Most of us would like to get along well with others — whether friends or strangers. One thing to keep in mind is that certain habits tend to get on other people’s nerves. Now you might say, “If someone’s annoyed when I talk on the phone in the grocery store, I don’t care, because that’s ridiculous!” The fact is, whether or not you think it’s ridiculous, some people will be very annoyed. Just know that. Here are some common aggravations to keep in mind:
1. As I say to my three-year-old just about every day, “Don’t use a whiny voice.” Some people make a habit of talking in a whine, even when they’re making a perfectly innocuous comment. Some people whine ALL THE TIME. Once I started paying attention, I realized that I do this far too often, myself, and I try to remember to say things like, “Have you seen my keys?” in a nice tone, not in a whiny tone.
2. Watch your cell phone use. You may think it’s acceptable to talk in a store, or on a bus, or wherever, but remember that many people still find it extremely annoying when others use a phone in a public place.
3. Don’t curse. I’m astonished by how many people use very bad language in crowded situations. You may feel fine about using the f-word in conversation with your friends, but if you’re in the subway, other people are going to hear you, too.
4. Clean up after yourself.
5. Think about whether you’re being interesting. Certain topics are very interesting to the speaker, much less interesting to the listener: descriptions of dreams, fond discussions about your children, re-tellings of the plots of movies or plays.
6. Watch the eye-stray. When you’re talking to someone in a crowded room, it’s tempting to keep looking around at the other people. This is very annoying to the person to whom you’re speaking; it feels like you’re hoping to find a more interesting conversationalist. Maintain eye contact, or if you’re looking around for a reason, explain it. I was very annoyed by a woman who kept glancing over my shoulder, until she explained, “My husband is coming, and he doesn’t know anyone here, and he’s very shy, so I’m looking for him.” Then I didn’t mind.
7. Most importantly: remember that different things annoy different people. Unfortunately, the ways that we annoy others reflect our personal proclivities – so it’s hard to be aware of how other people might react. E.g., if you’re the kind of person who talks on the phone all the time, you probably aren’t aware of how annoying other people find it. Or if you talk about your kids all the time, you probably don’t know that a lot of people find that boring. As a person who scores low on Agreeableness, I’m not naturally very considerate – but I’m trying to be more mindful of my actions.
Zoikes, it just occurred to me that I may never have mentioned Fly Lady. I get a big kick out of that site and that approach to organizing your life. Baby steps!
Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.