I noticed something this week that really struck home. You’ve no doubt noticed how many people’s first reaction to anything is to get really aggressive about it. You see it in stores when you’re shopping, at airports, even driving on the road. And you know it isn’t always the most effective tactic, but perhaps you’ve never know what that behavior is called.
It’s called “Being the Firsthole.”
Essentially, in any situation, most people will react in whatever way they’re approached. For example, I was in the gym the other day, on a treadmill. This big jock guy, and his girlfriend, walks up to me and says, “hey, you need to move, my girlfriend and I prefer to work out next to each other.” My reaction? F-off, jerk.
He was Firsthole. That is, he was the first in the conversation to be an asshole. First asshole, Firsthole. By going there, he enabled me to reply in kind. He didn’t get what he wanted, and I got irritated for no good reason.
What he could have said is, “hey, I know it’s a hassle, but would you mind moving over one machine? I’d like to work out next to my girlfriend. We’d really appreciate it.” Well now if I say, “no,” I’m the Firsthole. He asked nicely, it’s not really a big deal (I wasn’t running full-tilt at that point), so why not? Most people don’t want to be jerks if they can avoid it. Go Firsthole on them, and you’ve given everyone an opening to follow suit; stay away from Firsthole, and you put the burden on them.
The only reason this doesn’t work in retail is because most companies won’t let their employees respond in kind, so people think they can get away with Firstholing them. I say most companies, because now and again you’ll run into a delightful situation where the employee or owner can respond in kind, and it’s just delightful to watch the Firsthole not get what they wanted. You can then go up afterwards, sympathize for a bit, and get the same damn thing the Firsthole wanted, just by being nice.
Driving is similar: If someone Firstholes you on the road, you can’t exactly ram their car, because of insurance, and laws, and stuff. But man, if you could. And it does make it so sweet when the Firsthole gets subsequently snagged by a cop, right?
Anyway: Try not to be the Firsthole. You’ll likely get what you want, and nobody will have to have a bad day. And when someone Firstholes you, you can now just point it out. “So, now that you’ve started our interaction by being an asshole, how do you expect me to respond?” Maybe you’ll educate them a bit, and then you can explain what Firstholing is all about.