9 behaviors people find off-putting, according to science

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Being likable is something most of us aspire to be. We’re social creatures, after all. 

But it’s not that simple. Like it or not, we might have certain behaviors that annoy others or at least cast us in a negative light. 

Fortunately, researchers all over the world have dedicated their lives to identifying behaviors that universally irk people. 

Here are nine of those behaviors. Hopefully, they’ll show you which areas in your own behavior you need to tweak so that you don’t rub people the wrong way. 

Let’s dive in!

1) Interrupting conversations

Let’s start with a no-brainer: constant interruption in conversations. I think, no matter where you are in the world, this behavior would never be acceptable. 

According to psychologists, it’s seen as a sign of disrespect, almost as if the interrupter’s opinions are more significant. There’s an element of self-centeredness in there.

In effect, they disrupt the flow of conversation and make the other person feel less valued.

Think about it, whenever you’re talking and someone butts in (whether intentionally or not), doesn’t it set your teeth on edge? 

So be careful not to do this yourself. Give people their turn to speak and they’ll appreciate that respect. 

2) Humblebragging

“I’m always surprised when people tell me I’m attractive. I don’t really see it.”

“I wish I had more time to relax, but I’m always getting invited to these social events.”

“I can’t believe I got another promotion. It’s so hard to keep up with all the responsibilities!”

Ugh. Humblebragging much? 

Whenever someone does this, it’s just off-putting. False modesty is never a good look for anyone. 

In fact, I’d rather deal with someone who brags outright than a humble braggart. 

Surprisingly, research shows that most people share that same sentiment. You know why? 

Because it smacks of insincerity. It’s just hard to make an authentic connection with someone who resorts to this disingenuous way to boast. 

3) One-upping

Speaking of boasting, how about the constant one-upper? You know, that one who’s always topping your thing with theirs. 

You got a promotion? Oh, they were just appointed the head of their department last week. 

You’ve got a toxic family? Oh, you won’t believe what they have to put up with! 

And if you’re sick? That’s nothing. They have daily headaches and body pains that would put yours to shame! 

The thing is, some of us engage in one-upping in an effort to relate. It’s a form of reciprocal disclosure. You share something about yourself, and I’ll share something about myself – then we can relate to each other. 

But rather than relate, it comes across as annoying. Why so? 

According to researcher Zachary Reese, it’s because one-upping “may make others feel like their accomplishments or blessings are less impressive or exciting.” 

The key to successful reciprocal disclosure is to make what you share comparable – not superior – to what the other person is sharing. That way, you foster camaraderie instead of competition. 

4) Oversharing

Speaking of reciprocal disclosure brings me to this next point, which is about, again, the comparableness of what we share. 

I’m all for openness and sharing personal experiences with other people because I know that it’s the best way to connect. However, there’s such a thing as sharing too much. 

I once met a lady who, within 15 minutes of meeting me, had told me all about her therapy sessions and rattled off a list of her unresolved childhood issues. 

All throughout, I plastered on a smile and nodded awkwardly. I mean, what do you say to all of that, right? 

“Too much” might look different for each one of us. Some people might be okay with knowing another person’s digestive issues right off the bat, for instance. 

But generally, as a University of Illinois study suggested, sharing too much too soon can make other people feel uncomfortable. 

Because that loose tongue gives them a feeling that you can’t be trusted with secrets. 

That goes for online sharing, too. Another study by the Birmingham Business School says that sharing too much online actually drives people away instead of creating stronger connections. 

According to David Houghton, the lead author, what we post online gets seen by so many people belonging to different categories. Family, friends, acquaintances alike. 

So, in a way, posts seen by a general audience lose that sense of intimacy that drives authentic connection. 

5) Being self-righteous

Well, this one comes as no surprise: nobody likes a person who acts all holier-than-thou. 

Take a look at these statements: 

  • “I would never feed my kids fast food. All meals in my house are homemade and organic.”
  • “How can you watch reality shows? They’re so mindless. I only watch documentaries and educational programs.”
  • “I always give 10% of my income to charity. I wish others would prioritize helping those in need.”

Annoying, right? 

Whether you look at it from a religious or a secular perspective, self-righteousness can rub people the wrong way.

Psychologists say that this behavior can come across as condescending, making people feel judged or inferior. 

Not only that, but self-righteous people are also “regarded as hypocritical in that they employ a double standard when it comes to ‘right’ behavior.” 

6) Being negative all the time

Do you have a coworker who does nothing but complain? A toxic family member whose number one talent seems to be guilt-tripping? Or a sad boi in your life?

Be honest – they sap your energy, don’t they? 

There’s no question about it, science has established that constant negativity can be a downer. 

Because it’s contagious. 

Thanks to research in neuroscience, we now know that we have a mirror neuron system. This system is responsible for us recognizing, then experiencing, emotions we see in others. 

That’s why it isn’t surprising that we’d rather stay away from the Negative Nellies and Nancies in our lives. They truly can be draining!

7) Being overly critical

Let’s get into another dreaded N – nitpicking

Criticism is a part of life, and it’s certainly essential in helping us become better versions of ourselves. 

But there’s a fine line between criticism and nitpicking. 

Not only is constant nitpicking annoying, but it’s actually harmful. Even if it’s done with the best of intentions. 

According to research, nitpicking stems from self-esteem issues, with leanings towards narcissism.  

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had several nitpicky people in my life – bosses, boyfriends, and friends. 

At first, I would appreciate their notes on how I could do things better. But after a while, I realized it never stops – there’s no pleasing them. In the end, I just felt even less motivated to do better. 

Even in fleeting encounters, a nitpicky person can really get your back up. Think about the Karens and Kevins of the world, who would find fault in their restaurant orders, the arrangement of products in the grocery aisles, and so on.

It’s just exasperating. No wonder no one wants to be around them!

8) Being too nice

What about the opposite end of the spectrum – the folks who are too nice

Surprisingly, being too nice can also be off-putting. It might come across as insincere or manipulative, making us wonder what they’re up to, as a 2010 Washington State/Desert Research Institute study points out.  

In the back of our minds, we might think, surely nobody’s THIS nice? 

That said, our wariness of too-nice people may also be due to our own sense of self-preservation. A new study points out the possibility that it may be a competitive tactic. 

For example, if we’re working with someone who’s genuinely cooperative and generous, we might say, “Hey man, you’re making me look bad.”

In short, it’s not them, it’s us. 

9) Name-dropping

Finally, another behavior that smacks of manipulation is name-dropping. 

Casually mentioning influential people you know can come across as show-offish or insincere. 

A University of Zurich study investigated the effects of name-dropping (in this case, tennis star Roger Federer) on first impressions. 

The result? The more you name-drop, the less likable you are. 

So no, stop working in that bit about having Beyoncé’s number on your phone because you met her at a party last week. We just won’t buy it. 

Final thoughts

So, how did you measure up against this list of off-putting behaviors? If you found yourself relating to one or some of them, don’t worry. 

None of us are perfect, and we all slip into these behaviors from time to time. But as long as we’re aware of our tendencies, we can work on monitoring our behavior.

That way, we can make the switch from negative to positive and interact better with the people we meet. 

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