Spotting an undercover asshole early on will help prevent this type of situation (getty)

How to spot an undercover asshole

Undercover Assholes wreck your self-esteem in some way, shape or form. But they’re also hard to spot, so how do you uncover one? Lauren Meredith gives her tips on how to look past their masterful disguise.

You know how it goes. You meet someone. They seem awesome. They’re funny, nice and sweet. Maybe you want to be friends with them, so you think – boom! This person is great! I’m going to let down my guard and let them into my inner thoughts and fears and minute details of my life. They’re worthy.

Or, even more likely, you meet someone of the gender and sexuality that you desire and they’re all of the above, as well as being attractive. You think – boom! This person is great! I’m going to let down my guard and let them into my inner thoughts and fears and minute details of my life, as well as let them see what’s under my clothes. They’re girlfriend/boyfriend material. They’re hot and worthy and hot. Did I mention they’re hot?  Many people are all of those things, and more. Many people are worthy to be your friend or lover or spouse or partner.

But then, some people aren’t. The Undercover Assholes. The people that seem lovely and to have your best interests at heart, but it turns out they don’t at all. And unfortunately, the only way you often find out is when they do something dickish or awful and you get hurt. Maybe they’re your work bestie who blabs your secrets to the office. Maybe they’re the person you fall in love with that cares more about themselves than they’ll ever care about you. Maybe they’re the person you date for a few months before they ghost you, slipping into the darkness, leaving nothing but bewilderment and questions.

Undercover Assholes are hard to spot. They’re masters of disguise. They look like normal people, but they all have one thing in common: they wreck your self-esteem in some way, shape or form. They blindside you and leave you asking: how did I think they were worthy? How did I not know that they were an Undercover Asshole all along? How did I fail to see it all along?

Behold: I have some answers. Here are some early signposts that say “Beware! An Undercover Asshole lies beyond!”

How do they talk about other people?

The first signpost is how they talk about the people that surround them in their day-to-day life. Do they describe their workmates as being good people who are really clever? Or is something wrong with the people they work with and they don’t get on? Are their friends all good sorts, or are they quick to tell you their salacious secrets? Of course, they don’t have to be all rainbows and fluffy bunnies about everyone. No one is, and if they were, they’d be annoying. If they bitch about people in their life a lot, though, you’ve got to wonder.

What about people from their past (their exes) or their family members? Are they spoken of fairly, or is the person always the victim in every story? Everyone has had people treat them badly in the past, but there are people who’s history is a litany of tales about being wronged. If so, there’s one common denominator in all of these situations: them.

How do they treat staff?

Or any other people in service industries? Do they kick up a fuss if something is tangentially wrong with their meal and are rude to the waitress? Do they tip? Do they say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’?

You can also tell a lot about someone by how they treat cleaners and others in similar professions. Do they apologise to the cleaner if they have to walk on the kitchen floor a minute after it’s been cleaned, or just walk over it without thinking about it?

If someone likes you they’ll show you their best side, at least at first. It’s how they treat others, though, that’s a signpost of an Undercover Asshole. Especially how they treat people who they have more power than, be it people who are poorer, less fortunate, or in a position of service when they are the paying customer.

What’s their sense of humour like?

Can they laugh at themselves? Or are they more likely to laugh at other people? Are their jokes the type favoured by the ‘I’m Not Racist But…’ bigots? Do they punch up, or down?

Are they one of those people with really pointed humour? You know the type: everyone is having good banter, the laughs are flowing, then suddenly something is said that makes you feel bad but you can’t be totally sure. Everyone else is still laughing and you’re faced with the uncomfortable dilemma of saying “that’s not funny yo”, or just sucking it up and laughing along while part of your inner self shrivels up and cries.

Can they admit to being wrong?

Some people just can’t do this, which shows a remarkable lack of self-awareness – another trait of Undercover Assholes. Instead, they spin their own narratives — ones that centre around their own glory.  Undercover Assholes also conveniently misremember that they were the person who asked to do the specific thing at work that someone more senior didn’t want you doing.

Another marker is their reaction when someone calls them out for something. Are they defensive and hostile? Does it turn them mean? And if so, do they ever apologise? Everyone acts like a dick sometimes, but there’s a certain type of person that’ll never ever admit to being in the wrong.

Do they give or take?

This is a tricky one as plenty of Undercover Assholes can be very generous when it suits them. They might give you flowers, a gift or cook you a meal. This is especially true in the early stages of a relationship when the Undercover Asshole wants you to like them. But there’s a big difference between being a person that’s nice to the people they like and someone who’s a bona fide kind person.

The test is whether they give when the act of giving inconveniences them: when they eat at a place they don’t really like, but will anyway because it’s your birthday. Or go to a gig they don’t really want to see but will anyway because you went to one with them last week.  It’s when they go out of their way to pick someone up or go to a good friend’s party because you know they want you there, even though you’d much prefer to be home in your PJs watching re-runs of Friends.

It’s easy to be nice and lovely when it doesn’t come at a cost to yourself or if you benefit from the act. But it takes a different sort of person to continue to give to others, even when there’s nothing in it for them.

It’s hard to spot an Undercover Asshole. That’s why they’re undercover. But let’s keep trying nonetheless.

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