The essence of the latest "Ask a Question" submission:
What has been the biggest challenge for you in the adult life?
There are bullies in adulthood. They try to ruin you to make themselves feel better.
Bullies are those people who don't want to understand my challenges or anyone else's challenges. They want to dismiss me as "strange" or "weird" and ignore any responsibility they might have for creating overwhelming situations. People can be mean, pushy, aggressive, and generally rude. Such attitudes exhaust me. Eventually, the rude person wins, and I have to leave the situation. I can't handle pushy people, yet many people are pushy.
Dealing with the best of people isn't easy for me. Dealing with the mediocre bullies, who are all-too common, is nearly impossible. At least the evil are evil, period. Most adult bullies we encounter in the workplace, school, or in organizations are something else. They aren't evil, but their effects can be.
Those pushy people convinced they are right and you are wrong about everything are the ones I cannot understand. These people stand behind you at the self-checkout line in the grocery store, sighing loudly because they are "too polite" to yell outright that you're too slow. These mediocre people talk behind your back, because they're "too polite" to argue or make claims to your face. What is most annoying about mediocre people is that they believe they are the best of best.
I don't understand most things people do, socially, but I really don't understand tearing down other people to make yourself feel good.
I met someone this week who "jokingly" insisted other people call her "The Queen" of an organization. That's not funny, nor was her attitude towards other people. Someone should remind her the Queen of Hearts loses in the original Lewis Carroll stories. Pride leads to an eventual fall from power.
During the same trip, I met another person who insisted a waiter, yes a waiter, address her as "Doctor." Get over yourself. You aren't better than that waiter. If anything that poor young man has to deal with all manner of jerk during his shift. He was a good waiter, in my opinion, and didn't need to be told what to call a customer. An outright bad person would have been less offensive to me than the mediocre person trying to pump up her own ego.
UPDATE (2011-Jul-28): The doctor involved sent me a note explaining her experiences. I owe her this clarification and an admission that I hadn't thought about how much things have changed. It wasn't that long ago that women in health care were not treated with respect. To be a woman Dr. of any sort was rare. A female doctor was still referred to as "Mrs. X" instead of as "Dr." in many formal and social situations. People called men by their formal titles, but not always women. My generation is far less formal, overall, something I attribute to social media. I can't recall any professor using the title "Dr." and many of my physicians use their first names. Times have changed, but it was wrong of me to forget the past.Mediocre people don't always intend to be mean, self-centered, bullies. I wonder if insecurities are to blame. I have no idea. These people don't realize they're being mean. When they are told they are being jerks, they can and do honestly deny meaning any harm.
These mediocre people don't get it when a waiter no longer smiles, or when people no longer believe it is funny to shout "Off with her head!" during meetings. Mediocre people don't have a clue how mean they are, because they can't imagine they are anything other than perfect.
Self-important people don't ask what's wrong when you start shaking. They don't wait for an explanation when you are trying to say the lights or sounds are giving you a headache. The mediocre not only cannot appreciate your special needs, but they dismiss your challenges as being imagined or the latest trend. They can't imagine you really have a cognitive challenge. You can't be autistic. You can't have a learning disability. The only way the mediocre admit to your challenge is if the mediocre get to offer you advice and "help" you.
I tried to explain to one of the mediocre people that I have some serious medical issues. How did she respond? She posted to a listserv that I stormed out from a dinner and exhibited "strange behavior." She didn't hear a word I said about seizures, palsy, or anything else. She made up her mind to dislike me because I wasn't perfect like her. I didn't know she was brilliant, which would have proven my brilliance in her mind.
Those people, and there are too many of them, are the challenge of daily life. They are the middle managers (our bosses in many cases). They are the customers who "know" how to use the computer and try to tell you how to solve the problem — the problem they called tech support to solve. They are the parents of "geniuses" who threaten to file a complaint because their perfect child does "B" or even "C" work.
People aren't all mediocre, but a great many self-important people are. If you don't play along with their self-image, they can and will try to damage your reputation. I've had professors, doctors, and lawyers try to play the "I'm important and you're not" role.
I try very hard to be a good, decent person. I sometimes fall short. But at least I know I'm not better than anyone else. I don't feel entitled to anything. I believe I have a responsibility to help other people when I can, and they owe me nothing for choices made and actions taken.
If I were a better person, I wouldn't let the mediocre people ruin my days. But, they do.
My wife says this is the simple summation of the challenge I'm describing: There are bullies we will encounter throughout life. Bullies are all ages, and they always have a rationalization for being jerks.
I can't deal with bullies, but I sure meet a lot of them.