Subversify Magazine » Better Understand Your Fellow Human- A How-To Guide

Better Understand Your Fellow Human- A How-To Guide


Anonymous Assholes

By: Grainne Rhuad

Earlier in the week I found myself really aggressively bummed out by people’s behavior around me.  In a time when we are all facing such daunting problems like the economy, weather changes, starvation, war, and on and on it was pissing me right off the ways in which people were reacting to them.

Then I took a step back and noticed that I too was pissing myself off with how I reacted to stress.  It was pissing me right off that I was even getting stressed out.

But then there really is nothing new under the sun.  People have been reacting to outside and inside stressors for the same way ever since there were people probably.  It’s the reason we have so many maladies and the reason we shoot at each other and hoard things.  Here are some behaviors I have noticed and some quick fixes to deal with them.

The Complainer

You all know this person.  Some of you are probably going to think I’m talking directly about you and if that’s the case, it’s probably true.  The complainer is the person who has most of everything they need.  They have a roof over their head, food in the belly, clothes on the back, a job wherein income is reasonably assured.  Yes, you may be 4-5 paychecks away from hardship, but 4-5 paychecks is a long time.

Still the complainer finds time to complain about things.  These things seem really unfair to this person, a dented car, a hurt back, torn sheets, the fact that cable is down for the month so you can (responsibly) pay your grocery bill.

Hell we have all been the complainer at one time or another.  I will go out on a limb and raise my hand.  I have bitched about stupid things that really, nobody cares about but me, like the fact that my mate thinks broccoli goes with peppers in Sheppard’s pie, torn sheets (did I already say that?)

Why the complainer does this:

This is entirely out of fear.  Most complainers have been without at one time in their life or another.  They genuinely know what it’s like to go to bed hungry and to wear hand-me-down clothes that goddamnit I hated on my sister!  The complaining is a defense because every little thing that goes wrong goes straight to that part of the brain that tells them disaster is coming and they already know disaster is a B with an itch.

How to work with them:

If you are this person recognize that it’s okay to share your small stresses, with a small group of people who will forgive you.  Also recognize that sharing everyday is too much and a mistaken coffee order at Starbucks is a really stupid thing to complain about.  You were the dummy that forked over a $20 and got back a handful of change for coffee.  Did you think about that?

If you are this person’s friend restrain yourself from pointing out that there are bigger things to worry about.  This is only going to make things worse.  It’s the bigger things that they are worried about anyway.  Remember this is a defense and trade coffee’s with them, letting them know the world still has nice things and nice people.  If you are a distance friend like a social network contact, just ignore that shit.  Really, do you have to one up everyone?

The One-Upper

This is the person who will take every problem to the next level. It doesn’t matter if the problem is as small as a headache in which case you will be regaled by their colitis that hasn’t given them relief for 30 years or homelessness in which case they will tell you that you are lucky to be homeless in California or wherever as even having a home in Africa is lower than being homeless in California.

Why this person acts this way:

They are an asshole.

Kidding!  Seriously, they act this way because they acutely feel for people.  These people typically are very empathetic and unfortunately for them and you, their empathy is pulled to the worst case scenario.  They want badly for a solution to the worst of the problems and in most cases there is no solution.  However their empathy causes them actual pain.  In a lot of cases physically manifested. (Hence the colitis) So they want you to put your energy into the worst things.  It’s impossible but really they want what’s best.

How to work with them:

You can’t.  But you can interact with and be friends with these people by attempting to better understand their worries and concerns.  Ask pointed questions.  It’s what they want, for their fears and worries and pain to be known.  Getting to know them means delving into ugly places and this is not for everyone. But you can do it if someone is valuable enough to you and in your actual real world life.  It just requires time and listening.  Mostly people want you to know about what’s out there.

If they are your virtual friend, this is easier.  Just don’t engage with whatever tips the scale for you.

The Know it All

There is always going to be this person that seemingly has nothing but time on their hands to know it all and amazingly, do it all.  They unfortunately will also lecture you on what a waste of human space you are for not doing anything for your fellow human being and for not being up at the crack of doom to read every Chris Hedges posting on the downfall of humanity.  Generally these people will try to come across as avuncular but are perceived more often as talking down to their audience, assuming that others need education because they don’t see things the same way.

Why this person acts this way:

They are lonely.  But they will never tell you this.  It is the reason they “do it all”, so they can get out and be with people and help.  This actually is a good thing, even though it pisses you off sometimes.  They are in fact doing good for the world and if you can look past their self congratulations you may be able to connect, learn and appreciate them.

How to work with them:

Join in.  Take up one of their favorite projects and learn about it; participate in it.  Go out and help them help people.  This helps you bond with them and see what they are talking about all the time.  It also helps you see them in a new light because surprise, surprise when these people are helping others they don’t act the way they do when they are lecturing you.

If you are a virtual friend, overlook the ranting high mindedness.  What attracted you to their personality in the first place?  If you can’t do this, maybe it’s time to part ways.  Also, understand this doesn’t have to be a grand door-slamming parting of the ways.  People drift apart all the time in the real world.  Sometimes they meet up randomly and share coffee and talk about old times later.  It’s no big thing.  It’s beyond me why people have to grandstand when they disagree online.

This leads me to the next and perhaps hardest thing-

Perhaps you are the problem; How to tell:

If you respond to everything you disagree with by immediately going on defense and karate kicking the shit out of your search engine trying to remember that one fact you learned in college in order to prove people wrong, you may be the problem.  Really the problem here is your own insecurity with your beliefs.   You may or may not have formed some.  You may not realize that it’s okay to have those beliefs challenged over time and in fact even change them.

Don’t get me wrong, we all want to karate kick our friends from time to time.  It’s natural.  People are different and get on our nerves.  The difference is when you can’t stop yourself from doing it.  When you cannot let silence fill the moment while you either stew and hatch evil plans or you know, think about whether your ideas need a revise.

Because the whole point of sharing information, thought and ideas is to check ourselves and revise.  The world around us changes and we shouldn’t fear it.  We should want to understand it and what others living in it think feel and experience.

How to work with yourself:

I’m feeling like a broken record at this point but really the answer to most conflicts is to listen.  Hold off a minute on your attack.  There is a reason swords need to be sharpened and oiled and it’s so you can really think about what you are slaying. Metaphorically of course.  Think first, things like:

Did I convey my thoughts concisely?

Even if I think my thoughts were incredibly understandable, were they?

Did I understand the other person and their concerns?

Are there more questions I can ask?

Is this just someone letting off steam? (As in the case of the complainer) and if so; do I value their friendship enough to let their silly worries go?

Why am I so attached to my way of thinking? Also why are they? –This is actually very important because if it’s cultural or even generational, people just aren’t going to change and there very often is no way you can understand completely, you haven’t walked in their shoes.  But, you can learn about their shoes, or you know…whatever else.

Really, when all else fails and people are just getting to you; take a break, reconnect with your own personal reality, like the grass outside, take a walk, talk to people in your house or stretch.  Just don’t get weighed down in what you think you need to prove.  Because we need to do things differently so we can begin to be different as a human species.  Understanding one another is important.  But just like the biologist that is not getting the results they want, sometimes you have to walk away from your pet experiment and let time and maybe someone else with a different mindset finish the work you began.  In short, let go of attachment.


Posted on January 30, 2014


  1. The Late Mitchell Warren says:

    “What attracted you in the first place.”

    Good understanding of human nature, my Freudian friend. Many times the same qualities in a person that annoy us are what attracts us in the first place. People are just too much volume of what we DO want in them as friends, lovers, etc. They need to take down their volume a bit…and of course, no “friend” wants to do that, because they feel they’ve earned rights to be as loud as they want.

    What’s really funny is that people who tend to complain a lot are usually complaining about people who are just like themselves.

    I do often become annoyed at all the voices, especially the simplicity of thought that so many people share.

    I think I am of the Lynch school of thought. When you can’t stand talking to people anymore just start saying things that make no sense.

  2. Psycho Pete says:

    I think all these issues can be reduced to people taking themselves too seriously. People tend to think and feel that their ideas are important, that their beliefs are important, and that they themselves are also important.

    Sure, I can definitely see myself as the complainer, the one-upper, and I’m sure as hell an annoying-as-hell know-it-all. But all of that, and plenty more, is just part of the psychosis of being a human living in the civilized world. I might complain about things, or attack/defend an idea vehemently, but I don’t take myself too seriously, as in, I don’t let ideas define me. At the end of the day, I recap all the thoughts I had and all the things I did, and one by one, I throw them all in the trash, to make room for tomorrow’s shit.

    In the end, regardless of what path we are on, we’re all going nowhere. So, what’s the point of attaching so much importance to our selves and to what people do, when there’s so much more interesting things out there?

  3. karlsie says:

    When you meet someone in public that you know, the impulse is generally to say something; anything. Fishing around for things to say, we ask, “how are you?” or mention the weather. If three minutes of conversation doesn’t fill polite socialization, you begin digging through your arsenal of avid discussions. Gossip, political rants, complaints and one-up stories are common, as well as trying to top the guy that knows everything.

    People carry their style of socializing into Facebook. They’re online. They feel they have to say something. They want their friends to know they’re around, so they rattle around in the bag of discussions they would normally use in face to face encounters and present them because that’s what they understand about communications. How we react t them is probably typical of how we react in day to day contacts. We may have a habit of screening them out, arguing, one-upping or sympathizing with their complaints. How we react to others is a reflection of our own inner turmoil, self-doubts, convictions and willingness to change.

    The thing about Facebook is that it’s a non-stop party. There’s always a crowd and they’re always saying the same things they would say in any other public place. I can party as well as any, but I also have a need for solitary time, for quiet to sort out the input from my own feelings. I think everyone has that requirement but the drive for solitude isn’t always well-defined, so their Facebook experience becomes a fever as all these different moods from different people climb inside them. It’s like road rage. You may be the most tranquil driver on the road, but as soon as someone rages past you, the spark of anger ignites and you’re ready to take vengeance. So… I agree with your ending. If you’re at the effect, it’s time to get off the road for awhile and take it easy.

  4. Pbugnacki says:

    You are an expert! Great descriptions. Glad you added some things we all can practice when confronted with some of these.

  5. Grainne says:

    Thanks everyone. Mitch I tend to agree, we get most frustrated about what we most dislike in ourselves. I think this happens even when we are past being active in those behaviors. We still don’t like being reminded of them.

    Also, I think there are many people who are of the David Lynch school of thought. It’s an aggressive thing though that makes you feel better but with people you need to be around in real life, really doesn’t work for long.

    @ Psycho Pete- People taking themselves too seriously, I was all set to say yeah I believe that, and then, I thought no, there are really scared people out there who lash out from fear and really no place else.
    That’s not to say we don’t take ourselves too seriously in the most part, we do.

  6. Psycho Pete says:

    It doesn’t matter why people lash out, there could be billions of reasons. The point is that people take their moods and feelings too seriously, and I think that is what leads to trouble. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people throwing fits or tantrums, or raging and ranting off, or simply complaining and bitching about stuff, in fact, I think these behavior patterns are unavoidable in the shithole of a world we live in. The problem is when people feel like their ideas matter, that their feelings matter, and they start taking their shit seriously. Then this happens: — “Iran dispatches warships to US maritime border”

    The Iranians, quite justifiably, feel offended by the US Naval presence in the Persian Gulf, and they feel righteous in their indignation, they feel it matters that their pride (among other things) is getting raped, so they go berserk, they start foaming at the mouth, and they decide to send Warships to the US coast in order to send a message. The truth is that we are all going to die and our time in this material world is finite, and no matter what we do in this world we cannot change or move our fate so much as the breadth of a hair. Of course we feel important, and we feel that it matters what we do, but it really doesn’t, and our mistake is to believe that our acts matter and that we can change things and alter our collective destiny. The truth is that average Joes like you and I can at best write a rant or two, or complain, without ever hoping to change anything. And the people in positions of power, whose acts do affect billions of people, seemingly always get their hands forced; like the US sending warships to the Persian Gulf out of fear/greed, and Iran responding in kind out of pride, etc. We are ruled by a bunch of base emotions that come to us out of nowhere. We are ruled by them because we take them (which we believe to be our own feelings) seriously.

  7. Grainne says:

    @Pete. I think you have taken my micro discussion to a macro level. Of course once it hits a macro level, there’s very little we can do as individuals. However, I disagree with your assertion that individual feelings,actions and efforts don’t matter. (I believe) Everything matters . If it didn’t then we may as well all lie down in a crypt like some sort of Coptic monk and waste away dreaming of spiritual things.

    “Taking shit seriously” is an ambiguous statement. We, as individuals can and should take our shit seriously because we can have an effect on ourselves. It’s less productive to project that shit outwards though.

    I also disagree that we have no effect on our collective destiny. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.(Newton) We cannot be alive without having an effect on the collective.

  8. Psycho Pete says:

    I disagree with you, Grainne, because I’m convinced that human society is a farm, and our destiny is as under our control as a cow/sheep/goat’s destiny is under his. You can’t see this, because you live in the west, and your lifestyle is far removed from anything even remotely resembling what’s “natural” — you live in a totally artificial superstructure built on top of the earth’s natural environment. However, were you to relocate to the wilderness for a while, and then to a third world country, and if you were to look back at the west and your previous lifestyle and perceptions from such a perspective, you would see things in an entirely different way. Of course, you are protected from that, and you will probably never reach the crucial understanding of what this world is and why we are in it. And that’s exactly why I say we are not the master’s of our destiny: because none of us knows ‘what’ this world is and ‘why’ we are here, we each have our own beliefs and rationalizations and “faith” and dogmas, but in the end, there can be only one truth. So, not everyone’s beliefs and ideas regarding this issue can be right. And there is such a variety of artificial deliberately-manufactured bullshit ideologies in the west today that no sane and rational person can possibly discern which one is true.

    Can you tell me, what you think the world is? what is its purpose? what is our purpose in it? Does it all boil down to faith and beliefs? If so, whose beliefs are the correct ones: the Jews/Muslims/Christians/Buddhists/etc. etc. Or is science correct in saying that all is random and there is no purpose for the world’s existence, just like there is no purpose in our existence? Or do you subscribe to the postmodern ideas of individualism and humanism which state that purpose is particular to each person and there is no such thing as an objective purpose behind the existence of the world? Or do you believe as the agnostics do, that we can _never_ know what the world is and why we are in it? Or do you accept the worldview of the atheist materialists who claim that the purpose of life is to fit into the framework of society as it has been prepared for us, as in, to work, make money, travel, make love, raise a family, and do whatever predefined things society allows, and just enjoy your time here while it lasts, etc.?

    IMO, all of these views have been deliberately constructed in order to distort the truth. And the truth is so easy to see it sounds almost retarded and idiotic to talk about it. It’s like saying “look at the sky and see what colour it is.” Think of it in terms of an analogy: if you’re wearing the thick sun-glasses of modern society, you cannot see the “truth” (that the sky is blue) when you look up. You’ll see some other non-distinct color. Or, if you look at the sky from within the haze of a big city, you can’t see more than a handful of stars, nevermind the constellations and planets. So, the trick is to take off your glasses (more like blinders) or to get out from under the orange haze-glow of the city, in a figurative sense, and then look up. Now, I tell you, you are also protected from this. You will _never_ be able to experience life as a natural hunter-gatherer human being. But you can think and imagine and ponder, so ponder this:

    Imagine the wild aurochs that once existed in the world but have long been extinct. Visualize them living free in the wild. Now, picture one of these guys looking at a dairy farm where the cows are fed through tubes and milked through tubes and whose waste is also carried away through tubes…each cow has a small cell/living-space where they live the duration of their lives, etc. etc. Imagine all the things the wild cow would notice about the one living in captivity. Now, put yourself in the place of the wild human being. Can you do that? How would that wild person perceive the conditions of the domesticated captive farm-man? Fed through tubes? milked for our labor/thoughts/energy/emotions in exchange for a worthless piece of paper (which we of course believe is worth a lot, which is how it became valuable in the first place) We are fed drugs to keep us in line. We are kept entertained and dulled via TV/Cinema. We are alcoholized and now we’re also gonna be cannabisized. We’re tobacconized. Anything to keep us busy, while at the same time taking our money from us.

    Now, as a western person, you enjoy the rare privilege of being able to afford everything that you need for your artificial cow-life, which is why you wouldn’t even dream of questioning the social base of your perceptions. But billions of people who weren’t as lucky as you, so lucky to have been born in the USA or Western Europe, those billions of people can’t afford the basic necessities of life. The Middleeast is by far the richest part of the earth, and I mean by FAR, and yet for some reason, the USA keeps the whole region at war and in turmoil, so as to prevent any kind of stability and prosperity. The same goes for Africa. Whether you want to believe that the USA, as the world’s leading super-power, is responsible for peace and war on earth, is a different matter altogether. The point is, while a bunch of wild people are living a completely carefree and FREE existence in the depths of the jungles of south america, where they are unfamiliar with all of our diseases and psychological/physiologica disorders, where they are unfamiliar with greed and lies and all dishonorable acts, _we_ are on the other hand, are either privileged fat Americans/Western Europeans who are 100% hypocritical about practically everything that matters about a good clean society, or we are from other parts of the world and we are born into poverty and die in poverty leading a life of endless toil and struggle which the average American can’t even conceive of. Yes, you and I can’t even conceive of the horrors that the people in Sudan and other poor African countries face on a daily basis. We can’t even begin to imagine what life must be like for a Palestinian living in Gaza, or for an Iraqi living in Baghdad or for a poor illiterate Afghan shepherd who gets used for target practice by American drones/soldiers.

    Yes, while we live in captivity, either totally brainwashed on your side of the fence, or totally struggling for a piece of bread and a safe place to sleep on my side, there is about 5,000 or so wild people left on the earth, watching us like the wild aurochs would have watched the cows in the dairy farms, had they not become extinct.

    Believe what you will. The fact remains, evil always wins in this world. No matter how many people try and try and try to bring good into the world, there is always some trillion dollar organization that cancels out all the good with a single stroke of the pen. How can I, or the 80 million other people in Iran bring peace to the Middleeast, when the USA swoops in with their overt and covert-ops and tears the whole region into pieces practically overnight? How can Africans ever hope for peace when the USA has got an arms industry to feed? You know what, let’s not even point the finger, let’s say the USA is a saintly nation and that it is not responsible for the wars in the mideast nor are they responsible for the wars in africa, sudan, wherever. But _someone_ some force IS responsible for all the horrors, no? Some force is responsible for pitting the nigerian muslims and christians against each other, when they’ve been living in peace for ages. Some force is responsible for the Shia/Sunnis battling eachother in Iraq when they have lived in peace for 1400 years. No? Why is there no force battling for equal rights for all people? why are Africa and the Middleast (by all counts the richest parts of this earth) so fucked up, while North America and Western Europe prosper? Why does 0.02% of the earth’s population control over 90% of the wealth? Why is there no force battling to make life easy for everyone?

    You’re living in a fantasy. It’s a nice idealistic fantasy I’ll admit. You see the beauty and order and abundance in Northern California, and you feel like the world is great and that by helping the less fortunate you can make a difference or whatever. Good luck. Really. I wonder though, when the fates decide to turn on the USA and it becomes a chaotic warzone like the mideast, will people like you still be able to make a difference? Do you think you are the one who is keeping the USA prosperous now? Do you think I am the one keeping the mideast in chaos? Do you think there aren’t thousands of people like you in Iraq who are trying to do good deeds every day? Do you think they can stop the bombings and shootings and the countless lives that are lost there every single day?

    I know, believe me, to an American, the world starts at the Pacific coast of the US and ends at the east coast. At the end of the day, it is un-American and unpatriotic for an American to concern themselves with what happens in the rest of the world. I know, you believe that you are responsible for keeping your house in order, because the rest of the world is populated by people of a lesser stock, less-advanced, less-educated half-monkeys who will eventually wipe themselves out, making the USA the only habitable-zone on earth, just like all the movies and tv shows depict. Meanwhile, your young men and women are over here killing innocent people who have done _nothing_ to Americans…

    I don’t even know why I bother. You’re probably too indoctrinated to be able to empathize anyway.

  9. Grainne says:

    @Pete, you are making assumptions about me. None of which are correct. It is in a way the point of the article. The fact that people make assumptions based on their own experiences without finding truth. A rambling attack on me or anyone else based on 1500-1800 words of information is meaningless.

    But to answer a couple of your more succinct questions- Yes, I know there are people just like me in Iran (and everywhere else) doing good.

    I know the world doesn’t begin at the pacific of N. America and end in at the atlantic.

    I do not believe it unpatriotic to care for the world’s people.

    People do matter, so do dogs, fish,slugs and lichen for that matter. Everything we do has an effect on something else.

    If “fates” turn on the U.S. my individual behavior will still make a difference in how I act and react.

    You do not know where or what I came from so don’t go spouting about my abundant and blissful life, it may or may not be true.

    Personal attacks of individuals who are coming to discuss does not prove your point in any way. I would much rather see an open and honest discussion. ex: “This is my experience Grainne, what do we have in common? What would you like to know more about?” But I would love it if you tried to see through someone else’s lenses too. Because the under-under-experience of extreme poverty of soul and spirit is an extreme…there is so much more to know. Or do you think you know everything?

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