This one girl did me an unforgettable favor back in high school. “When we first met,” she said, “I couldn’t stand you.” Instead of sulking, I asked her why. Here’s what she said:
- You were so positive it made everyone want to puke
- You pretended to be in a good mood, even when you weren’t
- You had a ridiculous fake laugh
- You tried too hard to make everyone like you
- You gave pep talks that nobody wanted to hear
- You wanted everyone’s approval
- You were so impressed with yourself
- You never told anyone what you were really thinking
She had a point.
That’s how I acted for months after moving to a new school, to hide a broken home — and my autism.
High functioners like me tend to mimic what they see, but it comes out all wrong. Sometimes you have to do the opposite of what you think you should, or what you think everyone else wants.
It wasn’t until 7 years later that I finally leaned into my so-called defects. Turns out, being a little abrasive isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially if you own it. These are the things that really bug people:
1. Never say thanks for anything
Showing a little gratitude is the simplest way to make someone like you. That’s the only thing most of us want for going out of our way. You don’t even have to say the exact words “thank you.” You can just return favors, praise the job they did, or pay it forward in your own quiet way.
Taking someone for granted is a fast way to kill their respect. They’ll stop doing favors for you altogether.
There’s still one thing even worse than not saying thanks, and that’s giving a crowd-pleaser thanks. You’ve seen this before. Someone thanks you in front of a big group…. to make themselves look good.
The best kind of thanks is casual. Just take them out for a drink. Spend some time with them. Actually think about their needs.
2. Try to imitate your way to cool
One of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen happened during a double-keynote address. The first speaker literally danced up to the stage and gave a talk that ended in standing ovations.
For a few minutes, everyone wanted to be him.
The second speaker also tried to dance. His talk ended in pity applause, whispers, and a handful of groans.
Imitation may flatter someone else…
But it makes you look lame.
Don’t do it.
Trying to be something you’re not isn’t a deal breaker. That’s how we grow, by stretching past what we are to what we can become. It’s trying to be something we don’t even want to that gets us intro trouble. So does trying to be something someone else already is.
True cool is about figuring out who you are, what you can become, and then making that work in the moment.
3. Think you’re something special
When you think you’re special, you don’t even have to say anything to piss everyone off. They can see it in your face. They can hear it in your voice, and the way your shoes hit the floor.
Some of us think we’re special because we’re smart, or talented. Or maybe we think we’re special because something bad happened to us, and so the world owes us something — when it doesn’t.
A confident person doesn’t think they’re special.
The best thing we can do is flip this switch off. Sure, we can all be interesting for a few minutes. But thinking we’re the only VIP in the room, or the smartest, or the most beautiful, that’s a fatal mistake.
This is why some people can’t stop fishing for compliments. It’s why they can’t stop talking about themselves, or using other people’s conversations as stepping stools to their own grandeur.
It’s other people who decide if we’re special or not. There’s not one person on the planet who matters to all 7.5 billion of us.
4. Spew toxic positivity all the time
Honestly, it’s just as bad as complaining. Not everyone always wants or needs cheering up. Sometimes we need to air out our emotions, solve a real problem, or commiserate with someone for a minute.
The Pollyanna wants to sweep your emotions under the couch because negativity makes them uncomfortable.
In the process of trying to cheer you up, they miss a chance to forge a real bond. All they had to do was listen.
It’s a little presumptuous to always think we’re the one who can magically lift someone’s mood, just by telling them everything’s going to be okay. So often, we’re talking to ourselves to alleviate our own distress about what we’re hearing. At worst, we wind up showing them just how little we understand or care about the jam they’re in.
5. Turn your back on someone who needs help
Actually helping someone is the most straightforward way to build a real relationship. But not everyone understands the basics. They focus so much on gaining the admiration of everyone, they forget that the everyone they’re chasing is composed of individuals.
The people we can’t stand the most are the ones who only do favors for credit. They make you an accessory to their glory. They might pledge their help, then abandon you after the applause dies down.
They might even try to take credit for helping you later, after you’ve already helped yourself. They want their name in the credits.
You don’t have to solve everyone’s problems all the time. You just have to make an effort every now and then. And when you can’t, it helps to actually feel bad about it — instead of expecting an acquittal.
You don’t have to be super likable
There’s a difference between wanting to get along with everyone and wanting them to adore you. The first one’s possible.
The second one isn’t.
Some people will like you. Some won’t. It’s fine to be a nerd, a dork, or even a little bit of a jerk sometimes. If owning your flaws doesn’t make you likable, it at least makes you genuine.
It’s hard to despise someone who’s real with themselves.
Trying to make everyone like you is the first step toward alienating them. When you put that ahead of the basics, that’s when you start losing the friends you could’ve had the whole time.