That Guy*

by brendanthebard

*Male pronouns are here used in a gender-neutral sense.

That Guy.

You know him.  I know him.  Heck, some days I still see him in the mirror.  Back in the day, I used to see him in the mirror pretty much every day.  Funny thing, though – I didn’t recognize him at the time.

I’m sure others did.  But no one told me.  No one took me aside and said, “Hey, kid.  You’ve got some talent, and it’s clear to everyone that you’re well aware of the fact.  In other words, you come across like a pompous, egotistical jerk.  I just thought you should know.  Wanna talk?”

I really wish someone had.

But it takes a lot of … something (love, maybe?) to approach someone who is as totally self-involved as I was and say, “Dude.  We need to talk.”

An old mentor of mine used to say, “The first step of any procedure is to decide to use the procedure.”

Is it worth doing anything at all?   If the experience of people who’ve dealt with substance-abuse interventions is any guide, things may not go swimmingly.  The person who needs to hear the message is often not in a good place to hear the message. (There are a BUNCH of Bible verses that say exactly that.)

You’re certainly taking a risk by saying something to That Guy.  They could blow up on you.  But you’re also taking a risk by saying nothing, especially if you’re in a position to do something *koff Peers? koff*.  Because That Guy could blow up on everybody else and cause a lot of collateral damage.

So you have to ask yourself: What’s the risk?  What’s the potential upside of saying something? The downside?

And NO, it is NOT a horrible thing to think in those terms!  This is essentially a *parenting* task, folks. Every decent parent understands that you pick your battles – especially with adolescents, and That Guy is usually an emotional adolescent.

If That Guy appears utterly cast in concrete, with no hope of changing, then, well, you’re just going to have to deal with it and do what you can to avoid collateral damage.  Avoidance, containment, mitigation.  It’s like the rhino-hide fighter – if enough people decline to play with him, he either goes away or asks why no one wants to play.  (That of course begs the question of whether That Guy has enough talent that you’d want him around if he weren’t such a jerk.)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, if That Guy is simply young and talented but clueless, then saying something might do a great deal of good. (As with parenting teens, though, timing is everything.)

And then of course, there’s the Great Muddy Middle. (Isn’t it great that the correct answer to the most difficult questions of life is usually, “It depends”?)

So if you decide to “use the procedure”, what IS The Procedure for addressing That Guy?

You’re presumably in some position of influence, but you’re in no position to command.  (Laurels can drop a hammer on Apprentices.) You can only point out and suggest, and hope that That Guy has enough respect for you that your words carry some weight.

So start with not being your own edition of That Guy.  (When TWO of That Guy get together, things rarely end well.  There was a Pennsic once where, as an old friend who was there said, the kings of the East and Middle stood toe to toe punching the button each wore on his chest with the label, “Push Here to P!$$ Off”.  I had to write a satire about that one.)

Your job is not to Correct The Errant Miscreant.  It is to minimize further damage.  (Think about the difference….)

“B-b-b-but Brendan!  I don’t want to confront anyone!”  Or, “That Guy doesn’t even know me!  He won’t take a suggestion from me!”

Likely very true.  But that’s not an excuse to Do Nothing.  You can still Do Something, even if that Something is to Not Be That Guy.

How does that work? That Guy thrives on praise, but over time Not-That-Guy gets more praise.

We can at least hope that eventually he’ll notice.

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