How to Not Be Annoying

This article is for you, someone who feels like they annoy people a lot of the time. Perhaps you don’t know what it is you do that bothers people so much. Or, you may know exactly what bothers people, but you don’t know how to change it.

Know that it’s not always your fault

There are times when you might think, “I annoy people,” but it’s really about them and their moods and ups and downs. To some extent we all take things personally, so that if a friend seems annoyed, we may see it as something we did even when that isn’t the case.

If you know that you are a sensitive person, sometimes it helps to challenge your negative, self-critical thoughts. You could try writing down all of the thoughts you’ve had this week about being annoying. Then one by one, challenge them so you think of alternate explanations. For example, let’s say you wrote down, “I annoyed my partner when we were making dinner,” you may challenge this with, “She had a long day and was feeling irritable.”

Why am I annoying?

But I do know that it’s my fault at times. Why am I annoying to people?

People are usually seen as annoying if they’ve violated one or more social norms.

These are a set of agreed-upon behaviors that are normative in our society, like shaking hands when you meet someone.

Here are some behaviors which violate social norms and that most people consider to be annoying. You can use this as a checklist, marking off the things you think you do to annoy people:

  • Interrupting people when they’re talking
  • Being bossy or controlling
  • Talking too much
  • Bragging about your accomplishments
  • Being constantly negative and/or complaining
  • Passive-aggressive behavior
  • Needing to be right all the time
  • Showing up late often
  • Not paying attention
  • Being boring
  • Talking too loudly
  • Being aggressive or bullying
  • Not remembering things people have told you
  • Making insulting comments
  • Lack of reliability

How to stop being annoying

You can unlearn annoying behaviors. Here are some techniques you can use:

1. Ask yourself who you are annoying to

Ask yourself if you’re being annoying to friends, family, perhaps someone you’re attracted to, or if it’s only when you meet new people. If it’s only around people you don’t know or someone you like, your behavior could stem from social anxiety. The stress of meeting people may cause you to get nervous and behave in a way that you normally wouldn’t.

Read more on overcoming social anxiety in our guide on how to stop being nervous around people.

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2. Practice picking up on social cues

Another reason you may be perceived as annoying is that you are not picking up on the social cues of those around you. Social cues involve body language, tone of voice, and other expressions. They are the ways others let us know how they feel about the present situation.

Other reasons why people display inappropriate behaviors include:

  • Social anxiety
  • Parents were poor role models
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Personality disorders

Here’s a list of social cues. To improve your ability to read social cues, it’s important that you expose yourself to a lot of social interaction. Picking up on social cues is like any other skill: The more you practice, the better you’ll get.

3. Ask your loved ones

Even if you’re not being annoying around your friends and family, they may have observed the behaviors you’re concerned about. Ask them what you are doing that is annoying. Get their thoughts and advice. These are valuable insights from people who care about you.

4. Consider what you find annoying

Sit down and make your own personal list of all the things that you personally find annoying. Chances are, what you find annoying is similar to what most people find annoying. Keep that list in mind what you’re interacting with other people. You may find it easier to pick out when you are doing one of those things after making yourself more aware of them.

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5. Explore the reasons

If you’ve identified the behaviors you are doing which are annoying, ask yourself why you do them. For example, if you brag about yourself, why is it that you feel like you have to prop yourself up all the time? Perhaps you don’t feel you get enough recognition for your accomplishments, or you feel like you haven’t done enough.

Identifying the reasons for a behavior can help you to modify it.

6. Be a listener

If you have trouble with people finding you annoying, you may consider taking a step back for a little while in social situations and just listening to what other people say and do. You could ask other people about themselves, and get them talking. People usually like talking about themselves and the role of the listener is always appreciated.

7. Be mindful of your behavior and others’ reactions

Mindfulness involves an awareness of what is going on in the present moment, without judgement or even interpretation. When you are around people, consider stepping outside yourself and just observe the situation. If others become annoyed with you, what preceded that?

Pretend you are someone outside the situation watching and listening to the conversation. This can help you to become more self-aware.

8. Identify your trigger thoughts

Some behavior occurs because something in the interaction triggers an emotional reaction in you. For example, being reminded somehow of a trauma or difficult area of your life may cause you to become angry and lash out at others, or start to talk too much. You may want to try to identify the trigger thoughts that lead to your annoying behavior. Being mindful can help you with this.

9. Don’t be defensive

If you’re around people you trust, you may consider laughing at yourself and your faults a little. You can say something like, “I just noticed myself talking too much, I know that can be annoying”. Being easy-going about something you dislike about yourself makes it easier to cope with, and perhaps easier to change it. Your loved ones may then also feel more comfortable pointing out when you are doing something bothersome.

10. Reconsider your behavior

There is always time to rethink what you are about to say or do. Although you may not believe it, your behavior is completely under your control. If you’ve identified the behaviors you want to stop, remember there’s a beat of time before you are about to open your mouth where you can make a different decision.

Normally, it’ll take several attempts before you are able to stop yourself in time.

11. Take care of your health and appearance

Taking care of your physical health is important because it’s reflected in your behavior. If you follow a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and pay attention to your posture and the way you dress, it can help your level of confidence and self-esteem. You’ll feel different, and as a result, you’ll likely act differently.

12. Being annoying online

In this world of social media, your online presence and image may be a big concern. There are many behaviors people find unacceptable on the internet, and this is significant because doing the wrong thing could cause you to lose friends. Here are some of the behaviors that people find most annoying online:

  • Bragging about your life/accomplishments
  • Flaunting your relationship
  • Posting angry political rants
  • Discrimination or racism
  • Posting too many times a day
  • Sad or agisted postings
  • Bullying other people or aggression
  • Arguing with other people
  • Posting too much personal information
  • Tagging someone without their consent

13. Handling online behavior

If you find yourself doing things that annoy people online and losing friends because of it, you may want to consider limiting your use of the tools. Social media can be overwhelming, and everyone has their opinion. It could help your confidence to look at it a little less often. You may think about allowing yourself a certain amount of social media per day or week.

When you are online, you could try using the principle of reconsidering your behavior. Before you post something, rethink what you think the reaction will be. If this seems like something that will upset people, think again and don’t post it.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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