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, before any further action.
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
Thanks Angel. Those were a great reminder of how often we aren’t focusing on what we really want when we engage with others. Undivided attention is a rare and precious gift in our fast-paced world.
Kevin Halls says
I’ve been guilty of nearly all you mentioned. But as you get older you become more aware of these faults and do something about it. I went through a phase for some reason where I would talk over people over the phone and even face to face. How irritating is that? Thankfully someone pulled me up about it. Now I feel I’m a good listener who doesn’t interrupt and doesn’t talk over neither.
Conversation is a two way street… or at least should be. But at times you can’t get a word in.
Angel Chernoff says
@Vincent: Thanks for the continued support and added insight.
@Kayoto: It’s simply a matter of waiting for them to finish a point and then speaking up before they roll on to the next point. Be direct and let them know you have something to add to the conversation.
@Bia: Being forced into a toxic relationship like this can be tough, but you still have the choice to be conscious and present about the task at hand while ignoring the negativity. And if the environment is truly unbearable, perhaps it’s time to move on to a new job, etc.
@Josephina: I agree. That acknowledgement is a great thing. And thank you for the wonderful additions.
@Carmen K: I know a couple people like this. It’s tough to deal with. I always try listen and be supportive, while giving subtle suggestions that might assist them.
@Kk: Excellent points all the way around. BIG “thank you” for keeping the conversation alive.
@DW: Seeing this greatness is a good thing. Channel this insight inward. It’s not a matter of succeeding, it’s a matter of doing your best – that is success.
@David Rapp: Ouch. Substituting opinions for facts is something I used to struggle with when I was younger. Excellent point!
@Mike Martel: Agreed. Presence is the foundation of every good relationship.
@Shana: It takes practice; no question about it. Perhaps this is something we’ll work into a future post or maybe even an upcoming course.
@Sufian Chaudhary: I love that idea of focusing on others. We could simply ask everyone to tell us their story – not what they “do” for a living, but who they truly are.
@Black Roses: It is true that some relationships simply aren’t meant to work, no matter how bad you want them to. It’s also good to hear that you recognize your shortcomings in that particular relationship and have learned from them.
@Sha: Some people simply lack a healthy level of self-worth. Help them if you can, but don’t take offense to their bizarre responses. They aren’t directed toward you. They’re directed toward themselves.
@A Nomad Life: Glad ya found us too. =) Welcome.
@Michelle: As I mentioned to Shana, it takes practice. Focus on the conversation and your own breathing. Focus on being present in the moment – stop thinking about other things. Meditation might be a good starting point for practicing presence.
@All: As always, you made my day. Marc and I just read every one of your comments and wrote these responses out together. You all provide such inspiring food for thought for our upcoming articles. Our little community here warms our hearts. Your support and insight is the fuel that helps us write and dream.
Well, a great article that will help you build healthier relationships. The best point among others is point #4… actually it is true, you really don’t care for people who care about you, because you take them for granted. But remember, eventually, they will feel your ignorance!
One of my peeves is people on F.B. wanting to be professional and generate friendships and business but using slang such as gonna, wanna, gotta, yup. You come across as uneducated. Take the time to use proper English. Our English language seems to be going out the door. And don’t forget the word ‘of’. It’s a couple OF things, not a couple things. Thank you, I feel much better.
James Degner says
EXCELLENT advice that I really need to listen to. Thanks!
Dhruv Bhagat says
If you’re at any party… You should drink and smoke less… If you’re only indulged in drinking, then it will have a negative impact on your girlfriend.. You have to take it easy instead of getting high every single time…
One thing that I really appreciate in this post is – Attitude!
Great post btw. Keep going 🙂
#9 really strikes home. A couple of times I was told by others that as their friend, it was my job to make them happy. Not only was I dumbfounded by this statement, I wasn’t able to do my “job” and ended up losing the friend.
I take issue with a couple of these.
#1. When someone has a really bad situation or drpression, they’re not necessarily complaining for attention. They’re complaining because their situation sucks, and it helps them feel better to share that ferling with you. If you really don’t care about it and just see them as complainers, you’re probably an awful “friend” and they would be better without you anyway.
#6. I was raised – as were most ppl in the South – to be humble and deferential about compliments. It’s a cultural thing. Replying to a compliment with the equivalent of “yeah, I know” marks you as an arrogant ass.
Thank you for this post. I keep the following next to my phone:
Before speaking, ask yourself to THINK:
Is it Thoughtful
Is it Honest
Is it Intelligent
Is it Necessary
It it Kind
Nice list. I wish more people would take note of these online and in person.
Jane smith says
I would add trying to one up. At work there is a person who will listen to other people for a moment and then say “my friend did that” or “I’ve got one better, my friend…” The worst I ever saw happen was one woman came to work and was telling about her ultrasound. She was emotionally explaining how they had found out they were having twins. The other super annoying person cut her off and started talking about her friend (who none of us knew) who had twins and how hard it was. We were all so infuriated that this person thought we cared about her story or friend. We wanted to hear about our co-worker and her excitement! To add insult to injury the comment about how “hard it was” was not at all supportive!!! In the end we all left the room and went to our co-workers office so she could continue to share and we could continue to rejoice and support her!!!
Wow! So many of these were so good. Its scary though how many resonated with me. Then again, perhaps I am not the only one, huh!
Thanks for sharing!
I was doing #1, #2, and #5 throughout my life up to a year ago. I’m glad to say that I’m a chang(ing) man
It’s funny that now it’s the other way around; I was this type of person before and now I’m able to pick up these traits from other people.
It would also be good to add another truth about speaking ill or focusing on the negative of other people just for the sheer psychological kick that some people get from it. I’ve seen this habit being generally socially accepted because it makes some feel better about themselves, especially when in agreement with others, to put others down or tell lies about them when they are not present. It doesn’t matter for many whether the subjects are friends or frenemies, whtehr they are well aware that what they are saying are not true at all, as long as they can make this as a tool for their own social gratification, then it is unfortunately considered harmless by certain people. Sad isn’t it?
One thing that truly irritates and disappoints me is where someone I am with constantly answers every trivial text or message they get on their mobile. We can be in the middle of a lovely meal, conversation or situation, but the minute his mobile tinkles he responds. Ok, if he was a high flying exec dealing with business I would totally understand, but we are two retired friends living a carefree life by the sea. I have asked him to give quality time to the moment and wait to answer a non important text, but it’s a daily request!
Guilty of all the above at one time or another. Something else that used to really hurt me is when any idea I might have is just swept aside and a “better” one is put forward as if I hadn’t spoken. My best friend is almost always doing this to me; now I just let it go and carry on. I’m not allowing the hurt anymore…..life’s too short.
Julie Ann says
I would also add being a know-it-all. (Similar to the comment about one-upping.) It’s great to share your knowledge, but if it doesn’t enhance the conversation, does it really need to be said? I know people who are ALWAYS right about EVERYTHING (even when they’re flat-out wrong). Everyone else is ALWAYS wrong, and they refuse to even entertain the idea that someone else might know as much (or more) than they do. It’s incredibly off-putting.