There’s something to be said for slow and steady progress. But there’s also something to be said for strong, decisive, sweeping action. When it comes to bad, self-defeating habits, there’s no time like today to quit cold turkey. For some reason I’ve been more aware lately of the annoying social habits of other people. Worse than that, I’ve then been noticing many of the same behaviors in myself. Cutting out these negative habits makes it simpler to foster good relationships by getting to the heart of productive communication. So why not start today?
1. Seeking attention by complaining.
I spoke to someone yesterday who all but refused to talk about the positive aspects of their life. After listening to their troubles, I asked about some of the cool projects they have going on. Within two sentences, they were back to complaining about trivial things. We all need to share our troubles with friends or strangers from time to time, but don’t fall into the habit of turning conversations into your own personal dumping ground 100 percent of the time. It’s an easy way to get attention, but it’s a poor way to keep it; and it’s a poor way to view your life.
2. Focusing on your inner monologue instead of the dialogue in front of you.
“Holy crap! That’s a great idea. Wow. What can I say that will sound smart and clever? I really hope they think I’m intelligent. I could touch on symbolism or make a reference to post-modernism. Wait – what did they just ask me?” Stay focused on the other person’s words and points. People rarely mind when you say, “Hmm. Let me think about that for a second.” Quite the opposite, since it shows that you’re taking the conversation seriously. If you compose your answers while someone else is speaking, you’re really only having half a conversation. Read Just Listen.
3. Multi-tasking while you chat.
Even if you are a professional multi-tasker, if you’re talking to someone, talk to them, and that’s it. Don’t browse online, don’t watch TV, don’t update your to-do list, and please, don’t eat while you’re on the phone. Whether they say so or not, it really annoys the person you’re talking to. If you really don’t have the time to talk, be honest and find another time, or cut it short.
4. Not paying attention to the people you care about most.
Pretending to listen while your mind wanders to your work day, etc. Do you really think your loved ones can’t tell? They can. And even more importantly, they need you to listen sincerely and thoughtfully. There is no greater gift of love and no greater expression of caring that you can offer the special people in your life, than your undivided time and attention. You need to remember that ‘love’ is listening, and everyone wants to be heard. Read The 5 Love Languages.
5. Constantly fishing for compliments.
“Oh, I look terrible today.” – after someone compliments you. “I just threw it together at the last minute.” – when you obviously dressed up. “I’m really not good at things like this.” – when the people you’re with know you are. Please. Stop. It’s not flattering. Read Changing Behavior.
6. De-emphasizing compliments with self-effacing remarks.
It’s okay to say “thank you” when you’re complimented. By making a self-effacing comment, you nearly force the other person to repeat their compliment, which is not a gracious thing to do. Acknowledging a compliment isn’t snobby – like you’re admitting that you think you’re just grand – it’s a simple courtesy. Besides, you earned it. Saying “thank you” not only makes the other person feel good, it’s a healthy reminder that you’re responsible for some really good things in your life.
7. Cutting people off mid-sentence.
The only time this is okay is when you’re in an intense brainstorming session. Or you’ve got an urgent situation to attend to. Or you haven’t seen your best friend in months. Okay, so this habit is kind of elastic, but you get the gist. Most of the time, interrupting just means that you’re missing the best parts of the conversation. Plus, you’re showing your chat partner that you value your own thoughts over theirs.
8. An unsupportive attitude.
The greatest compliment you can give to someone is to believe in them and let them know you care. When you see something true, good and beautiful in someone, don’t hesitate to express your appreciation. When you see something that is not true, good and beautiful in someone, don’t neglect to give them your wholehearted blessings and best wishes.
9. Trying to please everyone.
This one is about keeping your sanity. No matter how loud their opinions are, others cannot choose who you are. The question should not be, “Why don’t they like me when I’m being me?” it should be, “Why am I wasting all my time and energy worrying what they think of me?” If you are not hurting anyone with your actions, keep moving forward with your life. Be happy. Be yourself. If others don’t like it, let them be. Life isn’t about pleasing everybody. (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the Relationships chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Afterthoughts and Questions
Obviously we all slip up sometimes, so don’t berate yourself when you do. On occasion, I too have been guilty of every single one of these negative social habits.
So with that said, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Any bad habits you’d like to add to the list? Any exceptions that matter? Please continue the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Photo by: J.T. Noriega