3 Tiny Habits That May Accidentally Make You Unlikeable

Photo: Deden Dicky Ramdhani | Pexels 
Woman in Field, sad

Have you ever asked yourself, "Why don't people like me?"

Recently, one of my clients was extremely concerned when her seven-year-old son complained that he did not have any friends.

Not only were they upset because their child was suffering, but they were also embarrassed. They didn't like their son’s nagging and needy behavior and often lost their patience with him.

In addition, they felt handicapped and unable to teach their son how to make friends. They reported that growing up, they never felt liked by other kids.

Even as an adult, they felt they had acquaintances, but not many deep friendships.

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Here are 3 tiny habits that may accidentally make you unlikeable:

1. Projecting onto other people

Projection is a psychological defense mechanism.



Simply Psychology defines it as, "psychological strategies that are unconsciously used to protect a person from anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings."

The mother I was working with was using projection by assuming her son must be turning kids off in the same way she did as a child because he reminded her of herself.

The child may look like someone or have similar habits. When this happens, you assume they are unlikeable, or that they will treat you the same way the person from your past did.

However, even if there are similarities, the person we are projecting our past feelings and concerns onto is not the person from the past, especially when we project onto our children, but projection can be off with a boss, a teacher, or an adult friend as well.

Ironically, if we do not like someone growing up and someone else reminds us of that person, we may act in a judgmental or negative way toward them.

When we do, we elicit negative responses from them. In a way, history appears to be repeating itself and reinforces our negative impression of the new person.

However, if we take a step back and look at our behavior, we may be causing the problems.

No two people are the same. Our children may look and act like us, but assuming they are "just like us" is a projection and may blind us to their growing individuality.

We may unintentionally reinforce traits that we dislike about ourselves in them. As parents, we need to help them discover their developing, unique selves.

A boss may remind us of a critical step-parent, but if we act like an angry, rebellious step-child, we may be setting the scene for a serious work conflict.

When I asked my client if she had asked her son’s teacher how he was doing socially at school, she had not. I encouraged her to find out since the teacher could be more objective than his mother.

The teacher could give the mother insight into how her son was doing. She could let her know who her son seemed to get along with on the playground, or if there were any problems.

She could also suggest ways to reinforce friendships with kids by suggesting whom to invite to visit after school or on the weekends at their homes.

Do you ever pre-judge someone and then feel like they don’t like you? You may be projecting.

They may look like a childhood bully who took your lunch in elementary school. If they do, you may act defensively around them, and they may see you as argumentative or snobbish.

Once you realize you are projecting, you can turn off the projection and get to know the new person you have just met.

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2. Self-doubting yourself

On the opposite end of the spectrum of projection is self-doubt, which can interfere with building friendships.



The mother I was working with is plagued with self-doubt. She was extremely shy as a child, moved a lot, and was raised by relatives.

She felt like a burden and never invited children to visit after school. She grew up feeling that she had no friends. Even as an adult, she feels that she has few real friends and has more shallow acquaintances.

When her son nags or behaves in a needy way, she recalls feeling she needed to nag to get attention as a child, too. Despite this insight, she fails to even see how she discovered other ways to make friends.

She's involved in a prayer group and very supportive of the people she meets there. We discussed the fact that most people have only a few close, deep friendships, which she does have.

When someone at church is sick, she cooks for them and visits. She has deep, meaningful discussions with her prayer group. Therefore, she's capable of making friends and can teach her son if she conquers her self-doubt.

I suggested that she recognize how she connects so that she can teach her son.

Her self-doubt was blinding her to the lessons she could teach her son on how to be kind to others, speak about things that matter, or share a game or a snack with a potential friend.

Self-doubt can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you assume people will not like you and don’t take risks to meet new people, you may not make new friends.

Often, shy people seem snobbish to others. If you're shy, try to overcome it in new situations.

Say something like, "This is my first time attending this church, are you a member?" Then, you can ask how long they have belonged, what they like about it, etc.

Or, if you see someone sitting alone on the sidelines at an event, you might say, "I'm not a fan of cocktail parties. Do you mind if I join you?"

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3. Being a conversation hog

Sometimes when people are anxious, they talk too much, which can put people off.

Attention-seeking behaviors, like the nagging annoying behavior my client complained about, are another way conversation hogging may be expressed socially. It comes from a place of anxiety and neediness.

There are healthier ways to get attention. In reality, no one likes a "know-it-all."

A person who hogs the conversation and never lets others speak will put people off. Learn to listen and ask others’ opinions.

If you're shy, knowing that people like people who show an interest in them and what they think more than the conversation monopolizer may be a relief. Be an active, engaging listener, and people will like you more.

Sometimes, the best way to learn how to overcome these kinds of bad habits is to speak to a therapist.

As hard as it is to admit that you are embarrassed by something you are doing, it can help to speak with a professional, and with their help, find solutions.

You can then overcome issues you may have been struggling with from childhood.

Like the mother I worked with, you can discover your strengths and develop them further.

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Dr. Barbara Lavi is a public speaker, licensed clinical psychologist, founder of ACTNowPsychotherapy, and author of the bestselling book The Wake-Up and Dream Challenge.