“There is apparently some connection between dissatisfaction with oneself and proneness to credulity. The urge to escape our real self is also an urge to escape the rational and the obvious. The refusal to see ourselves as we are develops a distaste for facts and cold logic. There is no hope for the frustrated in the actual and the possible. Salvation can come to them only from the miraculous, which seeps through a crack in the iron wall of inexorable reality. They asked to be deceived.” — Eric Hoffer
Hoffer also said, “To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief from the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility.”
Have you ever wondered how frustrated people manage to be so frustrating? Well, it requires a set of skills that most people don’t have but can develop, with practice. If you aspire to be among the frustrating elite, here is a full dozen of the most useful techniques for totally frustrating people. With time and concentration, even amateurs can become proficient at frustrating most anyone. The only requirement is to creatively expand these techniques to numerous relationships and to add new and innovative techniques as you go along. Read and judge for yourself.
1. Always play it safe; and above all, don’t take any chances. If it is not in writing, either get it in writing or refuse to do it until it is in writing. If it is already in writing, ask for clarification. Once you have gotten clarification, check with a few other people to see what their understanding is and then ask for a meeting to discuss the confusion everyone is experiencing.
2. Put most of your time and energy into worrying and hoping nothing changes. When things do change, ask for written procedures and clarification. Once you get clarification, suggest that the changes be put off until everyone has had an opportunity to provide input and to discuss the long-term implications of the changes. After everything has been discussed at least twice, take your sweet old time getting with the new program, letting everyone you talk to know that the changes are causing things to back up and nothing is getting done.
3. Avoid taking responsibility for anything. Certainly don’t volunteer and be reluctant even if asked. If you can’t avoid it, ask for written instructions and check back often for additional instructions and clarification. If someone tells you, “If you can’t handle this, I will find someone who can,” you should say, “That’s an excellent idea. I really have too many other responsibilities to handle this right now anyway.”
4. Don’t put up with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of other people. You know how to behave and they should too. If there is anything about them or the way they do things that you know isn’t the way people should act, mention it to a few people. Say something like, “I suppose you have heard what people are saying about so-and-so.” Not one person in a hundred will resist saying, “No, what?” Now just lay it out, being careful to emphasize that, although you don’t feel that way personally, other people are getting pretty fed up with it and that you just want to give everyone a head’s up about the problems that are brewing out there.
5. Since someone is going to screw something up sooner or later, you might as well just assume that things are a mess. Even if they seem okay right now, all you need to do is wait around for a while. To be on the safe side, you can bring it up in casual conversations now and then. You need only pick a couple of things that could go wrong since they likely will; and if not, something equally bad will happen. As sincerely as you can, say something like this, “Have you thought about the consequences of this or that happening? Don’t you think we better think this through more carefully and not be so quick to jump into things we don’t thoroughly understand? We have done that before and it looks like we would learn. I would hate to see us end up with egg on our faces again.” (If asked, you can mention most anything that didn’t work out at anytime in the past.) Now, when something down-the-road does not work out as expected, and something will not work out, you then only need to say in your most concerned voice, “I was worried that this might happen. I will certainly pitch in and help you with your problem but I’m sure not optimistic. It’s too bad things are such a mess around here.”
6. Since most people are out for themselves, never take anyone on an “as is” basis. Just assume that what they are saying to you and what they are really thinking are not the same. It will help support your insight into human nature to occasionally ask people if they can completely trust so-and-so. You will find some who don’t and that proves your point. Now all you need to do is listen carefully for the inconsistencies and contradictions in what someone you particularly dislike says to you and to other people. The fact that that person is not to be trusted will quickly become obvious. You knew it all along. You best schedule a confidential meeting with the person you don’t like to offer a friendly head’s up. “Although I’m usually pretty comfortable with you, I think you should know that there are some people who are not sure they can trust you. I tell them that they should give you a chance but…. Well, I just thought you would want to know what people are saying about you. Of course, I can’t say who feels that way since I told them I would keep it confidential. I don’t want them to have a trust problem with me too. If you want, I will keep you posted about what people are saying about you.”
7. You need to be stingy with your praise for anyone, especially for people you don’t like. At the same time, as much fun as it is to get into blaming and accusing, you need to be careful about that too. Remember that people come and go and you never know which way the winds are going to blow. It is an, “If you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say anything,” kind of thing. Of course, if you can think of something nice to say, keep your mouth shut anyway. If the person asks, say, “I don’t have a problem with you;” and if someone else asks, say, “He (or she) and I have an adequate relationship.” Be sure to use the same approach with everyone, since you never know how things are going to go.
8. A similar approach also helps when someone brings up a problem with you. You can say, “I have avoided being critical of you and have not bought into the talk. I thought our relationship was fairly good. That is why this surprises me. I hope our relationship is important enough to you that this does not get in the way. I would hate for us to get into the kind of thing you have with some other people. That would be a real shame.” If asked for clarification, say, “I don’t think it is appropriate for me to get into that with you. I value our relationship and don’t want it to change over a little thing like this.” Now, just keep your mouth shut. If all goes well, the person will not get back to whatever the problem was.
9. When talking with people, focus the discussion only on things that are not going well. Especially if you are asked something about you, bring up a problem that is no more than indirectly related to you. Ask what the person is doing about the problem you have highlighted. Whatever the response, say something like, “It’s problems like these that make everything so difficult for us. As you know, when things like that are a mess, they spill all over everything else. It’s a wonder we ever get anything worked out. I’m surprised I manage to work things out as well as I do, all things considered. I don’t know how you put up with it. How do you do it?” Now just listen. If the conversation gets back to you, deal with any problems or issues by saying, “It’s like we were just talking. I certainly am going to try some of the tricks you use to get things to work. I hope you will be willing to share more of your techniques with me. If it weren’t for you, I can’t imagine how bad things could get. I don’t know how you do it.”
10. Whenever anyone criticizes you, place the blame squarely on the person who was at fault; and who, of course, isn’t you. You would have been your usual superior self were it not for so-and-so. It will help you to give some thought to this before starting anything, since it may take a while to come up with a plausible excuse, if it doesn’t work out all that well. Be creative. The point is that someone let you down. You can say, “The next time, I’ll just have to do everything myself. That’s the way things are around here. I know you try; but getting people to cooperate is a real problem. If you want, we can spend some time thinking about ways you can get more cooperation.”
11. In these days of political correctness and cultural sensitivity, stepping on the feelings of others may not at first seem like a safe strategy; but don’t be too quick to go with the popular wisdom. There is still a lot to be said for old-fashioned rudeness and abrasiveness. You will need to do most everything you do with a fairly high level of drive and force; but if you are up to it, the results can be impressive. The key to success is in the reputation you develop for being ready to go to war over anything. You are a person of high principle. You don’t enjoy being harsh and abrasive with people, but your principles won’t let you just sit by and see things going down the tube. It exhausts you; but you have to do what you have to do. Even if some people get their feelings hurt, you can’t just let it go. Whatever anyone tries to discuss with you and particularly if it sounds like things are about to go south, you need to blow up. Don’t over do it; but you can be rather intense. “Now I’m starting to get that same nonsense from you. It is bad enough getting it from everyone else; but I expected more from you. You want to waste our time talking about trivia when there are serious issues that no one appears to care about. I’m not going to let you of all people get away with ducking the real issues. Those points you want to spend our time with would not be problems if we dealt head-on with the things that actually matter. They are what make things seem like problems that aren’t problems at all. Do you want to use our valuable time solving problems that don’t matter that much anyway or don’t you care either? I really need to know. Which side of this are you truly on?” There is little doubt which way most anyone is going to go. As an important person, they likely will opt for the truly important issues, as they are defined, by you, of course.
12. Never let anyone take advantage of you. Of course, this starts with not volunteering to do things that just come up and someone has to get them done. They aren’t your problem; and if you start volunteering for things like that, the first thing you know, people will just take it for granted that you will take care of it. There is no end to how people will abuse your good nature. You also need to be alert for signs of responsibility drift. That is when things mysteriously end up on your plate when they should not be there. Someone asks you, “How are you doing with thus and such?” You hesitate, trying to figure out what this has to do with you; and before you catch your breath, they continue, “When you are finished with that, there is another little thing that I hope you will take care of for me.” It is first this and then that; and before you know it, you are not only being used, you are used up. Your best strategy is to nip this sort of stuff in the bud.
Perhaps Ayn Rand should get the last word on frustration, “But neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive in any random manner, but will perish unless he lives as his nature requires, so he is free to seek his happiness in any mindless fraud, but the torture of frustration is all he will find, unless he seeks the happiness proper to man. The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.”