Arguments With Idiots: Part 1

Boss, Friends, IT Culture, Legal
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There are a lot of stupid people out there. Most of us are stupid about something – and there are plenty of legitimate reasons for it. Every now and then you will encounter a select subsection of people that are stupid about the very subject matter that is their professional occupation. These people are not just merely stupid due to under education or ignorance, they are outright idiots that are immune to knowledge and reasoning.

Over the next two posts I intend to teach you one of my other superpowers: How to spot an idiot. And how to get naked pictures of Alex Rogers.

Causation Loop

You may ask.. Vlad, what is the difference between someone that is just stupid and someone that is a complete friggin idiot? It’s quite simple.

Stupid people that do not realize they are stupid are idiots. Even when you prove it to them that they are stupid, complete with footnotes and references, they will still maintain that they are correct.

Hint #1: Idiots tend to be angered when you attempt to educate them.

Anger Fueled By Frustration

Now you might wonder.. But Vlad, how can I tell if someone is just frustrated due to miscommunication rather than their own inability to read, write and communicate effectively?

Byproduct of transition from stupidity to enlightenment is shame. When you find out that you were wrong about something you get this shameful, humbling feeling. Well, that was pretty stupid of me, I wish I had read that manual. Idiots are incapable of being ashamed or humble, instead they get angry in attempt to make you feel bad about pointing it out to them.

Hint #2: Idiots will be frustrated when you solve their problem and in the process make it apparent that they were wrong from the start.

Haphazard Misdirection

Now that you know the cause and the reaction, what if the frustration from the original issue results in another assault of anger, frustration and mental incapacity?

Idiots are the last ones to know it but incapable of admitting it. Think about it, when you’re out with your buddies and you say something stupid (“Whale is a fish. Dolphin is a mammal”) you will get corrected. You will then pull out your smartphone and a few seconds later Wikipedia will paint your face bright red. That is how normal people react to it. Idiots will argue that the Wikipedia is a flawed resource that has been proven wrong in the past. Idiots will claim that the research is inconclusive. Idiots will claim that you purposefully edited Wikipedia and will offer to bet an inordinate amount of money that they are right when all the facts point to the contrary.

Hint #3: Idiots will blame everything but themselves for the problem.

. . .

There is hope.

My superpower is based on a patent-pending 3-step process for identifying an idiot and getting out of their way.

Why? Ever notice how idiots never seem to be busy? Wanna know why? Because normal people are busy reading, studying, experimenting, testing, dealing with problems. Idiots don’t let that stuff preoccupy them, they use their ample time to argue with anyone that will listen.

If you are in a corporate environment and you get stuck dealing with an idiot through no fault of your own, the inability to properly filter out an idiot could negatively impact not just your company but your own career. All the time these folks save by not reading the manual, not watching the video, not attending training and not reading anything in general or dealing with people that are trying to help them… is instead funneled into endless Google and LinkedIn searches for your manager/supervisor. Whom they will go to blaming you first.

Your boss will not know the background. They will likely not even know the nature of the complaint. They will just be stunned by the complaint and the frustration that this poor client faced dealing with the company and would naturally assume that you’ve dropped the ball somewhere. My god Travis, do we suck so bad that we’re driving these people to threats of physical violence? WTF did you break?

Stop. Before you actually hit Send on that email or IM, take a moment to run through the Vlad Idiot Filter:

VIF:

1. Is this person irrationally angry about a routine process?

2. Is this person attempting to place overemphasized, irrational blame on someone or something?

3. Is this person unleashing their entire arsenal of abusive language on a multitude of targets?

Let’s face it, it’s likely that your company sucks at something.

It’s also likely that some key process wasn’t implemented correctly.

It’s possible that the client encountered a bug in the system.

It’s understandable that you may have failed to deliver the service at a level the client expected.

It’s possible.

It’s impossible that your company sucks, is ridden with bugs, rude people and performs constantly below the norm. It’s impossible because you’d be out of business. Hell, even Microsoft and AT&T are multibillion dollar industries that get awards for product design and customer service (respectively). The odds that you have managed to fail in such an epic and spectacular way may be remote.. the likelyhood that you’re dealing with an idiot though.. well, read on.

How To Manage Idiots

Personally, we have a no a-hole policy. You yell at my staff, or are in any way abusive, you can take your business elsewhere. We have the same policy internally, if you yell at a client you’re fired. But this may not be practical or easy to do in your business, particularly if you are dealing with a big client or important account (though you’ll find it that this is typically not the case, idiots tend not to be successful or at least not allowed to interact with anyone beyond the security gates of your local Walmart.

So here is how to manage idiots. You want to follow the DARP protocol.

Disarm – If you are confronted by an angry idiot, the last thing you want to do is justify their behavior or encourage it by a quick response. Let them cool off. Create a folder that says “Tomorrow” and drag the email there. If they are insistent on an immediate response tell them you’re researching it and look forward to helping them but want to make sure you provide the correct answer. Never, EVER, argue with an idiot.

Apologize – Offer an apology or sincere note of sympathy. Especially if it makes your eye twitch while typing it. Remember that idiots are reinforced by confirmation of their behavior because they act on impulses, hunches, gut feelings and anything that doesn’t even remotely resemble facts. Who knows, they could even be right! Apologies, sincere or otherwise, give people a sense that they have at least been acknowledged. Statistically speaking, most people do not thrive or seek out confrontation, if you truly failed someone they would just do business elsewhere, not trying to fight it out with you in the steel cage. Apologize and ..

Redirect – Remember how idiots are never to be blamed for their own stupidity? Just because you may be able to prove them wrong and tell them their behavior is not appropriate doesn’t mean they will respect it. Redirect the anger somewhere else, so when you bring back the bad news (after you confirm you’re not actually at fault) the frustration pushes them aside. For example.. “That does not sound right, I am sorry. I am going to get my team on it and figure out what may have happened.”

Point to resources – Idiots will not be happy with the answer unless you offer them a way to disengage the confrontation. Instead of simply solving the problem that in fact does not exist.. offer them a resource. For example, point to a blog or a knowledge base article and ask them if they had attempted to run through that. Point out that the resource has been useful in the past and ask them to give it a shot.

Other Helpful Tips

Keep in mind that idiots are not plentiful and often act as unicorn ninjas. You will not know that you’re dealing with an idiot until you’re way into an argument that you shouldn’t be having in the first place. So no matter what you do, always triple tap.

Triple tap is the process of checking off the boxes that point to a suspicious idiot. I reply to all the email that I get. But every now and then I get something that is so ridiculously unbelievable that I just have to check. If I don’t know you and I’ve made you so angry at me personally, something is wrong. If we suck so bad and you’re trying to give us your hard earned money, something is wrong. If you’ve tried to get us to help and we’ve been terrible.. well, I kind of know the people that work here.. something is wrong. Count to 3 then hit the Forward button and dispatch it to someone else.

Finally, send the drone. At ExchangeDefender we have this acronym PUTPAGAGAC.. It stands for “Pick up the phone and give a guy a call”. We all somehow manage to write emails that sound like we just lost a world war. You could be sending a funny happy birthday card to a friend and because he’s in a bad mood he reads it and thinks “What a dick.” It happens. For ages, men handled things like men. Really f’n dumb. If they left you a nasty voicemail, send them a polite email. If they sent you a nasty email, pick up the phone and give them a call. I can count the number of people on my hands that I’ve had to fire because I had an unpleasant phone conversation with them. Given the option, I probably would have punched them in the mouth or worse. But that’s the beauty of the modern communications – things are rarely as bad as they seem.

For example, if you’re reading this blog post and aren’t laughing your ass off or saying “Oh my god, I know the dude that is just like that!”, you’re missing the point (and of Vladville in general). Real people, real business disputes, real problems are rarely so serious, so critical and so bad. But you know what, every now and then you’ll find an idiot or a crazy person. And as you’ve heard by now: Never argue with an idiot. They’ll drag you to their level and beat you with experience.

One Response to Arguments With Idiots: Part 1

  1. RandyS says:

    Never argue with an idiot. They’ll drag you to their level and beat you with experience.

    Now, there is a quotable quote.

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