I’m on to you, buddy.

I have to admit, you have a good game. When we see each other, you smile and you charm and you engage. In fact, it’s quite apparent you don’t have a malicious bone in your body. After all, you like people – you really like people. You care about saying the right thing at the right time, and you shudder at the thought of being rude or offensive or hurtful. You want people to like you, just as you like them.

But I am on to you. I’m so on to you. In fact, I have given you a name — the nice asshole (N.A.) — and have identified some of your telling characteristics and behaviors.

Most importantly, the nice asshole does whatever he wants, regardless of who he puts out. So what if someone, for instance, has spent the better part of a Saturday preparing a nice meal for him and others? The nice asshole has found something better to do, and he’ll cancel with little notice — but always in a charming and gracious way, in that special way that doesn’t really annoy the host until hours later.

So what if a nice asshole’s children rev their muscle cars and lay down rubber in front of your house at 2am each night, despite your polite interventions? He will just shake his head, release a concerned sigh and identify with your frustration, saying things like, “I know, those boys wake me up every night, too.” But will the nice asshole do anything about it? Will he be considerate of his neighbors and take the unpleasant step of confronting his overgrown children? Hell no.

That is because nice assholes do not like confrontation. And as a consequence, they will utilize their above-average emotional intelligence to sidestep awkward moments of extreme candor and confrontation. They have found that if you’re gonna do someone wrong, if you’re gonna be exceptionally self-centered, you might as well do it in the most non-confrontational, charming and gracious way possible.

But don’t think you’ve fooled me, Mr. N.A. You’re still doing people wrong. You’re still being an inconsiderate jerk. Your self-obsession still manifests itself in a variety of ways — from your loud cars to your slight-of-hand tricks of corporate-offloading. You’re still more than willing to put people out, to treat others poorly, albeit graciously, to do what you want, when you want.

I am lucky. I really don’t have any nice assholes in my day-to-day life. Of course, we all encounter few from time to time, but my N.A. exposure is minimal. So friends and family and colleagues, please don’t think I’m writing about you. I’m not.


But for anyone who’s suddenly worried they might fit the N.A. profile, reform now. There is hope for you yet.