Three People Who I Avoid

When I was younger, my parents taught me to always look at myself when considering why I don't like somebody. It's a lesson that's stuck with me and, in general, it's served me well by keeping me honest about my flaws and spurring constant self-improvement. But the downside of taking something like that to heart is that you can end up blaming yourself for everything, even when you shouldn't. In my middleage, I've come to realize that while it's good to always be on the lookout for ways to better yourself, it's okay to admit that sometimes it's actually the other person who needs to change.

There are three types of people that I've encountered a lot in my life that I just don't have much patience for anymore. In the interest of keeping peace in the family or at work I may go to extra lengths to accommodate them, but outside of those areas I'm more likely to just get the hell away.

Faultless Shit Magnets – I imagine that everybody knows at least one Faultless Shit Magnet. FSMs are without doubt the worst type of people on my list. They're the people to whom bad stuff constantly happens, but it's never their fault. FSMs wreck their cars, flunk out of school, get fired, arrested, evicted from their homes, dumped by their spouses, addicted to drugs, or go bankrupt – but somehow none of it is ever their fault. I understand that bad things happen to good people all the time. And sometimes shit just happens. I get that. But FSMs somehow defy astronomical odds by having an endless stream of shit happen to them and none of it is ever their fault. Of course that's not what's going on. The truth is that FSMs are expert victims. They have zero accountability for the bad stuff in their lives and they're always trying to pin the blame on somebody else or some unavoidable circumstance. The fact that they make obvious bad choices, have vacuous value systems, treat other people poorly, have really lousy "friends", and never think through the likely outcomes of their decisions – none of that ever enters their minds in the postmortem on the latest catastrophe. As a result, they never learn any lessons that could actually help them and they make variations on the same dumb mistakes over and over and over. (By the way, conservatives love to blame liberals for creating a culture in which FSM thrive. Bullshit. Some of the very worst FSMs I've known are ultraconservatives and the irony is completely lost of them of course.) Anyway, not only are FSMs annoying, but if you swim too close to one there's a decent chance he'll grab onto you and pull you under the water with him or her.

Button Pushers – People have all kinds of hobbies. For a Button Pusher, it's discovering and abusing other people's emotional hot-buttons. This dickhead takes delight in being needling, obnoxious, and argumentative. Then when you call him on his bullshit, he's very skilled at deflecting the problem back on to you by saying he's just teasing and you're being too sensitive. And if you're not onto his game yet, you may even feel guilty for being thin-skinned. But every interaction with him will be this tedious game of him testing the perimeter of your values and feelings, poking and prodding to find any sensitivities, and then exploiting them mercilessly in every subsequent meeting. Button Pushers think it's their job to antagonize people in order to make them take themselves less seriously, or to help them see other points of view. But really that's just a ruse. They're doing it for their own perverse amusement; there is no noble purpose. Eventually after they've pushed your buttons too many times, you finally realize that this game is a condition of their friendship, and on balance, whatever value you're getting out of the relationship just isn't worth the bullshit.

Chestpounders – Ah, the Chestpounder. I once worked with a guy who on his very first day of employment, had a meeting with me where he opened with, "I've been brought in to be an agent of change at this company and if you get in my way, I'll run you over." I'm not kidding. His first words to me on his first day! As it turned out, this guy was a walking bag of emotional insecurity and we all endured many such conversations as he constantly puffed himself up to look tougher than he was, or needed to be. People have a lot of different ways of dealing with their own insecurities. Some people lose their self-confidence and draw into little self-deprecated shells. Chestpounders go in exactly the opposite direction. They deal with their insecurities by putting on a never-ending show that they don't have any. Chestpounders have a compulsive need to project an aura of invincibility. They spend an incredible amount of time and energy propping up their egos with bragging, one-upsmanship, and endless games of Who's Your Daddy? with anybody in talking range. Any perceived slight to their fragile ego is dealt with by heapings more of the same, since braggadocio is really the only tool a Chestpounder has for dealing with insecurity. The worst situation is when a Chestpounder is in a position of authority over you. Then they're absolutely insufferable. Interestingly, you'd think that putting two Chestpounders together would create a fascinating, self-sustaining bluster machine – a sort of nuclear fission of douchebag swagger. But in my experience, Chestpounders have some sort of a built-in detector/limiter that prevents that from happening as much as you'd imagine. Too bad actually, as that might make them good for something.