How to Not Be a Dick

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Wimps, “Baggage”

Takeaways: We can all be a dick sometimes. But learning to assert yourself appropriately without stepping on the needs, rights, or feelings of others is an essential life skill. If you want to learn how to not be a dick, the key is emotional intelligence. It’s the path to becoming happier, kinder, and more tolerant of people who get under your skin. Fortunately, emotional intelligence is also a skill you can build with practice. Learn how.

Finding Mutual Understanding

Let’s face it: we all have moments. But the question of how we handle these moments when we feel (justifiably!) angry or frustrated with other people is critical, as well as asking what we do with the moments when we lose our cool. While everyone is in agreement that there is a time and place for healthy anger, sometimes the lines can get blurred around whether you’re setting appropriate limits… or whether you’re just being unnecessarily aggressive about making your feelings known. In life coaching and therapy sessions (and especially couples counseling sessions), the topic often comes up of how to grow in emotional intelligence to be able to communicate well, even when you’re upset.

How do we find that balance? This perfect balance between not being a pushover and having a right to your feelings must be weighed out with having compassion for other people. This gets especially difficult when you’re dealing with other people who may not be behaving well themselves. It’s challenging for all of us. (#lifegoals!)

The easy (but less mature) thing to do in the face of conflict is to lash out in anger, push people away, or freeze people out. It’s much harder to stay in the ring and find a path of mutual understanding and repair.  

Emotional Intelligence Skills You Need to Not Be a Dick

At Growing Self we talk a lot about emotional intelligence, and how vital it is to having not just great relationships, but career success too. We think of “emotional intelligence” as being the ability to understand other people and communicate effectively, but one of the crucial core skills of emotional intelligence is actually self-regulation. Self-regulation can be defined as the ability to manage big feelings appropriately, and in such a way as to not damage important relationships. Choosing kindness, processing anger, decompressing after stress, and finding ways to overcome obstacles are all signs of good self-regulation.  

Easier. Said. Than. Done…. particularly when you’re feeling attacked or disrespected. But when you learn how to regulate yourself and handle tough interpersonal situations well, YOU have the opportunity to find solutions, build bridges and strengthen connections.

What Does it Mean to ‘Be a Dick?’

But, we can all be a bit of a dick sometimes (yes, even women). When we’re feeling hurt or unhappy, it’s easy to become self-absorbed, and to forget to consider the needs, rights, and feelings of others. We usually feel justified when we’re being dickish, especially if we feel that we’ve been wronged by the target of our dickishness.

But eventually, it catches up to us. Being unkind leaves you feeling regretful, or at least conflicted. It can also lower your self-esteem, cause you to accept unkind treatment from others (because a deep part of you believes you deserve it), and it can create trouble in your career. Living with integrity attracts true friends, bright opportunities, and healthy relationships into your life.

How Can I Stop Being a Jerk?

If you notice yourself being a little dickish sometimes, don’t despair. Being self-aware about how you treat others is half the battle! There are many people in this world who simply feel entitled to be selfish and unkind, and the fact that you want to work on it shows that being a dick is not in alignment with your core values.

Here are some tips that will help you stop being a jerk:

  1. Care for yourself physically. When you’re overworked, underslept, eating a diet that makes you feel like crap, not getting enough exercise, and not doing things that bring you joy, you’re obviously not going to be at your best. It’s much easier to be generous and tolerant of others when you’re taking care of your body in basic ways. Getting enough sleep, eating foods that nourish you, staying physically active, cultivating close, satisfying relationships, and pursuing hobbies you enjoy will give you a continuous mood boost that makes it much easier to stop being a jerk.
  2. Care for yourself emotionally. Do you ever wonder if you have “anger issues?” If so, that could be a sign of depression, unresolved grief, trauma, or other mental health diagnoses. If you’re not sure, finding a good therapist to talk with about how you’ve been feeling can be a game changer. Aside from mental health issues, if you have a habit of being self-critical, invalidating your own feelings, or you simply haven’t developed the skills to manage emotions before they become overwhelming, it will be hard for you to be your kindest self.
  3. Develop your emotional intelligence. Basically, emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and regulate your own feelings, and understand and respond to other people’s feelings. It’s an essential life skill that has countless benefits, like feeling happier, staying motivated to work toward long-term goals, having better relationships, achieving more in your career, and generally being “good with people.” Fortunately, emotional intelligence is a skill that you can develop by working with a good emotional intelligence coach.
  4. Get clear about your values. What do you want in life? Who do you want to be? What’s your vision for a “life well lived?” When you’re crystal clear on your answers to questions like these, you have a standard to live up to. It helps you to respond with intention rather than reacting from a hurt or angry place.
  5. Surround yourself with kind people. If you’re participating in unhealthy, toxic relationships with people who lack empathy, that’s going to bring out a side of you that is, well, dickish.

How To Not Be A Dick

On the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I had the great pleasure of speaking with NYC-based psychoanalyst Dr. Mark Borg about this subject, and his insights into how to lead a more compassionate life. Dr. Borg is the author of the book, “Don’t Be a Dick: Change Yourself, Change Your World” and he shared thoughtful strategies for how to:

  • Gain the authentic self-awareness necessary to catch yourself when you’re slipping into unnecessary “dickishness”
  • Handle challenging interpersonal situations with grace and tact
  • Cultivate the mindset that will help you stay compassionate with people who are not behaving well
  • Develope strategies to handle extremely triggering situations with your family around the holidays (without getting sucked into conflict)
  • Use the power of empathy for yourself, and others, in order to make the world a better place

All that, and more, on this episode of the podcast. (Both the video and audio versions are included below!)

I hope this perspective and advice helps you and the people you love. And if you’d like to work on any of the skills we discussed today, I invite you to schedule a free consultation.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby


  1. Sahu A, Gupta P, Chatterjee B. Depression is More Than Just Sadness: A Case of Excessive Anger and Its Management in Depression. Indian J Psychol Med. 2014 Jan;36(1):77-9. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.127259. PMID: 24701016; PMCID: PMC3959025.
  2. Fava M, Rosenbaum JF. Anger attacks in depression. Depress Anxiety. 1998;8 Suppl 1:59-63. PMID: 9809215.
  3. Otake K, Shimai S, Tanaka-Matsumi J, Otsui K, Fredrickson BL. HAPPY PEOPLE BECOME HAPPIER THROUGH KINDNESS: A COUNTING KINDNESSES INTERVENTION. J Happiness Stud. 2006 Sep;7(3):361-375. doi: 10.1007/s10902-005-3650-z. PMID: 17356687; PMCID: PMC1820947.

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How to Not Be a Dick

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Wimps, “Baggage”

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