Ami had a friend in college who taught her the acronym PAFU, which stands for People Are Fucked Up. At the time, she thought it was funny. More than 15 years later, she’s adopted it as her life motto. It’s the truth, people can be major assholes. Sometimes they don’t mean to be — and sometimes they do — but it’s a cold, hard fact that there’s absolutely nothing you can do about other people’s fucked-up-ed-ness, except have a solid coping strategy for how to let their crap roll like water off a duck’s back. (Thank you, Jinx Monsoon). It ’tis what it ’tis. Encountering assholes is part of the human condition. Here’s how to deal…
Asshole Tendencies: Specializes in moping, sulking, self-pity, sucking all joy out of a room, and raining on parades.
Where To Spot Her: Lurking around the lunch buffet at a work meeting, lamenting the fact that she can’t eat dairy and hasn’t been promoted in 12 years.
How To Deal: Do not feed into Sadsack Sondra’s tragic monologue, and do not let her dampen your enthusiasm. If you must talk to her, envision putting up a wall that will block all of her toxic vibes until you can find a chance to excuse yourself. Then give your happiest friend a quick call, just to renew your faith in humanity.
Asshole Tendencies: She’s the woman who fights on the daily with the cashier, the cab driver … YOU.
Where To Spot Her: At your birthday dinner, sitting in the corner with her arms crossed, waiting for one of your friends to say something that sets her off.
How To Deal: When Annie is in angry mode — which is most of the time — you must remain still and calm and quiet like prey does in the wild. Sometimes this will make her even angrier. But it’s better than ending up in a fist fight with Annie.
Asshole Tendencies: Anything you can do, Winston can do — and has done — better, and he can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Where To Spot Him: At a party, where he keeps interrupting your story about your trip to Brazil to talk about the time he took a 3,000 mile walking tour of South America with his friend Adrian Grenier.
How To Deal: Smile and nod while slowly backing away.
Asshole Tendencies: There’s not a single accomplishment — from trying a new form of exercise to getting your PHd — that Tammy won’t try to squash. Why? Because Tammy feels better when she’s making you feel worse.
Where To Spot Her: Teardown Tammys are like cicadas, they’re gestating everywhere about to take over the Earth. Right now your Teardown Tammy may be a harmless larva at work, at home, in your friend circle. But once she matures, watch out!
How To Deal: Dealing with Teardown Tammy requires a modicum of inner strength. When she squashes you for getting a promotion, you have to know inside your heart that you are good and deserving and not let TT make you feel worthless, because lord knows she’s going to try.
Asshole Tendencies: A horrifying and seemingly endless stream of prejudice and hate speech that runs the gamut from sexism to racism to homophobia. If it’s close-minded and hateful, Bill is on board.
Where To Spot Him: Ranting on the bus, bloviating on Fox News, and unfortunately for many of us, sitting two chairs down at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
How To Deal: If you know him well enough, call him out on his behavior. You won’t change his mind, but nevertheless, it’s important to stand up for what’s right. If he’s a possibly unstable stranger on the bus, give him a wide berth and roll your eyes privately.
Asshole Tendencies: Whether it’s your new dress or your decision to have a baby or your taste in men, Jane has an opinion on everything — and it’s rarely a positive one.
Where To Spot Her: Leaving tsk-tsk comments on all your Facebook status updates.
How To Deal: Remember that Jane’s constant judgments are more a reflection of her own issues and often have very little to do with reality. Don’t take any of her snide remarks personally. If you’re feeling especially bold, you can try to turn some of her contradictory statements against her (“Jane, is that whole wheat bread? I thought you said gluten was poison!”), but it’s usually best to just avoid her disapproving stares when you can.
Asshole Tendencies: Some people lack basic manners, but this guy is waaaaaayyy beyond that — he’s just straight up rude.
Where To Spot Him: Cutting you off in traffic and then flipping you off.
How To Deal: Avoid at all costs, but if you find yourself facing the wrath of a Rude Randy, stay cool and collected. Rude people are going to be rude no matter what, so you might as well keep the interaction as short and calm as possible.
Asshole Tendencies: He swears up and down that he’s going to do something or be somewhere, but he never does it, and he’s never there.
Where To Spot Him: With Phil, it’s probably more accurate to discuss the places you definitely won’t find him, which include that party he swore he would come to, the bank depositing the money he owes you, or the final presentation for your group project in college.
How To Deal: Once Phil shows you his true colors, don’t rely on him for anything. Even the smallest tasks and favors should be parceled out elsewhere. If he ever decides to show up, good for him, but don’t expect him to change his ways. He probably never will. Adjust your expectations instead.
Asshole Tendencies: Specializes in thinking everything everyone does or says has to do with her, getting upset over something as insignificant as not being invited along for lunch, and lots and lots of pouting.
Where To Spot Her: Sitting in a dark corner, sullen, waiting for you to ask her what’s wrong.
How To Deal: The best thing to do is to ignore Oversensitive Olivia’s inky moods and allow her to come to you. When she does, which she probably with eventually, don’t apologize for not asking her if she wanted to have a salad with you. Explain to her that sometimes you want to eat salad alone and it has nothing to do with her.
Asshole Tendencies: Having a tendency to ruin everybody’s night is totally her thing. She’s a pro at getting drunk, hooking up with a weirdo dude and on a bad night, getting arrested for urinating in public.
Where To Spot Her: Self-Destructive Sadie likes to come out at night. You can find her anywhere where there’s trouble to be had.
How To Deal: You are not Self-Destructive Sadie’s mother, so don’t try to reign her in. When she’s in destroy mode, no one’s gonna stop her. Try to keep an eye out and make sure she’s safe. And then, in the light of day, have a serious conversation about how you can support her in taking better care of herself.
Asshole Tendencies: Questioning other people’s abilities, taking over projects and conversations, micromanaging everything.
Where To Spot Her: At the office, where she’s completely taken over a project that was your idea and banned you from working on it because “it’s just easier this way.”
How To Deal: If Controlling Carol is cutting into your professional accomplishments, she must be confronted. Gently assert yourself and tell her that you feel she’s taken on more than her share. In general, the best way to deal with controlling people is to convince them they have more control than they actually have. Remember in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where the women in the family manipulated the dad into thinking something was his idea, when it was their plan all along? Just like that. Make them feel like they’re in control, but don’t actually give them any.
Asshole Tendencies: Her lack of impulse control makes spending the day with her absolutely unbearable for you. But she has not a clue she’s so oppressive.
Where To Spot Her: Stepping on your foot at the grocery store. Yelling at her kid in public. Having a combative phone conversation that everyone can hear.
How To Deal: Unaware Ursula needs to be made aware of how her behavior affects others. It works best to call her out in the moment. Say something like, “Hey Ursula! We all can hear your phone call. Do you mind going in the other room?”