Let’s be honest. We’re all slightly annoying from time to time. It’s part of the wonderful complexity of what it means to be human. But certainly some are more annoying than others. Why is that the case and is it possible to change how others perceive you?

Who wouldn’t want to be more likeable, appreciated and all round better person in the room?

Social skills are one of the great mysteries of life for many of us. Without them, even the most talented will limit their future because life comprises ultimately of relationships. So can they be developed? And why is that that we’re generally fairly awkward talking about such things?

For most of my life, my reflection is that I have historically been a fairly awkward person in social situations. Fortunately enough I’ve also been reasonably self-aware which has given me an open window into developing myself. Whilst I feel like I’ve entered into society perhaps lower down the social chain than most, this gradual progression has taken me into a new lease of confidence in life.

I talk more about the power of disadvantage in another blog post.

I’ve also been lucky (or unlucky) enough to have met a lot of people of varying levels of awesomeness or lack of. (I’m being kind here but you all know what I mean). Welcome to church life for starters.

Why are Christians so weird anyways? Let’s fix this up because Jesus isn’t too happy about it. There are many stories I could share on this blog post!

I’m not sure I’ve got this all figured out but here are a few things I’ve learnt about how to be less annoying. Your future friends will hopefully thank you for reading this.

1. Talk less please

There’s nothing more annoying than someone who occupies all of the conversation. Listening is a skill but it’s also about heart. When someone takes time to pause and listen, they show a genuine interest in us.

More than that, we feel understood, heard, recognised and known in a world that is all too anonymous.

Most of us talk too much out of an awkwardness around silence. Silence is golden so they say and without space in music we’re left with all of the bad types of it. Don’t be so quick to fill every gap. There is beauty in the pause. Embrace it.

I talk more about stilling our inner self and dealing with anxiety in this post

2. Listen more

I attempt (not always successfully) to be a master question asker. It’s a win for the person you’re talking to because you’re placing value on them. And here’s the thing, every single person has something really interesting about them.

It just sometimes takes some time to dig for the gold. When conversation is naturally more difficult with some, persevere because you might be unearthing something and someone that no one has ever bothered to do before. That’s pretty cool and you might just make a new friend.

Actually listen instead of waiting for your opportunity to inject. Seek to understand and conversation naturally flows. Let’s be honest, most of opinions are nicked from other people and you don’t actually have all of the right answers.

I talk about how everyone is so quick to jump on the bandwagon of dissing billionaires in another post.

Be respectful and humble in the way you interact with others and definitely don’t assume others position on issues, particularly around politics, religion and all of the classics.

It’s rare today that people actually have a genuine interest in others. If you do exhibit that then you naturally become very unforgettable.

3. Smile a lot (especially with your eyes)

The secret to a good passport photo is to smile with your eyes. It’s the difference between serial killer and demigod. Technically, you’re not allowed to crack a smile but when you smile with your eyes, you naturally look better.

People with default not-so-good faces tend to make a worse impression than others. Take it up with your parents.

But smiling makes people think you’re nice as well as better looking.

Don’t hate the rules, just learn the game. It’s the way life works and don’t forget you’re already a guilty member of the system that is. How often have you judged someone on a split-second interaction? All the time if you’re anything like me (and vaguely honest).

Practice smiling when you walk into a room or a new situation. It creates an instinctive reaction of everyone around you to smile back and sets others at ease. That’s the power of a good cheeky smile.

4. Stop avoiding commitments

Nothing says I don’t really care about you like being non-committal. You know those moments where you’re organising an event and people don’t want to nail a time down. Most often it’s because they want to see what else is going to come up. This is a dreadfully annoying tactic that’s birthed out of a deep insecurity of missing out and also a desire to be popular.

The feeling that being in the right social gathering will boost your self-esteem is a dangerously untrue concept that will leave you bereft of confidence.

Also, it’s a sure fire way to stop relationships from deepening. You’ll find yourself with millions of friends but all of them will be shallow and you’ll wonder why no one wants to become intimate or vulnerable with you. It’s because you’re not willing to commit or open your heart to others.

Just because people look popular doesn’t mean they actually have strong relationships. You do get what you sow after all.

5. Demonstrate trust

Trust is the basis of all relationships and invisible to us all is a personal trust-o-meter. It’s all about the alignment between what you say and what you do. When people let us down, even though we like them, we subconsciously class them as less trustworthy. Over time as trust erodes, eventually the relationship breaks down.

Every time you break your commitment to someone or something or you treat others as less important than yourselves, you are eroding your reputation of being trustworthy.

And it has an emotional and relational cost that over time weighs heavily on your soul and creates isolation

6. Present yourself well

It’s funny when you think about the clothes you wear, the style you exhibit, the freshness that people may or may not feel when they meet you. We often think all of these things are about personal preference and to some extent that is true.

But you actually spend close to zero time looking at yourself. It’s everyone else who gets blessed (or not) by your presence.

Making an effort to dress well, invest in your wardrobe and work on your personal hygiene is such a simple way to create a great first impression. There’s a point of course where you should stop spending so much time thinking about how you look. But a basic degree of self-care is a good thing that helps us all out. Please make an effort. Yours sincerely, all of the people you hang out with.

7. Have a good laugh (at yourself)

People love it when you take the mick out of yourself. Embrace the jokes and make others feel lifted in your presence. As long as you’re not entering into self-pity (which is actually a fairly selfish attribute), you can enjoy the frailty and normality of what it means to be human.

You’ll give everyone else around you permission to be who they really are instead of having to put up a facade of perfection and glossy tidiness.

8. Make the first move

Don’t wait for others to say hi, handshake or hug. You go for it. Most of people are dreadfully awkward about such things so when you decide to take one for the team, everyone super appreciates it.

Introduce people and show warmth before warmth is shown to you.

You’ll open up the room big time.

9. Show up on time

There’s an age-old story from my past where I met a girl for coffee and showed up ridiculously late (like 45 mins+). Now we’re married and it’s proper banter but showing up late is such a disrespectful thing. It says that you value yourself more than the other person.

I reckon most people are late because they don’t want to be the awkward person shuffling around waiting for someone to show up.

Obviously this is a bad (and self-centred) way to think about life and it’ll do you a lot of damage to your future. Not to mention the reciprocal issues when everyone starts showing up later and later. It’s just a really bad use of the most precious commodity you have, time itself. If you’ve ever waited around for someone, you know it’s annoying.

What are some of the things that you’d tell your former self about if you had to give some advice? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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