There are certain horrible habits that some people have that simply drive others away. As the old saying goes, every person has something good to offer. But for some, it's when they leave the room. Are people happy when you walk in or overjoyed when you walk out?
Here are five horrible traits that push people away, how to recognize if you have them and how to get rid of them for good.
1. You’re a downer.
We’ve all been around these people. They whine, they complain, they talk about how much is going wrong in their lives and they want to tell you every detail of it.
How do you know if it’s you that’s the downer? Pay attention to what you’re talking about the most. Did you complain about traffic as your opening line when you got to your meeting this morning? Did you make sure to tell those around you how little sleep you got last night, how hard you’re working or how busy you are?
If the constant theme of your conversation is whining or negative, you’re probably a bit of a downer to be around. Notice how you are starting conversations with your peers and if the theme is consistently complaining, it’s time to change your tune. Another sign is if your peers take a deep sigh as you approach or consistently respond “uh-huh,” which is a sign they don’t want to engage.
How do you stop it? This is one of the simplest, but hardest to fix. The simple part is all you have to do is stop talking about things that bum you out and make everyone else bummed out, too. Try starting with noticing something nice or good every time you are about to complain. If you’re stuck in traffic, notice something beautiful around and focus on that to talk about with your peers. If you didn’t get much sleep, try not to talk about it. If someone says you look tired, offer a positive response like, “Yeah, I didn’t get a ton of sleep, but wait until I show you how great the project proposal is that I got done!”
There can always be a more positive counterpoint to your complaining. Find it, and try to change the conversation.
2. You don’t shut up.
Have you ever been around a person who won’t stop talking? Maybe it was a boss, a co-worker, a founder or even a passenger on an airplane. It can feel like bobbing helplessly in the ocean, watching a giant wave come at you that you just know is going to pummel you with a wall of words. You want to take a deep breath, hold on for dear life and suffer through the verbal assault of chattiness.
How can you tell if you’re the ocean wave people are dreading? A few good signs to pay attention to are the airspace you take up in conversations and the reactions people have to your approach. Just like being a downer, when you talk too much, people tend to either scatter as you approach for no apparent reason, or respond in quick “uh-huh” responses to not engage you any further than is necessary.
Do people stand a lot when talking to you? That’s another body language clue they’re looking to get away quick, or aren’t willing to sit, knowing that means you’re going to hold them captive in your conversation. If you find you talk at people instead of with people, that you dominate the majority of every meeting and conversation, guess what? You need to learn how to stop talking so much.
The good news is, just like being a downer, the solution is easy -- stop talking! That can be hard for someone used to being a chatterbox. Practical advice is to practice holding your tongue longer. In meetings, try to trade off listening and talking in alternating turns. Share airtime around the table for others to voice their opinions, too. Try counting to three in your head before you speak to make sure you aren’t choking out other voices in the room.
With some practice, you can turn this terrible habit around (and you’ll probably gain a lot of friends back as a result!).
3. You’re distracted.
We all have important things to do in our day, but if you’re the guy or gal that’s always on your phone talking, texting and emailing while others are trying to talk to you, have dinner with you or hold a meeting you’re in -- guess what? That’s a horrible habit people hate.
How can you tell if you’re the distracted one? Do you find yourself asking, “what was that again?” often throughout the day? That’s a great sign you aren’t paying attention to others. Do you ever look up from a meeting or conversation and see everyone else is off the phone and laptop except you? If you’re constantly digitally distracted, try leaving the phone, tablet or laptop at home for your next dinner appointment or meeting.
It can be hard to disconnect from your digital devices, but you’ll gain important human connections that you need to garner healthy, happy relationships. Ditch the dirty digital distraction habit and reconnect with individuals, giving them the attention they deserve from you.
4. You’re condescending.
Even if you know more than others, what’s more inspiring: teaching how to get to your level, or talking down to them about theirs? Being condescending is a horrible habit that will alienate others.
How can you tell if you’re condescending? It’s often in others more than you. What does that mean? Look at the people in your life and take stock of how many are better off having known you. Do you mentor others? Have you helped people around you gain skills, knowledge, jobs or in any other way helped to develop others to teach what you know? How many people would come to you for help with a problem or for a question?
Pay attention to the way you treat others. Do you help them, or talk down to them? Do you offer advice when it isn’t asked for (which can be another key sign of condescending, thinking you need to tell others what to do and how to do it)? If these patterns sound familiar, try a change in tone and a change in perspective.
Instead of offering advice, only give it when specifically asked. Stay on topic when asked and don’t make your advice go broader than the request. Try teaching the next time someone makes a mistake instead of berating them.
Patience, an affinity to teaching and some compassion will help you break this horrible habit.
5. You’re insincere.
People can sniff out a fake fast these days. There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion or a perspective that doesn’t match up to everyone else. You don’t have to be fake or insincere about your opinion or others. It’s better to be kind, but honest, than to pretend.
Most people who are insincere either are that way because they’re insecure, which stems from a desire to have everyone like them, or they’re condescending.
If your insincerity comes from insecurity, here are a few ways to tell. Do you worry that saying no or having a different opinion will mean people don’t like you? Do you worry about what others think? Do you constantly go along to get along? The truth is that most people respect a healthy disagreement or can accommodate other perspectives and opinions. You don’t have to be obnoxious or forceful in your opinions, but it’s OK to be sincere about having a different perspective.
A great way to start overcoming this habit of being a contrarian is simply to not offer your opinion at all. When someone tells you something you don’t agree with, try simply saying something neutral such as, “that’s interesting,” and leaving it at that until you build up the confidence to be authentic.
The most important thing is to stop agreeing, or saying yes to things you don’t want to do, don’t believe in or are otherwise faking agreement on. Start slow and you can beat this bad habit.