Each week, our listeners send in their questions about how to behave, and answering them this time around is Charlamagne Tha God. He is an outspoken giant of terrestrial radio, co-hosting the morning show “The Breakfast Club,” which is syndicated by iHeartRadio. He’s also got an MTV2 show.
After we spoke to him about his new book, “Black Privilege,” he stuck around to help our listeners with a few etiquette woes and shared some sage wisdom from his grandmother.
How to (politely) tell your boss to get it together
Brendan Francis Newnam: First question, it’s a short one, it comes from Steven in Brooklyn. And Steven writes: “How do you tell your boss that they can do a better job?”
Charlamagne Tha God: Ah man. I do that all. The. Time. Oh my God.
Rico Gagliano: Really? That may be why we picked this question for you.
Charlamagne: From iHeart to Viacom. ‘Cause listen man, at the end of the day, I love the craft. I love radio. I love television. Like, radio is my passion, passion. Like radio is the tree that all this other fruit came from. So I have no problem sitting in the office with my boss and telling them I feel like we could be doing a better job reflecting the culture. And at Viacom with TV, I’m always up there telling the executives like “Yo!” Especially at MTV, like, “Y’all are really culturally clueless.”
Brendan Francis Newnam: But you’re a powerful person? What if you [had] a job in high school? Or you didn’t have the clout you had? How would you suggest talking to a boss?
Charlamagne: I mean, be respectful. It’s not like I’m going in there telling people they don’t know what they’re doing. I’m just saying, “Look, we could do better.”
Brendan Francis Newnam: Show them you’re an enthusiastic partner, it sounds like.
Charlamagne: That’s it!
Brendan Francis Newnam: Like, “Hey! This is my goal is for us to succeed.”
Charlamagne: That’s it. Like I don’t want no yes men around me. Like I have a lot of people around me that are way younger than me and I don’t dismiss them just because they’re in college, or dismiss them just because they haven’t done what I’ve done. I’m actively listening. Because they see things that we don’t see.
Listen man, I’m always open into learning new things. I talk about that in my book, like I have a chapter in my book, a principle called, “Give People the Credit They Deserve for Being Stupid Including Yourself.” ‘Cause the know-it-all knows nothing. I approach life like that everyday. I’m always down to learn something new and that’s how you have to approach life. I don’t care if you’re the biggest executive in the building, you have to be open to always learning something new. That’s how you stay relevant.
Rico Gagliano: But I will say, not every executive agrees with you on that.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Maybe Steven should be elsewhere. You know, maybe this guy asking the question if his boss can’t handle it, it’s time for him to move on.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Unless, of course, that is one of our producers who put that question in, bailed. Because you guys need to continue to be yes people, OK?
Rico Gagliano: Yeah. You do what we want you to do. And that’s all there is to it.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Just don’t get carried away.
Staying in your lane… at the gym
Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Michelle in L.A. And Michelle writes: “I was on the rowing machine at the gym when I noticed another woman next to me started to race me. She constantly kept looking over at me while increasing her speed. How should I have handled this awkward situation?”
Charlamagne: That’s her problem.
Rico Gagliano: That’s bizarre.
Charlamagne: That’s really her problem and you gotta think about that meme that they had after the Olympics where Michael Phelps was just super focused, and he was busting everybody’s ass in the pool, and it was this dude that kept looking over at Michael Phelps as he was swimming next to him. How ’bout you focus on your lane and focus on your race. OK? You’ll never beat somebody by constantly looking over to see what they’re doing.
Worry about yourself, focus on yourself. You’re on the treadmill, both of ya’ll are going nowhere fast. Running in place, like who cares! Like, Jesus.
Rico Gagliano: But isn’t it also creepy?
Charlamagne: It’s very creepy! She’s got this mental thing in her head like she’s racing against you like, no. I don’t move like that. I just move at my own pace and get to where I’m going just like they would.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, there you go Michelle.
Rico Gagliano: Let her win the race to nowhere.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And what a weird gym you go to.
Rico Gagliano: So bizarre.
What it really means if you notice loud mouth sounds
Brendan Francis Newnam: This next question comes from… well, we’ll get to that because it’s an anonymous name. And the question is: “Help! I love my co-workers, but the guy that sits across from me is a loud swallower. Every drink he takes involves a large gulp and then a release of air. Almost like a ‘ahhh!’ But kinda like a clearing of the throat at the same time. It’s disgusting. I know that I’m overly sensitive to sounds so it’s my issue, not his. But it’s hella gross. Any advice?”
Charlamagne: It sounds like they had sex and she cant stand to work there with him anymore or he cant stand to work with that guy anymore.
Brendan Francis Newnam: They’re too intimate.
Charlamagne: Yeah, so everything about that person bothers them. ‘Cause I swear I have never in my life said, “Gosh! He’s a loud swallower.” Or “She’s a loud swallower!”
Rico Gagliano: We have to say, on this show we do a lot of food segments and we’ve gotten a lot of comments from listeners who have something called misophonia where they hear things louder than they are. So they listen to us tasting food on the air and it’s horribly disgusting and so–
Brendan Francis Newnam: They get upset.
Charlamagne: Who are these people? Daredevil? Why are they hearing better than everybody else is? Like, what is going on there? I’ve never heard somebody swallow. I haven’t.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So I think, but I think the core issue is that what you’re saying is that you, this is something about that coworker that has nothing to do with the actual sound, but you need to sort out that issue whether or not you have a romantic past with them.
Charlamagne: Absolutely. You have a issue with your co-worker. You and your co-worker don’t like each other in some way, shape, or form. So everything that they do bothers you. Y’all need to sit down and have a conversation.
Rico Gagliano: So converse with the person. Don’t just like have your cubicle moved or something.
Charlamagne: Yes. But don’t let it be petty. What you really need to do is figure out what the root of the problem is. ‘Cause it’s not he swallowing ’cause I’m gonna be honest with you. If one of my co-workers came to me and said, “Look man, I got a real issue with you.” And I say, “What is it?” “I don’t like the way you swallow. You swallow too loud.” I’m gonna say, “Man, if you don’t get the hell outta my face!” Like, I’m not even listening to you no more. You talking about swallow too loud.
How to keep your Uber score up when you have a rude friend
Rico Gagliano: Here comes something from Marcus in New York. Marcus writes, “My friend is a bit outspoken, which I get a kick out of sometimes. But I recently called an Uber, and she was being a jerk to the driver saying the car smelled funky, that the driver wasn’t going fast enough, etcetera. She’s a good friend, but how do I tell her to keep her mouth shut in these situations? Do I just say it right then and there?”
Charlamagne: I don’t know if you say it right then and there. It all depends. If you wanna check her right then and there, you could, but that’s one of those things where you pull them to the side afterwards. ‘Cause my grandma always taught me manners will take you where money won’t.
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t like disrespectful people. I always say, “Man, if you wanna see the true character of a person, watch how they treat people who can’t do anything for them.” So talking down to a Uber driver is a true example of really bad character.
Like I hate people that talk bad to Uber drivers, to waiters, to waitresses, to janitors, like that’s wack to me. Especially when you’re at a restaurant.’Cause you know your food is at the mercy of this person you’re pissing off. Even the Uber driver! Like, imagine if the Uber driver just says, “OK, word? Watch this!” And just starts doing 90 mph. What you gonna do?
Rico Gagliano: Go through the windshield.
Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s a health risk.
Charlamagne: Don’t do that to people, man. I just don’t like people like that. I think that’s disrespectful.
Brendan Francis Newnam: But you tell them, do you take them to the side afterward or do you do it right then and there and nip it in the bud?
Charlamagne: I think you probably take them to the side afterwards. It depends though. You gotta gauge the situation. If you see the Uber driver getting mad, you be like, “Sorry Mr. Uber driver. I apologize for my friend.” You don’t treat people like that. There’s a difference between being outspoken and just being a jerk.
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]