It Turns Out I'm An Asshole, What Should I Do About It?

I thought I was "irreverent" and "funny," but turns out I'm actually "bitchy" and "rude." Do I have to start being pleasant all the time?
Publish date:
April 14, 2011
relationships, rudeness, therapy, advice

It's come to my attention that I am a rude person.

I spent Christmas with a friend's extended family, and ended up making a not-so-nice comment to my friend's brother. (Try "Who cares?" in response to a perfectly interesting story about elephants.) It just popped out -- I didn't even mean it and I instantly regretted it. But when I tried to apologize, the recipient of said comment was having none of it.

In fact, he whirled around and in full view of his entire extended family, loudly berated me with an extended rant of which the general gist was, "YOU ARE RUDE." ("You need therapy" and "Everybody hates you" also got some floor-time.)

Blowing up Christmas with personal grievances is sort of a nutjob move, so I was able to write it off at the time. See, saying inappropriate stuff is kind of my thing. I always thought I was pretty good at skirting, but not crossing, the line -- you know, like the brassy employee who calls the boss and "old son-of-a-bitch" and everybody gets really quiet until the man in charge is all like "HA! I like this kid's moxie!"

But then about a month after the Christmas incident, I again tried to say something that I thought was sarcastically funny that came out so badly I could practically see it hit the floor with that "Wah wah waaaaah" sound. The apology went better this time, but it occured to me that maybe I am actually kind of an asshole after all.

Then, today, I received an email from a friend I was out to diner with over the weekend who needed to let me know that I had really offended her by referring to a mother's support group she was attending as "gay." Uh, twice.

And that's it. 3 strikes. I'm rude. It's officially an issue. Either I've lost my knack for toe-ing the line or I never had it and people just weren't telling me before. The question is: What do I do about it? I wrote back to my friend that I am aware that sometimes when I try to be funny I am rude instead and that I am "working on that," but what does working on it mean?

I try to remember to think before I speak, but behavioral changes are slow. And I must be sort of emotionally tone deaf because I can't always tell the difference between funny-bitchy and bitchy-bitchy. Do I have to start being really pleasant all the time?

Does anyone have any concrete advice to help me a) stop saying things that I think are funny but are actually offensive or b) stop blurting out things I know are offensive and then immediately regretting it. Or should I just give up and start telling people I'm autistic?