Hey, it’s The ASSMAN!

I love Seinfeld. It’s like Bugs Bunny, it doesn’t matter how many times I watch the show, it is always funny. One of my favorite episodes is “The Fusilli Jerry.” In that episode a subplot takes place when Kramer accidentally gets the personalized license plates for a local proctologist. As he drives around New York everyone recognizes the ASSMAN.

So what does the ASSMAN have to do with you and me? Have you ever noticed how some people act as if they’re invisible when they’re in their car? They do things, mouth words and sometimes use gestures they probably never would if they were standing next to you or looking you in the eye. The assumed privacy of a car removes some people’s inhibitions. In psychology this is called deindividuation

Perhaps you’ve been the one who feels less inhibited, and have done something you wouldn’t have if you’d been looking someone in the eye and they clearly could identify you.
I’ve been there before. In fact, one time on the way to work I knew someone wanted to get into my lane on the highway and I didn’t let him over. Eventually he merged in behind me. Then, as I got off the exit for work so did he. When I pulled into my company parking lot so did he. It turns out he was a coworker, someone I’d known for years. All it took was a glance and he knew it was me who didn’t let him over. I had been acting like the ASSMAN!

I was embarrassed and quickly sent an email apologizing. I told him I wished I could explain it away as a bad day, being in a rush or something else, but I confessed that sometimes I’m just a jerk. My coworker sent back the nicest email and thanked me for apologizing!
Dale Carnegie says when you’re wrong admit it quickly and emphatically. When you admit weakness that’s actually a way to enhance your authority with another person because you build some credibility for fessing up. Odd as it may seem, I think my relationship with that coworker is better now than it was before that highway incident.
Today I’m the ASSMAN but for a different reason. I have personalized plates that read INFLUNC. No, I’m not a poor speller; I’m limited to seven letters on the license plate.
What I’m very conscious of now is how easily it is to be recognized. It’s not that people are saying, “Hey Influence Guy,” but it’s an easy plate to spot and remember. As a result I think I’m a much better, more courteous driver because I’d never want to meet someone then have him or her think, “You’re the jerk I saw on the highway.”
The more we’re conscious of the fact that seldom do we operate in complete anonymity the more likely we are to do the right thing. When we believe no one can tell it’s us, when we believe we can get away with something, many people take advantage. Several of the studies Dan Ariely cites in his book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, confirm this.
So here’s a takeaway for those of you looking for positive change in some behavior. Make the choice to do something to create your own accountability. Something as simple as a sticker on your car, public commitment to friends and coworkers, or photos of your family in prominent places around the office can be the necessary first step to doing the right thing and avoid being known as the ASSMAN in some circles.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
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