk. A simple question about your past might trigger a buried emotional wound and find you getting ready to post up for fight or flight when the person was just trying to be friendly. It is quite likely that he or she had no idea they were treading in sensitive territory, or else they would have never gone there.
Simple questions like,
What do you do for a living?
What kind of car do you drive?
What’s kind of food do you like to eat?
How old are you?
All these questions are normally innocuous, but you can see under the right (or wrong) conditions, these very same questions could seem offensive to some people with particular sensitivities. And you, if you asked them, would find yourself among the unintentional jerks.
You never meant to offend anyone or hurt their feelings, and all of this was nothing more than miscommunication or misinterpretation.
Consider, the next time you encounter an out-of-control jerk, ask yourself if he or she might be an unintentional jerk? And if you might be the one with a little less control than you could have if you were a little more compassionate and understanding?