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How do you know if you are surrounded by assholes?

It is important for me to provide some context here before I get to my actual question:

One of the core values of The Power Moves is to not blame others.

Even before I discovered The Power Moves, I always knew that I was responsible for my life and my success.

I never cared much for Shakespeare, but I think perhaps the best line he ever wrote is "The fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves."

Certainly many people have had it far worse than I  have: I was educated for 15 years at an elite prep school, graduated from a good university and my family paid for my tuition.  I have never been beaten or physically abused.  I have always enjoyed good health.  I always remind myself of those things and others and told myself that therefore I have zero excuse to not thrive, succeed, and have a great life.

I have in fact achieved a level of success that I'm proud of even though I certainly don't have everything I want and I work hard every day to get to the next level.

Power Moves has been extremely valuable to me.  I am currently repeating the course, and preparing a summary of the course for myself because I find the content to be so instructive.  I had a real "blind spot" when it came to all of the issues covered in the course, so it has really opened my eyes.

Having said all of that, there is one thing that keeps jumping out at me as I go through the course for a second time, and it is the last thought that would have ever occurred to me:

Based on the course content, I cannot escape the conclusion that for practically my entire life, I have been surrounded by a bunch of unbelievable assholes that have done everything they possibly can to destroy me.

I say this because practically every Power Move that is discussed in the course as being a way to sabotage someone or break rapport with someone or put someone in the weaker position has been done to me many times by many different people, often at key moments in my life.  What's more, before I discovered Power Moves about a year ago, I had zero tools to handle these challenges -- not only am I not a "natural" when it comes to this stuff, but it is also certainly true that no one ever made the slightest effort to explain these things to me.  In fact, there have been many times when people who probably could have helped to some degree just stood by and watched it happen, even my so called "friends."

Again, I am not blaming them.  I have succeeded despite them.

My point is that BEFORE I "enrolled" in Power University and discovered the content, I had a MUCH higher opinion of the people in my life than I do now.  I now realize that part of the reason why previously I was more willing to give the people in my life the benefit of the doubt is that for the most part, I have been surrounded by people who on the surface seem like the "right" sort of people in terms of things like background, education, high powered jobs etc.

My questions about this:

Does everyone feel the way that I do, that they are surrounded by assholes trying to destroy them?

Is there any way for me to determine if I am really right about what I am saying about the people in my life, or if I am not viewing things clearly and accurately?

Again, my point here is not so say: "Poor me, I failed but it's their fault, not mine."

What DOES bother me is that these thoughts are making me feel angry at the people in my life. The thoughts I am having are causing me to like and trust the people around me less.

I wonder what it is about me that is so unlikable, or makes me appear so weak or easy to exploit that makes people treat me so badly in the first place -- certainly I'm more than willing to grant that much of this is MY fault, and it's not just "them."

I assume that sometimes people are nice and helpful to others.  So if people are practically never nice and helpful to me -- unless I am paying them to do something for me -- it must be my fault.

Social media is awash in memes that saying things like "If someone doesn't respect you and treat you right, cut them out of your life."  There are similar sentiments expressed in Power University.  But what do you do if every single person isn't respecting you and treating you right?

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

Very interesting question.

For now, I move it from the private forum into "self-development" since I don't see any personally identifiable information or PU-only content.

I'll get back to answer it later.

If in the meanwhile anyone's had any similar experience, I'm happy to learn more.

Matthew Whitewood and Social_Strategist#1 have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodSocial_Strategist#1
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Alright, some answers for now:

Q.: do you feel surrounded by assholes in your life?

Personally, I don't feel so.

Why "feel" in italic?

That's the key.

The "Arm's & Neurons' Length" Strategy

To begin with, I actively avoid giving assholes important positions in my life -the "at arm's length part"-.

And, when I cannot avoid their physical presence, I still avoid giving them much "mental" real estate in my life.

So if I start focusing on the assholes who've been -or who are- around me, I have (had) lots of them.

For example, my neighbor is one person you could consider a manipulative asshole.
She's got that slimy "always on" fake smile on her face, always ready to quarrel with people, always ready to sue.
She was the inspiration behind the "fake disclosure" manipulative gambit.

But I never consider her an "asshole in my life" because no matter how physically close she is, or how often I see her, she does not enter the "people in my life" category.

I have some sort of a mental category for her that says "low-quality: stay on her good side, but from a distance. Overall, ignore".

So she never grows close, neither as an enemy, nor as a friend. She's in a powerless, segregated limbo.

Does that make sense?

I think this could be an important approach that might deserve some more flashing out.
Because there have been times in my life when I couldn't as effectively segregate those whom I deemed "assholes", like with former bosses for example, and that noticeably lowered the qualify of my life.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

A few more notes:

  • It's possible that certain environments breed more assholes

It's entirely possible that certain cultures / locations / workplaces attract more assholes + get the worst out of people.

Places and cultures with very high competition and with lots of "status-seeking" can result in more assholes.

  • It's possible that the "power-unaware you" attracted more assholes

It's possible that when you were unaware of asshole-behavior, you did not screen for better quality and more value-adding people in your life.

Conversely, you might have also missed opportunities for win-win, value-adding relationships with those who were not assholes.

Over time, that lack of screening and that lack of active effort in the more win-win relationships led to a lower-quality social circle.

  • It's possible that the "power-unaware you" attracted more asshole-like behavior

As someone said: "people treat you the way you let them treat you".

When in the past you weren't as aware of generally value-taking behavior (manipulative, one-upping, covertly-aggressive etc. etc.) you were also communicating in a myriad of ways that it was OK to take value from you and/or let you sink.

  • It's possible you're overly focusing on negative behavior (and will later grow out of it)

Most people are not 100% "good" and 100% "assholes".

It's possible that in this period you're over-focusing on the negative behavior, so you "see" more negative behavior, and might potentially miss on more positive signals.
That might lead to an over-estimation of people's levels of assholishness.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

How do you know if it's you or them?

And for the last part:

How do you know if it's "them" or you?

A third-party observer with good social intuition who interacts with both the assholes and the individual surrounded by the assholes might be in the best-placed position to give some feedback.

Bar that, I don't (yet) have in mind a clear way with a bunch of reliable steps to self-assess the situation.

I guess that in most situations it's a mix of different causes.
The ones we discussed earlier, the lack of power-awareness that led to no screening and little boundaries is likely often in that mix.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I am guessing here.
That's only so much I can work with from your post.

Certainly many people have had it far worse than I  have: I was educated for 15 years at an elite prep school, graduated from a good university and my family paid for my tuition.  I have never been beaten or physically abused.  I have always enjoyed good health.

It could be the case that you lack experience in dealing with assholes from your good background.
But it goes both ways because many people get mentally affected when dealing with assholes when growing up.
As such, I think growing up in a good environment is generally a good thing.

I would say that a good education is priceless as well.
It's important to hang around people who are high quality and going places in life.

My point is that BEFORE I "enrolled" in Power University and discovered the content, I had a MUCH higher opinion of the people in my life than I do now.  I now realize that part of the reason why previously I was more willing to give the people in my life the benefit of the doubt is that for the most part, I have been surrounded by people who on the surface seem like the "right" sort of people in terms of things like background, education, high powered jobs etc.

Could you give an example of a person which you previously thought of in higher opinion but now you realised is not as high quality?
A few situations would help too.

Generally, as Lucio has alluded to before, the cream and scum climb the hierarchies.
They also get into the best universities and schools.
The cream gains power through win-win relationships and value-adding behaviours while being power-aware.
The scum gains power through Machiavellian strategies.

It can be challenging to spot the difference which is why you may not have realised it.
The highly refined scum does not come across as a stereotypical asshole.
He/she can be very warm and appear very collaborative.

My Personal Experience

I can speak for myself.
Previously, I was good at getting things done but was not very power dynamics aware.
As such, I attracted a lot of the wrong people in business.

The ones we discussed earlier, the lack of power-awareness that led to no screening and little boundaries is likely often in that mix.

I realised screening is very important.
You can pretty much ruin any goal of yours by surrounding yourself with the wrong people.
Even if you are very good at executing within your own area of conrol.

  • It's possible that the "power-unaware you" attracted more asshole-like behavior

As someone said: "people treat you the way you let them treat you".

When in the past you weren't as aware of generally value-taking behavior (manipulative, one-upping, covertly-aggressive etc. etc.) you were also communicating in a myriad of ways that it was OK to take value from you and/or let you sink.

I think only people with very high ethical standards don't take advantage of people who can be easily taken advantage of.
Because it's in our nature to maximise our self-interest.
Gaining free social credit is like seeing free money on the table.
One must be able to resist temptation.

  • It's possible you're overly focusing on negative behavior (and will later grow out of it)

Most people are not 100% "good" and 100% "assholes".

It's possible that in this period you're over-focusing on the negative behavior, so you "see" more negative behavior, and might potentially miss on more positive signals.
That might lead to an over-estimation of people's levels of assholishness.

Sometimes I am an asshole too.
This most often happens when I am forced to deal with assholes.

(Continued) The "Arm's & Neurons' Length" Strategy

I see this as one huge benefit of learning power dynamics.
Once you have the confidence of going out to forge collaborative, positive relationships, it also gives you the confidence of ending any value-taking, manipulative relationship.

Sometimes interests align at the start and then diverges.
Then people start becoming manipulative.
That's the time to cut things off.
This seems to happen with some friendships.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Many thanks for all of the great feedback on this topic.  I know it's impossible to answer precisely.  I think it's a combination of the fact that I'm in an "asshole rich environment" AND it's been exacerbated by the fact that I only am now learning the power moves.

Hey Guys,

 

wanted to add my two cents to the matter.

I find incredibly insightful Lucio’s segmentation tactic.

Just because someone is your neighbour, lives in the same city, or has been a part of your life, does NOT mean that person is part of your life.

If you consider every person you interact with for more than once a month as part of your life, then you will always be surrounded by difficult people.

In fact, according to Robert Green, 20% of the people are toxic.

And while I am an optimist and believe you can turn some of the people  in this percentage into allies, the data is still relevant.

So as Lucio pointed out, give these people a label such as : forget about them/not important or something along those lines.

It is impossible to eliminate someone from your life ( for the simple fact that the person will still be in your memory). But the great news is you do not need to eliminate them to live a great life and feel good.

Just give these people the right label.

They’re not part of your life. Don’t waste mental energy on that.

As for Lucio’s idea of the tendency of over focusing on the negative when learning power dynamics, I can totally relate. And you might be in that phase as well.

I was at a party the other day and had an overall good time. Some good conversation, some good effort to get out of my comfort zone, great food etc.

But for the most I focused on the negative :how people who already knew each other didn’t to much to include me and focused on the 2-3 somewhat passive aggressive women who were there.

That’s not bad on the short term : you want to be able to recognize power moves and to handle them.

but on the long run, you want to switch to a more optimistic attitude.  No outing will be perfect and in most outings - even though we don’t realize this - we do very well, but are too hard on ourselves.

So do make sure to value positive over negative, because as cal Newport said : we over focus on the negative and forget about the positive.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano
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