We all know someone with an insufferable habit. You know, the guy — or gal — who is rude to service workers, cancels at the last minute, or interrupts you every time you open your mouth. We’re all guilty of these sometimes-minor infractions; but if we all had the self-awareness to catch ourselves when we were actually being jerks, the world would almost surely be a better place.
Yep, that sounds pretty impossible to me, too.
So in lieu of universal self-awareness, join me in recognizing the things that we, ourselves, should avoid doing at all costs. If you’ve already started thinking about the guy who traps you in 20-minute conversations at the post office, or the guy who rushes everyone only to show up late, or the guy who insists on picking food off your plate, and your blood has started to boil, I say only: we can do this. We can get through this list of really annoying habits together.
1. Only Talking About Yourself
You’re an hour into a coffee date with a friend, and he or she hasn’t even asked what you’ve been up to lately. You’re at a group dinner and you’re five stories deep into the detailed travel history of an overly-verbose, particularly self-assured (and self-described) vagabond. You’re at a party, clutching your wine glass and nodding desperately while glancing around the room looking for a way to escape a conversation about the spiraling trajectory of someone else’s relationship.
Sharing information about yourself is a powerful ingredient for human connection, but the key word is always “sharing.” There should be a give and take in how the conversation flows, and you should be just as focused on adding value to the other person as you are on getting your latest personal frustration off your chest.
2. Being Weird About Money
Money: it’s the quintessential taboo topic, and yet we all know how strong an influence it has over our lives and the courses they take. Probably it’s this infusion of stress that leads to so many weird situations surrounding finances: sticky business arrangements with friends, that awkwardly polite scuffle over who will get the check, an overly-gratuitous act of generosity, or simply failing to complete the basic task of covering your fair share.
There are pretty much a million ways money can intervene in an otherwise happy social relationship, and while you’re bound to come across a trickster or two — other people, or your own lack of judgement — it all comes down to some fairly basic advice: just stop being weird. That is to say, pick a line and stick with it. Don’t shy away from communicating your limitations. Understand there’s no such thing as a free meal. And at the end of the day, know that spending a little extra money probably matters less than losing a friendship or helping someone out when they really need it.
3. Not Respecting Other People’s Time
We’re an overbooked society, and we need to take more time for each other — all this is true. But even if you’re an easygoing chap who doesn’t worry much about spending a few extra minutes chatting, waiting on a friend, or taking that two-hour wildflower detour, you must be able to understand that a lot of us don’t have much wiggle room in our schedules — not that someone else’s schedule should be any of your business.
The fact of the matter is that no one owes you an explanation for how they spend their time. They could be working, taking care of their kids, making fondue, or lying on the floor watching YouTube videos. They could be choosing to spend their time with you, or they could be politely declining your invitation. But everyone has, in my opinion, an inherent right to a little fair warning for making plans, doing their job well, spending time with themselves, and just letting it all hang out.
4. Complaining Too Often
Thank the fates for girlfriends, moms, and just really understanding people who take the time to listen to your exaggerated, expletive-heavy rendition of the bad day you just experienced. Sometimes, we all just need to vent. And that’s OK.
But like all self-indulgent habits, complaining gets old pretty fast. Turns out even the most supportive and empathetic listeners actually just want to get good feelings from spending time with others, and if all they take away from their interactions with you is your negative energy, being your buddy might start to lose its novelty. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Your life isn’t that hard. If you have even one of these good friends who’s been listening this long, you must be doing OK.
5. Knowing You Need to Make a Change, but Not Doing it
Hate your job? Hate your boyfriend? Hate your hair? Been there. We all have. Unfortunately, life is full of dilemmas such as: “I’m making great money, but I dread Mondays,” “I love him, but we fight all the time,” and “I wish I could pull off a style like that.” And when you’ve reasoned with yourself and done your best, when you’ve found yourself disappointed again and again, and when you’re starting to rely on other, clearly unhealthy coping mechanisms (a messy bun? again?) you should know that it’s time. It’s time to make a move.
No, it’s not easy. At first, it’s hard to know if your initial disenchantment was just a phase or the real deal. After all, you definitely made the right move not jumping on the baby bang train. Could it be that this desire for blondeness, too, shall pass?
But there does reach a point when the inevitable is clear to not only everyone else around you, but (finally) to you, as well. It’s time to quit stressing about that big change you’ve been putting off making and do it. You may not know where you’ll end up, but that’s not the point, anyway.
6. Not Being Able to Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes
Even the most perfect humans — shall we say, people who write disparaging listicles like these? (hehe) — do from time to time make mistakes. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but people will let you down. Your best friend will go through a phase where he only talks about the trip to Italy he just took. Your girlfriend will feel trapped in her relationship and have no idea how to get out of it. Service will run late. Dates will cancel. You’ll get stuck with the check.
And through all this, the sky will not fall. Each spring, the flowers will bloom anew. You’ll quit your job and start over. Your friendships will ebb and flow. Such is the beauty of a life spent sharing the planet with 7.125 billion other earthlings. Such is the small power of learning to forgive even the most egregious social faux pas.