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» Hey Asshole! Read My Book! from Writing Great Ezines
My apologies for the title. I'm not one to use profanity or slang that is so common these days. Occassionally, I'll use the a-hole word as a term of endearment for my husband. Funny how easy it is to get [Read More]

» The No Asshole Rule from Chuck Newton
Hey, do not blame me for the harsh, rude language. I was not the one who used it as a title of a book. That said, how am I going to review the book without using the word. Bob Sutton [Read More]

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Shefaly Yogendra

Bruno, I meant that French people rarely translate their French rude expressions into English so poor sodding British monoglots can understand that it is not just cute French but a profane expression.

I speak French so I know the expressions - if one learns it as a foreign language, special sessions are held to teach profanities (and I am serious!). As a result I can curse in German, French and English, not to mention in my own language and a few others.

Bruno

I love the title as well and will most definitely order the book.

And as a reply to Shefaly Yogendra, being a Frenchman living in the UK, I can confirm that we have a perfect translation of this word in French: trou-du-cul, commonly abbreviated to trouduc. Unusually enough, not only is it a literal translation but it is used in exactly the same way and with the same connotation in French. And yes we have quite a lot of them over there as well. So a French title could be "La règle du 0 trou-du-cul".

Todd

I love the name.

Bob Sutton

I appreciate every one's comments and especially people who are not quite comfortable with the title. I can say to those of you who are not quite comfortable with the title -- and have made excellent points -- that I tried to be very careful not to fall into the kind of stereotyping that you talk about. I have a chapter on how there is an "inner jerk" in all of us, and how we can recognize and start to make progress, and how it isn't for the most part an inborn personality characteristic, but is something that we learn, catch from others, and spread to others. I am also careful to say that some people with disabilities may seem like assholes, but are simply insensitive to the reactions of others and lack social skills, and I especially emphasize that we all should be slow to apply the label to others, and that some of the most constructive people I've ever met have the roughest exteriors, what I call "porcupines with hearts of gold."

As for the implication that -- in addition to my other arguments -- I selected the title because it was cute and would sell more books. I plead guilty as charged.

Shefaly Yogendra

Writing from the side of the Atlantic pond where academics do not write blogs (and as a final year business PhD, who does), I have to say if you came to the UK to promote the book, the BBC may not give you any airtime as there would be too much bleeping required. Besides of course we'd spell it arsehole rather than asshole.

Culturally speaking too, the French punctuate their speech with profane expressions. But you will never find a French person who when speaking in English (and like all Europeans, they are fluent at it too) attempts to translate that.

However sometimes active control of language is needed so that things do not spiral out of control. Somebody commented on Guy Kawasaki's blog asking if your book addresses the C-word women are often at the receiving end of. What about racial stereotyping? Proving somebody harrassed somebody else due to their race/ gender etc will be much easier than proving their arseholeage factor. Where does it stop? Do we ignore everything because it refers to a bodily function or a body part and label it 'authenticity' - a trick I often use when a friend's young child hears me say something not nice? I would like to hear your views on that..

I have read many of your books, and found them interesting. I plan to read this one too. But frankly the title strikes me more as an exercise in 'cuteness' than anything else more authentic.

Patsi M. Krakoff

P.s.-Hey, wish there were a way to subscribe to your blog's feed, or at least a sign up form provided by FeedBlitz.com. Any chance you can make it easy for us to get updates on your blog?

Patsi M. Krakoff, Psy. D.

Love your books, and will certainly order this. I have an objection to the use of "asshole" and even "jerk" terms, though, and it is not the same as the ones you've already mentioned. Now don't get me wrong, I love the plain talking, in-your-face directness it provides. I often use it as a term of endearment with my husband.

Here's my objection: it makes it too easy to lump people with whom we have difficulites into a basket and write them off. It polarizes people in work groups into asshole and not-asshole designations. Once we do this, we don't look at the actual behaviors and language of the person, and we certainly don't try to understand things from their perspective. We don't listen to them, we don't ask them any more questions, and we don't really try to work things out with them. Au contraire, we look for the next chance to recount our 'asshole encounter story' to the next willing person, thereby amplifying the problems.

I hope you address this issue, and knowing you as a thorough, intelligent, and educated author, I'm looking forward to reading your book. I just hope you haven't been too much of an asshole by appealing to the masses of people who just love to divide the world into the good guys vs the bad guys.

Alexander Kjerulf

Bob, I'm glad you went with the provocative title.

This excellent post by Kathy Sierra gives some good arguments for why it's also a good move:
http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/10/dilbert_and_the.html

The upshot: If everyone thinks your product is OK, it's doomed. If some people love it and some hate it, you have a winner.

Bob Sutton

Simon,

Thanks so much for the point. I actually just finished teaching 27 Brits and they did seem to accept the word asshole, but you have a good point. I will see what my UK publisher says. It may be too late,

Simon Proctor

I would possibly advise changing the title in the UK but only because of the American spelling. To us 'asshole' means a word used by annoying Americans.

If you can translate it for the Germans then surely it can be done for us poor old Brits. Because trust me we do have quite a few Arseholes over here.

James Mason

Bob:

Like you, I prefer "plain speaking" for just about every occasion, but absolutely always in business.

However, I have a question. . .what would you say about, let's call it "frisky language" in cases where you're doing a seminar, public speaking event, or leading a medium-to-large group event?

Part of me wants to be able to say (for example) ". . .that's a bunch of bullshit, and you all know it. . ." because it's true, and dramatic.

However, the other part of me is held back by the notion that higher-level language is not only preferred, but expected, between business types, and I have concerns about offending people that paid good money to hear good information. . .and MAY NOT want to hear me using salty language.

Frankly, it has occupied my thoughts a LOT over time, and now, after reading the comments and the blog, I'm even MORE ambivalent than I was before.

What's YOUR take?

Nils Davis

What I found amusing in your post was this claim:

"Vulgarism has no place in serious business. It weakens your ideas and diminishes your credibility."

Maybe I've worked for non-serious businesses, but "vulgarism" has been much more common at work in my experience than, say, at home. (Perhaps that's because I don't have any assholes at home.)

I love the title, and "assholes" is 100% the right word.

Bob Sutton

Roger,

Thanks for the charming note. I do tend to call you "the whack on the side of the head guy" or "the guy who wrote the whack book." I think that sounds better than the "asshole guy," but this is what I have done to myself. I love your stuff and find it quite useful.

Roger von Oech

Interesting post, more interesting title. It should help you sell quite a few in the same way that 80% (my guess) of the "On Bullshit" books were bought (or given) based on the shock value of the title.

We share several publishers (Warner Business and Free Press). I've found that readers of my books typically have reduced the titles down to one word, such as "Whack," Kick", or "Expect." Six months from now, I wonder if your book will be referred to as the "Asshole" book. If that happens, I guess that would mean that it's selling well! I wish you success with it!

jeff angus

If you want people to pay attention, you have to stand out. The taboo nature of the word makes it "louder", makes it more likely a casual observer will perk up long enough to consider the concept(s).

The Law of Problem Evolution: The longer a regime is in power, the less likely it is that a remianing problem is correctable by that regime holds here -- if traditional polite language (standard operating procedures) could address and remediate the asshole problem, it very likely would have already. The fact that this endemic situation persists at the same time people generally want it fixed usggests strongly s.o.p. and sanitised business speak doesn't afford corrective actions.

Calling them assholes is not a path to a guaranteed cure, but it's a worthy experiment and certainly a lot likelier to afford a path to a solution than continuing past failed methods (What I Call "Kissinger Bombing Haiphong"...when the model proves to be useless, amplify it repeatedly whenever it fails in the hopes 'more' is a path to success).

So I'm in agreement with the posters here who believe your standing-out title is more likely to achieve outstanding results than s.o.p. has

Diego Rodriguez

I'm with Ed. And Scott, too.

Ed Batista

One person's vulgarity is another's straight talk. And one person's euphemism is another's bullshit.

I personally feel that the judicious use of profanity is effective, authentic and aesthetically satisfying. Nothing else will do when a good solid curse is called for.

Only children abuse profanity, but only childish adults pretend that is has no place in professional communication.

I'm glad you stuck to your guns, Bob.

Ed

Kathy

Like any vulgarity, the a-word maintains its potency when used sparingly. I'll call people jerks much more frequently than I'll call them assholes, but if I ever call them that you should run away as fast as you can.

Bob Sutton

Scott,

Thank for the vote of support... but I still think that guy did have a reasonable point in part. Indeed, one problem with the word asshole is that calling people one sometimes turns them into one -- even if they weren't before!

Scott Underwood

Bob, I applaud your use of real language, and rejoice in the appearance of formerly taboo words in all sorts of mainstream publications. For instance, 'fuck' now appears regularly in the New Yorker and elsewhere, and this is only right.

Why we give such power to a handful of words -- words everyone knows and most use -- is a fascinating topic. Rather than "vulgarism" heralding a breakdown of civilization, as some attest, I see it as a sign of a society maturing culturally and people deciding to eliminate the artificial division between what we say in public and in private. I see "The No Asshole Rule" title as another salvo in a necessary battle for authenticity.

How soon before a straight-talking president uses profanity for emphasis from behind a lectern?

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