7 Ways You Push People Away Without Realizing It
Dealing with people is hard. It's weird, and there aren't any rules for it—or at least, the rules are different for everyone, based on whether they're from the East Coast, Minnesota, Georgia, or Japan. Everybody brings their weird baggage around with them, and parsing it can be a hassle. But sometimes the problem isn't on other people. Sometimes we do things that push others away without realizing it. If you're finding it hard to connect with others, here are some unintentional things to look out for.
Closed Body Language
Our posture communicates a lot about us, including a sense of openness versus a feeling of defensiveness. Things like folded arms, crossed legs, or looking down and away from the person that you're talking to can be habitual, or they could be signs that you're anxious. But regardless, these signs are usually read as being defensive, whether you mean for them to come across that way or not. Find a good guide to body language and spend a little time thinking about what your posture is telling people.
Lack of Communication
Everyone has a TV show they enjoy that's a little soap opera-y. Maybe it's an actual soap opera. Maybe it's Arrow. But most people, when they watch a show like that, thinks to themselves, “Wow, how much easier would life be for all these people if they just TALKED TO EACH OTHER!”
Or at least, that's what you should be thinking.
It's frustrating to watch people fail to communicate to the point that it becomes a catastrophe. Make sure that you're not doing the same thing. If you're angry about something, talk about it instead of letting that anger bleed out into the way you treat people. Discuss your problem openly, so it can be fixed.
Too Much Complaining
Take that last piece of advice with a grain of salt—you shouldn't be complaining all the time, either. Every class or office has that one person who whines about everything. Hearing relentless negativity from someone makes you feel like that person will never be happy about anything, and after awhile, you'll probably write them off as someone to avoid.
Sometimes these people want attention and don't know how else to get it. Sometimes they just honestly don't realize how selfish they come across. It hasn't occurred to them to think about how they sound to the person sitting next to them because, well, that's what being selfish is.
But hold up. If we're not allowed to whine all the time, how should we communicate negative emotions?
Lack of Conflict Resolution Skills
Guys are trained not to talk about their feelings as much—especially negative ones.
This isn't some “Men are from Mars; women are from Venus” garbage. It's a statement of fact about the society we live in. We're actually taught some pretty dysfunctional shit about feelings—too often we're taught that we can express pretty much nothing in the emotions department.
But that's okay, because we can learn how to talk about this stuff. One big way is to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. What that means is, don't say, “You never listen to me!”
Instead, say, “When you let your food go bad in the fridge after I asked you to get rid of it, not only does the smell bother me, but it makes me feel like you don't listen to me.”
Now see, in some ways the second version was stronger; it was more specific. But that version doesn't sound like you're accusing the other person. You're talking about your feelings. That less likely to put the other person on the defensive than hearing, “You do this; I'm sick of you doing that.”
But it also makes them think more clearly about how their actions affect you. It's a subtle thing, but it makes a surprisingly big difference.
Making Everything About You
There are so many ways to make everything about yourself, and all of them are obnoxious. One way is to be the person who always has to one-up everyone else's story. If somebody went out of state and had a nice time, you went to Paris and loved it. If someone ran a half-marathon, you have to tell about the marathon you ran. There's a difference between sharing interests and showing off.
Always Assuming the Worst
But there's another way people make everything about themselves, which is to take offense to everything that happens around them.
There are two ways to avoid this.
The first is to assume ignorance and incompetence, rather than malice. Do you know somebody who takes it way too personally when their order's wrong at a restaurant? Don't be that person. Mix-ups happen. Food service is hard work.
When someone cuts you off in traffic, consider that they didn't see you. Before you take umbrage, consider all the ways that carelessness could have led a person to slight you. Give the benefit of the doubt. It costs nothing, and it's better than being angry all the time.
The other way to avoid it is to remember that nobody thinks about you as often as you do.
Imagining Everyone Thinks About You
If somebody posts good news on Facebook, they're not rubbing it in your face because your dog just died. They simply aren't thinking about it. When you go out wearing a shirt that fits weird and you're convinced everyone notices? They don't.
Bleak as it may sound, nobody notices.
Everyone is too busy being self-conscious about their own looks to care. People use the phrase “the world doesn't revolve around you,” and they're usually talking about people with enormous egos. But the phrase applies just as much to people who are down on themselves so much that they just assume everyone else is, too. Both behaviors are equally toxic and unflattering.