How To Handle Snobs

By , 7 June 2016

How To Handle Snobs
How To Handle Snobs

Would you look at that? Here I am blogging on a Tuesday. Well, who says I have to blog on Sundays anyway? Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Saturday. They all look the same to me. So then, for this week's Tuesday blog, I'd like to share some exciting news. I have come up with an effective solution to a long-standing problem: "How should you handle snobs?".

Social status is not important to me, and as a result, I get snobbed a fair bit. I don't dress well; I prefer to save rather than spend; and I don't know about famous people, even in fields I am accomplished in. I'm also sensitive to social rejection, so when I get snobbed it hits my anterior insular cortex hard.

A snob hardly needs defining. You can easily recognise one in any social environment, and you already know how it feels to be snobbed. But for the sake of this article, let's do it anyway.

Snob (n): someone who judges you by your social status.

Not all people who *value* social status are snobs. I have friends who are status-driven, and they don't judge me for my bohemian values. A key difference between these people and snobs is that they have achieved their desired level of social status. They're actually very friendly.

Similarly, not all snobs will judge you negatively. Snobs who like you are called groupies. They fawn over you because of your standing as a musician, or a surfer, or a chessmaster, or whatever endeavour they value. Groupies are still snobs; you just don't suffer as a result of their preferences.

To some extent, we're all guilty of being snobs. Every time you ignore a beggar on the street or give one word answers to someone seeking your friendship, you are snobbing them. Now, I want you to bring to mind the feeling you have when you do this. How would you articulate it? Something like this?

"Eugh! Leave me alone!"

It's an expression of frustration, and herein lies the key to understanding snobs. Snobs are frustrated. Life isn't meeting their expectations, and they feel powerless to affect change. So what do they do? They take it out on other people.

When you understand that snobs are frustrated, it becomes easier to empathise with them. This is important, because empathy is key to recovering a positive social state.

The poor girl; she thought she was going to marry Johnny Depp.
The poor guy; this is the best job he could get. 

With an understanding of the cause of snobbery, we can give some thought to how to deal with snobs appropriately. The instinctive response is to ignore them. Snobs will ignore you, so you should ignore snobs. This is actually the wrong strategy. Ignoring a snob acknowledges the frame of superiority they create - the frame that you belong in separate social circles. Ignoring people also triggers negative emotional circuits and gradually deteriorates your whole social experience.

There is a better strategy:

Focus on the cool people.

Having positive social interactions with other people has two important effects. Firstly, it makes you feel good. Most likely this is the result of increased serotonin (and possibly oxytocin) levels in the brain. Secondly, seeing you accepted by other people challenges the snob's judgement of you. Note that being accepted by a snob is more of an undesired side effect than an actual goal. He or she is still a snob, although this fact becomes less important as you create other social bonds.

To apply this trick effectively, treat the snob the same as any other member of the group. Pretend to be oblivious of their frame of superiority. Don't take it personally; just accept him or her as being frustrated with their social value, then move on to the friendly people. Being frustrated is hardly a crime. You needn't ignore someone on these grounds.

It is possible that a snob will manipulate the social environment to encourage other people to reject you. This sort of behaviour suggests the snob also has a strong need for vengeance. It doesn't happen that often, and in most social environments there are plenty of opportunities to interact with people who accept you. In the rare case that you find yourself in a truly toxic social environment, your best option is usually to leave as soon as you can.

One final phenomena deserves mentioning: you could be imagining the whole thing. We make mistakes interpreting people's intentions all the time, especially over email, text and chat. Even if you haven't made a mistake, it can be useful to assume that you have. This is another way you can avoid a spiral of negativity and turn your attention instead to positive interactions.

Remember: focus on the cool people, and have a nice day :)

How To Handle Snobs

About Roger Keays

How To Handle Snobs

Roger Keays is an artist, an engineer, and a student of life. He has no fixed address and has left footprints on 40-something different countries around the world. Roger is addicted to surfing. His other interests are music, psychology, languages, the proper use of semicolons, and finding good food.

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Comment posted by: Dave, 5 years ago

well said, Rog :)