How to Spot a Jerk: The 7 Surefire Signs

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When embarking on your dating voyage, you’re likely to run into a jerk or two. To help you better spot them — so you can steer clear of them — be on the lookout for these seven characteristics. From Dating from the Inside Out by Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman

If you spend any amount of time dating, you’re bound to encounter a jerk or two. Take Miriam’s story. She tried online dating and loved acting, so she looked for men with similar interests. One man asked her to meet him for a drink across town. She agreed, and rushed to meet him after a long day at work. They sat down for drinks and he proceeded to show her his whole acting portfolio and regaled her with his accomplishments for two hours. He asked nothing about her, not even if she wanted another drink. After he was done, he asked her, “So, do you think I’m a good actor?” Dumbfounded, she responded by saying, “Well, you certainly seem passionate about it but I’ve never seen you act, so how could I really know?” He shot her a look of fury, got up, and left without a word. He didn’t even pay the check.

To help you better spot a jerk, be on the lookout for these seven characteristics:

  1. They only care about themselves: These people care only about their own interests and agenda. A jerk doesn’t care if you want to see a movie. If he wants to watch the game, then you’re watching the game. There are many variations on this theme.
  2. They don’t keep their word: A jerk will say that he will come to your birthday party and then show up at the last minute. This is a recipe for heartbreak. If this is a pattern, run.
  3. They don’t care about your feelings: This is a man who will watch his favorite comedy while you are crying about your best friend’s accident. When you need support and comfort, this jerk is absent.
  4. They have low self-esteem: These people don’t feel good about themselves and they act this out in different ways, all of which hurt you. For example, a man with low self-esteem might show off in sports and ignore you. He might insult you because you said something constructive and it triggers his own self-loathing. Rather than trying to heal a person who really doesn’t like himself, recognize it and move on.
  5. They treat others badly: A lot can be learned by how people treat their friends, their family, and, often most tellingly, strangers. He may be really gallant with you, but notice how rude he is to the waitress or how he curses at his mother. His true self is revealed in how he treats everyone, not just you. So pay attention.
  6. They only hear what they want to hear: This is the kind of person who won’t take no for an answer. He tries to persuade you to have sex when you’re not interested. He may consistently ignore you when you request something important, like for him to lower his voice when a baby is sleeping. He is unable to accept that he may not always be right and that sometimes he may have to adjust his expectations and compromise.
  7. They lie: This is the kind of person who will do all kinds of slimy things, from cheating on tests, to making up a fake excuse to cancel your date when something better comes along, to two-timing you. He may be attractive and charming but you can’t trust him and you will never know where you stand. If you feel like you can’t make heads or tails of the situation, it’s probably because he is a liar. How can you know what’s real if he is not?

Exercise: Jerk Alert
To familiarize yourself with jerks so you can steer clear of them, use this exercise to record your interactions with jerks. Describe some jerky dates and record the signs that signaled you and how long it took you to figure it out. By the end o f the first date? Months? Or maybe even years? Take some time to reflect on how you’ll tell sooner next time. Remember to keep your sense of humor. Hopefully you at least got a free drink.

Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, author of Dating from the Inside Out: How to Use the Law of Attraction in Matters of the Heart (Copyright © 2008 by Paulette Kouffman Sherman), is a licensed psychologist and the owner and director of My Dating School in Manhattan (, where she facilitates classes on dating issues. She pens a monthly dating column, “Dr. Date,” in The Improper, a popular New York lifestyle and entertainment magazine, and has been quoted in many publications, including Glamour. Dr. Sherman is a regular speaker at The Learning Annex, has been a dating expert on radio and television, and has coached many private clients on creating successful relationships. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband.



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