“The only completely consistent people are the dead.” — Aldous Huxley
A friend was telling me about a game she once played with friends that turned to emotional carnage.
“Someone decided we should list everyone’s two best traits — then their most annoying one. Guess which one everyone zeroed in on?” she said, recalling the heated exchange. “Never again.”
You don’t have to be super-sensitive to get upset over that exercise.
It’s human to focus on our flaws — even when there is much more evidence for our strengths. Most of us will remember what we did wrong and/or what people don’t like about us over everything else.
I advocate identifying and building our strengths for two main reasons: (1) our unique combination of skills and talents frame who we are and (2) they drop clues as to what we should be doing with our lives.
But that doesn’t mean we should ignore our flaws. It’s worth spending (a little) time in the negative zone because tweaking — or even being aware of — our faults can improve our function in the world. And, also, make life easier, and more fun.
So — if you’re game — stare down your flaws and see what you can do about them. If you can’t think of any (lucky you), you’ll find some prompts below.
The 10 Most Annoying Human Traits (in no particular order)
We’re all full of inconsistencies. That’s what makes us human. And fun. And not fun. Personality traits, or interactive styles, vary hugely. Here are arguably the top 10, compiled from various lists, research — and a lot of human interaction. [Note: these are broad traits, rather than practicalities like how you leave the toilet seat or if you leave crumbs all over the bench. Those are behavioural issues!]
1. Being a gloom merchant.
Are you chronically negative? Critical? Do you hear yourself saying: “yes… BUT”? Do you pour ice water on other people’s ideas, plans or dreams? You might call yourself practical or a realist but it’s draining to be around someone who always sees the dark side. Maybe it’s time to lower your “but” quota?
2. Complaining (about everything).
This is different from being a gloom merchant because this is not about other people or the world — this is about you. Your job, your boss, your partner, your kids, your busyness, your life …nothing’s ever right. Why did you get such a raw deal? You might have a tough life but maybe your time and energy could be spent more productively? Maybe you could focus outward and ask others how they’re doing, sometimes? Just a thought.
3. Always having to be right.
Do you like to have the last word? To hammer a point home until everyone agrees or you’ve beaten them into submission? You are probably clever, and you may well be right a lot of the time, but are you boring too? Do the people you’ve been smashing over the head with your brilliance need a nap and a double dose of Panadol afterwards? Ask yourself why you always have to be right. Can’t you try curious instead?
4. Interrupting others.
Do you interject when others are speaking? Do you ALWAYS have a cool(er) story to add? You might be more interesting than the person speaking; or you might be hilarious with a raft of great stories to tell, but wait your turn. Give others, especially quieter people, a chance. It’s especially poor form when you barge in with yet another fascinating fact about yourself. All roads shouldn’t lead back to you.
5. Relentless self-promotion.
Confidence is a great thing; most of us could do with more of it. But relentless self-promotion is tiring to be around. It’s all good — even healthy — if you do it occasionally but if you’re always jostling to be front and centre of everything? Another selfie anyone? Hmmm.
6. Scattered attention.
This is HUGELY common in a crazy busy world. Are you someone who can’t keep their mind on the job? Or the person you’re talking to? Or anything much? You may get a lot done but you are also sending out a clear message to others that they’re worth less than whatever just scrolled up on your phone. You may call it anxiety or a focus problem BUT you’ll be seen as shallow, disinterested and dismissive. Is that really what you want?
Do you have a reputation for not turning up at events or pulling out at the last minute with a weak excuse? Or do you like to keep your options open for as long as possible so you can select the best of them? You may think you’re making good choices but know that you’re (quietly) training people to treat you the same way. So don’t be hurt when people start pulling out on you or leaving you out of the cool stuff. Instead, practise committing and following through — especially to the people who matter.
8. Always running late.
Being fashionably late might have had a whiff of cool once, but it’s worn out its welcome. Time is precious — and most of us don’t have enough of it. Unless you are famous or mega-important people will just find your lateness rude and disrespectful. Think about what chronic lateness broadcasts to others: that they don’t matter enough for you to value their time. And that you’re disorganised; you don’t have your sh*t together.
9. Being boring (take the boring test).
Not doing (or ever suggesting) anything might come from introversion or shyness or social anxiety or mild depression. BUT it might also be called not making an effort. Fine if you enjoy lying on the couch all weekend — and no-one else minds. But if your passivity extends to never engaging with the world, not being curious or creative in any way and — most of all — not showing a genuine interest in others, don’t expect the queue to form at your door. You probably don’t care but that’s good, because it won’t.
10. Passive-aggressive behaviour.
OK, this more than annoying, it’s potentially a relationship wrecker. Passive-aggressive behaviour occurs when we give the impression everything is okay but our internal hurt causes us lash out in subtle ways: with muttered insults, sullen or stubborn behaviour or deliberately failing to complete tasks. If you have this tendency be warned because you’re placing your key relationships at risk. Do your best to acknowledge when things annoy you and be more upfront in addressing them.
There are no rights, no wrongs. We’re all annoying — sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. But if any warning bells are clanging, think about how you could do things better. Or treat others better. Identifying and fronting the problem is the first step down a new path.
Compulsory Footnote: Now dump your annoying-ness, pick your best quality and ruminate on it. Because I want to leave you in a good space: not ruin your day :)
Enjoyed this? You might like my new book Busy as F*ck , a DIY approach through stress and striving to build a life that matters. Available as an ebook or in paperback at Australian and New Zealand bookstores. Other territories coming soon.
Join my email list here for hot tips, psychology tools and a free gift: Seeing Someone: a brief guide to psychology, therapy and coaching. Enjoy!