Today we have a serious issue to discuss: how to NOT be a douchebag.

Now, I’m pretty sure we all have the potential to be a douchebag, but I don’t think any of us really set out to be one (“What would you like to be when you grow up, Little Timmy?” “Well…”). But sometimes it just… happens.

Here’s the real problem:

I think our popular culture actually encourages us to be douchebags.

Or, if you prefer, it pushes us in a “douchey direction.”

Let’s say you’re a congressperson. Your health benefits are _____ (i.e. really good). You WANT to be empathetic to the _____ (i.e. enormous amount) of people who don’t have health insurance or those who have craptastic coverage, and you’d even LIKE to sympathize with the small business that’s just trying their best to make payroll and keep their staff employed, but try as you might, you really just can’t relate. First of all, you don’t actually know anyone without amazing health insurance (or enough money to where it doesn’t matter), and second of all, cashflow issues in your life are a very distant memory, like those suspicious plants you puffed in college… a different foggy lifetime.

You really don’t mean to be a douchebag, but the culture/atmosphere/crowd you’re in reinforces those kinds of behaviors.

Another example.

As an entrepreneur, I do a reasonable amount of phone calls to meet new people. Most people I meet, often via phone/Google Hangout are overwhelmingly generous with their time. But every once in a while I end up on a call with someone who feels like they maybe “should” talk to me because of who connected us or something, but really, they’re “just too busy.” With these folks, I generally get passed onto their assistant who can “help us find a time to connect” and after about 30 emails back-and-forth I eventually receive a calendar invite for 2:00p-2:15p. Then it comes time for me to call, and it goes straight to voicemail. I get a call back about 12 minutes later, but by that time, we’ve got approximately 3 minutes and 23 seconds to talk because they’re “literally running to the next appointment.”

Of course, just because you perceive yourself as “busier” than me doesn’t mean you are more important. But the dominant culture tells us that “more busy = more important.” So even though I know it isn’t true, when I hang up the phone from one of these calls, I have an internal battle about my own self-worth. I can’t help but think, “Wow, I should be busier than I am.” Or, “I should have an assistant who manages my calendar.”

But even though this is a game I try not to play, it’s another reason why it’s really hard to NOT be a douchebag. What’s “popular” tells us that there’s something appealing about being too busy for others.

The crowd we’re in, especially as we become more “successful,” encourages some major douchebaggery. But enough of us say NO, maybe we can change this.

I really don’t think we mean to become douchebags. I think it’s an after-effect of us not paying attention and taking the path of least resistance instead. I think it’s a side-effect of ingesting a culture that is kind of toxic, without taking the time to purge once in a while. If we don’t regularly take a moment to unplug, sadly, the default path is also the most douchey one.

Here’s the real kicker: these stories aren’t about other people. They’re about me. I’ve been “the politician” and “the too-busy entrepreneur.” Sometimes I forget what it’s like to not be able to afford health care and sometimes it makes me feel important to seem busier than others. The circles I’m in are privileged and my calendar is full. If I’m going to NOT participate in this douchey behavior, I have to do drastic stuff to counteract it.

So, PLEASE… #sayNOtodouchebaggery. I’m going to keep trying.


8 Replies to “How To Not Be A Douchebag”

  1. Well I’m that douchebag that missed our time to chat. :( And NOW I’m an Uncle. :)

    And I totally relate to everything you said about connecting with others. I’m not sure it’s about being a douchebag for those really busy people with assistants setting their schedules. I think they’ve become that self disciplined managing their own time.

    We’re all douchebags in some form shape or another, it’s just which place of life douchebaggery are we currently living in?

    • From what I know, Joe, you are definitely not a douchebag. :-) Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather miss a call entirely than get blown off during one. Which is why I’m trying really hard (still learning) to really be present in the moment whenever I’m on the phone with someone. It’s frickin’ difficult.

  2. Brilliant – and it’s a great reminder that it’s not about malice because, indeed, no one is consciously setting the intention to be a douchebag.

    But I feel you brought to light the underlying missing piece – CONSCIOUSLY setting the intention. When we shift our thinking and become aware of our actions – especially in the realm of douchebaggery – we can actually change our behavior when potential douchebag behavior arises, yes?

    I almost fell into the space of the douche last night at a networking event when I felt my eyes beginning to do the infamous “networking roam” (that subtle glance behind the person I’m speaking with to see who else is there). Fortunately I was conscious enough to “douche the douche” and got fully present again with my new friend :).

    • Nicely done, Sabrina! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. It’s totally those “micro-moments” that start to shift us into douchey territory. Good for you for being aware enough to stop it.

  3. Josh, I love this post again anti-douchey behavior. I think it’s really easy to forget where you came from and how you should act/treat other people. This results in becoming a self-absorbed dick. At the same time, it’s easy to slip into a kind of kumbayah rose-colored-glasses state of douchery. This results in becoming an annoying cornball. And yes, please, stop telling other people how busy you are. We are all busy. No one cares about your busyness. If you have time to tell people you’re busy, you’re not really busy.

  4. Al Restivo says:

    Josh, this is brilliant. Unfortunately things have changed for the worse since Voice Mail and “modern technology” has destroyed any semblance of civility that once existed. Now every can be a douchbag as they hide behind voice mail. The other cause of douchbagery is caller ID. This is a great way to be a real doucbag. It is the ultimate excuse for rudeness and incivility. Douchbags love caller ID! There was a time when one could just show up and visit and people would sit down and talk to you, often even offering you a cup of coffee. I don’t know where this is going, but I am glad I don’t have to prospect anymore. However, now with dinnertime telemarketing, I have become a douchbag too.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.