How not to be annoying to your friends
When it comes to living a long, healthy and happy life, your relationships are the single biggest factor in how you fare, according to the ongoing Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest-running study of adult health and happiness in the world. And the research isn’t just talking about your romantic partners. In fact, some friendships can be just as, if not more, impactful over the course of your life. So, knowing how important our friends are, how do we nurture these relationships and keep them strong? A good place to start is understanding how not to be annoying.
Many of us worry about being a burden to our friends, and the last thing we want to do is push our pals away. (After all, it’s hard enough to make friends as an adult!) But while we don’t go out of our way to be annoying, sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we still do things that can get on other people’s nerves. Thankfully, if your goal is to avoid being that person, there are steps you can take, from learning etiquette rules and etiquette mistakes to understanding the polite habits most people dislike.
We asked relationship experts for intel on how not to be annoying and how to strengthen all your friendships. Read on to learn the habits that could be sabotaging your relationships, and what to do instead.
Waiting for the other person to reach out first
Maybe you feel socially awkward and aren’t sure how to reach out (does your friend even want to hear from you?). Or maybe you just didn’t think of contacting a friend you haven’t heard from in a while. Regardless of the reason, always waiting for your friend to initiate contact is super annoying and causes real damage to the relationship.
“Lack of communication is the No. 1 killer of all relationships, including friendships,” says neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez. You don’t always have to be the first one to reach out, but you should be making a regular, consistent effort to call, text and invite your friend to do things. Lots of people react positively when a friend contacts them or when they run into a friend but don’t think to initiate the contact themselves. But being the one to reach out shows them that they are important to you, she explains.
Do this instead: To avoid a friendship recession, don’t wait for your pals to call or text you first, proactively reach out to them. “Check in with them regularly, and go beyond just saying, ‘Hey, how are you?’” she says. “Ask how their day was, how their job is going, how their family is. Ask about specific events or concerns they have.”
Pro tip: Most text, chat and email programs allow you to schedule messages in advance. So if you know your friend has an important event coming up, type in a quick “Thinking of you and hoping it goes well! Call me after!” text and schedule it to send that day. Or set a calendar reminder for yourself.
Pushing your political or religious views
You may see it as sharing something that’s important to you, but constantly bringing up controversial subjects may be annoying to your friends, especially if their views don’t align with yours. Calling it the ‘politics of personal destruction’, relationships’ expert, author and behavioural analyst Wendy Patrick, describes this as an annoying habit that can creep into friendships with differing world views. “If you are constantly talking about your political or religious views in a way that makes it clear that you are right and others are wrong, that gets old quick,” she says.
The thing is, you need friends who are different from you, who will challenge your thoughts and who will discuss big issues with you. It helps you build empathy and learn about the world. Insisting that people listen to your views without keeping an open mind to theirs is incredibly annoying.
Do this instead: You can and should have conversations about difficult issues with your friends, but start the conversation with how much you have in common with your friends and build from there. “Everyone wants national security, jobs, good education, safe communities, access to quality health care,” Patrick says. “Don’t lecture. Make sure you’re having a discussion, not a fight.”