I am ruthlessly going to apply relevant components of two books written by Robert Sutton to try to come up with a checklist that might be helpful to those who struggle with the question shall I stay, or shall I go? In the first place the question is relevant to those who are living with a spouse who betrayed them.

Robert Sutton, a psychology professor at Stanford University, is the author of the Asshole Survival Guide (2017), which is a guide for surviving the assholes in your life. In 2010, Sutton published The No Asshole Rule, which focused on dealing with assholes at an organizational level.

“An asshole is someone who leaves us feeling demeaned, de-energized, disrespected, and/or oppressed. In other words, someone who makes you feel like dirt” (Robert Sutton, 2017).  Sutton makes a distinction between temporary and certified assholes, because all of us can be temporary assholes. A certified asshole wants to hurt and upset others and they can be identified through a long history of hurting others.

They have a (permanent) personality disorder and all or most characteristics of a Machiavellian personality (#1 of the Dark Triad). For a good description of the characteristics:

Sutton comes up with diagnostic questions to determine whether we are dealing with an asshole. He however warns, that first and foremost we must ask ourselves whether we are assholes too.

Do the test; Are you a certified asshole? Is someone you are living with/working with a certified asshole? Certified assholes have characteristics of the Dark Triad: Machiavellianism, Psychopathy and Narcissism.

…and while you are at it, do the Hare Psychopathy Checklist as well as it is #2 of the Dark Triad:

Last, but not least, the Narcissistic Personality Test, Narcissism is #3 of the Dark Triad.


Assessment that ultimately brings you the answer to the question shall I stay, or should I go!

  1. Did you feel treated like dirt?

If so, you were dealing with an asshole.

  1. Based on the definition, do you still feel treated like dirt?

If so, you are living with a certified asshole. If no longer so, you may have dealt with a temporary asshole.

  1. Is the behaviour of the alleged asshole part of an enduring pattern of belittling, degrading, putting down, humiliating, disrespecting, oppressing and de-energising others?

If the person you are dealing with treats others like dirt, you are dealing with a certified asshole.

  1. Is asshole behaviour condoned at your workplace?

Demeaning and disrespectful behaviour seeps into other relationships. If you or your partner are employees of a toxic workplace, you need to leave to protect yourself and your relationship.

  1. Is asshole behaviour condoned in your extended family?

If this is so, make changes as the toxicity will seep into your “nuclear” family. Sharing DNA does not mean that you have to put up with assholes.

Needless, to say that if you are living with a certified asshole you need to go.


Dealing with a certified asshole? What is keeping you in the relationship?

Are you afflicted by the “too-much-invested-to-quit- syndrome” (Sutton, 2017). It means justifying staying by telling yourself that there must be a lot of good stuff in the relationship otherwise you never would have invested and scarified so much and for so long.

The lies people tell themselves to justify staying:

  1. It is not that bad, others have it worse. It will be changing (finding excuses for the asshole’s behaviour)
  2. It is getting better, I just have to see the positives
  3. I learn so much dealing with this. Now I know what no longer to accept
  4. I can handle it, it is just bumps in the road when they forget their promises
  5. The alternatives are all worse than this situation. Leaving will negatively affect my family and my children.

Who holds you accountable?

Many successful people have a spouse or partner who informs them when they have acted like an asshole or an idiot-even when friends, colleagues and followers are afraid to deliver the bad news (Sutton, 2017). I would like to point out that to get constructive feedback on your behaviour, friends and colleagues and extended family are mostly not the right people to obtain feedback from. This is in particular true for colleagues who are reporting to you or are in one way or the other benefiting from having a relationship with you. We all benefit from being with others who do hold us accountable. It comes from a place of love and caring, and when reciprocated, it is a core component of a healthy and loving relationship.




7 thoughts on “POST 83: CERTIFIED ASSHOLES

  1. I scored four on the psychopath test. Again, it would have been higher in the past. Learning humility made a difference for me. Actually, that may be an important insight for me. Humility is a key ingredient in my self-improvement quest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for inspiring me to come clean also, MC. I scored a 3 on the asshole test but know that I showed quite a bit of temporary asshole behavior while cheating five years ago. A score of 6 on the psychopath test, mostly for lying and manipulating and having/expressing less emotions and empathy than most people – I have been particularly hard on my spouse and family. I tried the narcissism test a few times, imagining myself 25 years ago when not in a position of authority, 5 years ago when at my worst and now (I quit my job in a leadership position earlier this year). Scores varied from 8 to 16 with a high of 6 for authority and 4 for superiority. I believe that (unchecked) power sooner or later corrupts all but those with the strongest values and willpower. Perhaps people need to take a break from power regularly, as a kind of reality check. I, in any case, failed the test miserably, to my shame and regret, and my spouse and kids paid dearly for it…
      Humility is indeed the key and I have more work to do.

      Thank you E for a great post.

      Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s