Learn to take (and give) shit

Someone recently asked me for some non-generic career advice. My advice was to learn take and give shit. Beyond the fundamentals, nothings served me better than some friendly shit-giving.

Frankly, this skill goes beyond work (it’s a life skill). I consider good friends to be people that I can make fun of and who can make fun of me without feelings getting hurt and offense being taken.

When I think of this skill, I immediately think of a scene from Gran Torino here

At one point after I had been working for my current employer for a while, my boss’s boss came by to ask me to go to something with him. We’d had a little bit of a back and forth before then. On the way, he told me I was too young to be going to this particular meeting. I said something like I’m getting older faster than you’re getting thinner. He told me I was an asshole and then he brought me everywhere he went.

Obviously, given modern taboos, this sort of relationship is only possible between people of the same sex, race, sexual orientation, etc. No one ever seems to discuss the fact that the threat of lawsuits means you can’t really ever get too close with some of your co-workers.

25 Responses to Learn to take (and give) shit

  1. Taggart says:

    This is absolutely true. I’ve found more importantly then having this skill is avoiding those that do not. It’s vastly skewed by gender (men take a personal joke better), and I have no experience with race (nor will I try).

  2. Handle says:

    There’s a whole science (mostly focused on business organizations and the military) behind the social dynamics of small groups – how they get along, what really builds trust, cohesion, morale, camaraderie, the optimal mix of personalities etc. It’s the Micro version of what Putnam looks at in terms of how this works (or fails to work) on the Macro scale in his social capital analysis. The better corporations and more elite combat units use the insights to put together their teams.

    If you actually want to get things done effectively – you end up with something like a bunch of friendly (male) buddies or band of brothers who are constantly taunting, teasing, provoking, and joking around in a way that is understood to be good-natured, amiable, and well-intentioned.

    Diversity is not necessarily a barrier to forming a good team, but it is something that takes longer than when folks come from more homogeneous backgrounds and have a common mode of interacting.

    The number one thing that will absolutely destroy any ability to bridge the gap from robotic “workplace neutered professionalism” to enjoyable organic cooperation is when potential team members feel they have to constantly be doing social-taboo calculations and “hold their tongues” as opposed to speaking freely. For the courtier-class, such diplomatic skills are expected and encouraged. For the average Joe, it’s profoundly stressful, irritating, burdensome, and oppressive. The fear that someone who is supposed to be your colleague could be your ticket to destruction if they don’t like what you’ve said is both terrifying and the seed of distrust and animosity.

    The main thing in-groups do to socialize is talk about out-groups. You can literally see the relief show up on the faces of a bunch of X’s when the last Y leaves the room.

  3. Samson J. says:

    When I think of this skill, I immediately think of a scene from Gran Torino here

    I couldn’t watch more than 15 seconds. I HATE PEOPLE WHO ACT LIKE THAT.

    • Samson J. says:

      I need to reiterate that I cannot believe you offered this (this!) as good career advice. I have never met any adult who acts remotely like this, and I cannot imagine anyone who acts this way being liked in any workplace. Maybe, like chalupas, it’s another thing Canadians just don’t understand.

  4. Johnycomelately says:

    Top post.

    Couldn’t agree more, it’s a form of agree and amplify.

    I think it creates a meta state of stoic indifference that is funny and disarming at the same time.

    Grand Torino scene is my all time favourite.

    • Handle says:

      There’s nothing racist about it actually – juries are routinely full of ordinary people (and yeah, the occasional idiot or ethnic-solidarity nullifier) who aren’t competent to do the job we’re asking them to do and have difficulty wading through the legal nuances.

      Both civil and criminal trials are completely different beasts today as when compared to their common law origins, utterly transformed by both jurisprudential and technologies revolutions. Up until the 20th century, the primary function of jurors was to assess the veracity and relative credibility of the predominant form of evidence: live witness testimony. Trials were short and simple and almost anyone could perform their role adequately. Not today.

      The solution is also not racist. It impacts all races equally.

  5. Tank says:

    Well put, particularly the last paragraph, which has taken much of the joy out of life.

    A few years back I was dictating something to my secretarcy while she was typing it. As I looked at the screen over her shoulder to follow along, I realized I had rested my hand on her shoulder. She did not seem to notice, but it dawned on me – holy s*** …. can’t do that !!!!! Turned out, she did not give a crap, we already had a good relationship.

  6. Bill says:

    One of the interesting things about this sort of interaction is the way that the ritual insults hover between being actual critiques and jokes. It provides a kind of deniable, gentle feedback. The guy who *always* takes one hour, fifteen minute lunch hours is going to get razzed regularly for that. Is it a joke? Is it a real criticism? Either way, he knows everybody notices his lunch break.

  7. Samson J. says:

    I tried to watch the clip again, but still couldn’t stomach more than a minute or so. I am stunned that an adult (one with children, no less!) would endorse such a piece of vile, base filth, but furthermore, what I particularly can’t fathom is how, as a capital “R” reactionary, you fail to see this clip for the horrifying cultural propaganda that it is. Normalizing this type of behaviour; teaching a child that “this is how grown men interact”?!? I’d frankly rather see pro-homosexual propaganda than this. You may as well have linked to a gangsta rap video.

  8. panjoomby says:

    that was awesome, dude – thanks. made me watch all the Gran Torino clips. & it’s true, that’s how folks bond – just like puppies play fighting – there’s what looks like viciousness in it, but that’s how bonding goes. people may want it to be one way, but it’s the other. (paraphrasing marlo from the wire). it’s the way natural selection made it.

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  10. RS says:

    Also, unrelatedly, a lot of work (and other aspects of life) have a bullshit aspect to it, a certain pointlessness. Even blue collar stuff. You know, half-crazy projects for old ladies.

    If you are a perspicacious, para-aspie, INTP, high-P sensu Eysenck type, it may not be in your interest to let on that a fair amount of the activity seems like a waste more or less. Don’t go around being a scorched earth truthseeker, wildly shredding everything phony like a fucking dionysian t-rex, the way you would in your quest for Real knowledge of the 20th C. For instance I said, “damn, I know it” about the modernist siding we were putting on — but only after first the boss then the sub-boss (in that order) said that the customer had some pretty weird taste. Old siding had to come down in any case — decayed old cedar. But nearly as often, one tears out perfectly charming old constructions or landscapes. In this case the Jefe tried to sell him on something better I’m sure, but he wasn’t into it.

    As for giving shit, I have actually given heavy shit across racial lines. But I have nothing to brag of. This guy gave SOOO much shit to everyone, SO early and so hard, in such wild contravention of all the ‘rules’ (and he was absolutely, totally hilarious) that it was actually possible to bang away at him with heavy artillery across White/nonWhite lines. Even then I did not actually criticize his race/culture at all, in terms of suggesting any deficiency ; I just mocked it as foreign/alien and ‘weird’. Two different things really. Used to give close & old friends heavier shit than that, even when I was mainline lib, but that’s not work.

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