3 Keys to Anger Management

Anger is never what it seems.

Even Tom would admit that he is easily irritable; his wife would say there are days when she is walking on eggshells and knows to stay out of his way. He never explodes directly at anyone, but when things go awry – when he realizes he left one of his tools at the jobsite, when Saturday plans get rained out – he’s rattled, upset and slamming doors. Sara, unlike Tom, is rarely angry. She’s the easy-going kind of person who is always pleasant, always willing to help others out, always the first to volunteer to for a project or event. But… occasionally she blows and when she does it’s big – rages, huge WWIII arguments over something seemingly small. Those close to her have learned that this is the time you duck for cover.

Anger is one our primary emotions –young children who bite another child over a toy or stomp their feet when they don’t want to go home; teens who flare up when you mention “homework” or “last night,” adults who go from 0-60 in nanoseconds when someone cuts them off in traffic. Though it’s the boldest of emotions, it’s also never what it seems. Many therapists describe it as a “cover” emotion, one that masks some other emotion beneath.

Anxiety usually heads the list of possible underlying emotions, and is a common driver of anger. Those, for example, who grew up in chaotic environments – alcoholism, abuse, volatile parents – they have fewchildhood coping skills except to become hypervigilant – always on guard, always externally focused on others, always on edge waiting to see what is going to happen next. With their brains wired in this way, even as adults in more stable environments, they are still on duty, ready to react, coping in the same childhood way.

For others anger gets linked to depression – this is Freud’s definition of depression as anger turned inward. Here we see the agitated depression of some adults, usually men, and young children, who seem irritable and easily angered but inside are as depressed as the person who refuses to get out of bed – the why bother, the hopelessness, the self criticism.

And finally there are those where anger is essentially their only emotion – when they get sad the get angry, when stressed get angry, when horny get angry – it doesn’t matter, every emotion gets translated into varying forms of anger. They lack an emotional range.

We can also look at anger from the perspective of personality and the role we take with others, the way we run our lives. Here are some common overlapping personality patterns and their relationship to anger:

Control freaks: These folks run a tight ship with themselves and others all the time. They know on Tuesday what they are going to be doing on Saturday. Underneath the control is anxiety, and when control is in command the anxiety stays at bay. But when things happen outside their control or their plans – their wife suggesting on Saturday that her mother come over for dinner – anxiety and anger bubble up. They get rattled and snap. And this is where Tom gets into trouble – the guy who is always on edge now becomes derailed and upset.

Martyrs: This is Sara. She is over-responsible and nice. She goes and goes, does and does and periodically blows up because she eventually gets fed up. Fed up with doing it all, fed up with being nice, fed up with others not appreciating her or pulling their weight. It’s all unfair, and she feels that she deserves to be so angry. But after it’s all over, her good-girlconscience kicks in, she feels guilty. She makes up and starts the cycle all over again.

Victims: If you are always under someone else’s control, if you feel abused in some way, that you can never please the other person, that you can never win, your pent-up resentment, like Sara’s, can periodically come to the head. While it may come out as a emotional blow-up, because of the one-down nature of the relationship, it often takes the form of passive-aggressive acting out – the partner who angry at the other goes on a shopping spree, the guy who feels taken advantage of on the job steals supplies from the company. Again, there is a sense of deserving, but the source of the problem, the dysfunctional relationship, never gets addressed.

Bullies: Bullies are actually a group unto themselves. While it’s easy to see them as always angry people (and many are) or the 0-60 types, there is a different psychological dynamic at work. Their modus operandi is less about spraying pent up emotion around the room and more about resorting to anger, aggression and power to get those to do what they want or get them before they do. Often these unfortunate souls were abused, learned to psychologically identify with the aggressor, and are replicating their own histories. In severe cases they have grown so hardened that they lack conscience, are manipulative, and see a world with themselves as predators, everyone else as prey. They do so much need anger management as the ability to connect and empathize with others.

Internalizers: Internalizers well…internalize. We’re back to Freud. It’s easy for these folks to automatically assume that whatever happened is undoubtedly their fault, not the other guys; they mentally beat up on themselves, leading to depression. Or they may actually feel the sting of anger but feelings so emotionally overwhelmed and fearful of confrontation they hold it, often coping through self abuse – cutting,drugs, alcohol, food.

 

So how to manage anger? Three steps. We’ll take them one-by-one: 

#1. Prevention. If you are a type of person who goes from 0-60 or who periodically explodes, who has a difficult catching anger, resentment, even anxiety as it builds, then you need to slow it down and become more self-aware. Here are the steps:

  • Check in with yourself once an hour. Ask yourself on a scale of 1-10 with 1 flat-lined, 10 enraged or extremely anxious, where am I in terms of mood, emotion? By asking the question you are stopping yourself from going on autopilot; you gradually become more aware of your emotional life.
  • Solve the problem. When you find yourself getting up to a 4 or 5 ask yourself: Is there a problem I need to fix? This is about using anger for information rather than release. Maybe your supervisor scheduled you for the weekend and you realize it’s bothering you – go talk to your supervisor or send him an email. Maybe Sara volunteered to help out at the church but now regrets giving up the weekend. She needs to back out or commit to less time. Do something different rather than sucking it up.
  • Ask yourself: What else am I feeling? Because those prone to anger tend to be emotionally limited in range, this question begins to reset the brain. The first 350 times you ask yourself that question your response is likely to be, Don’t know, I’m just feeling pissed. That’s fine. However, whenever you do notice something else – you’re worried, you’re sad – label it – I’m worried – and again do something with it – actively address the worry, write down or tell someone what you are sad about and see if you can sink into those feelings.

Ongoing stress reduction. These are daily prevention tips. The other prevention path is reducing your overall anger / anxiety threshold. This is about engaging in regular exercise, meditation, or medication to lower your reactiveness and making it easier to catch yourself when emotions start to build.

#2. Act in the moment.

When anger gets up to the 8-10 range and begins to flare out of control you need to have first-aide techniques to put out the emotional fire. When you’re angry, your anger makes it easy for you to blame others for making you feel that way, and to expect them to do something to make you feel better (like do what you want). But you’re responsible for your emotions. If you are getting overwhelmed, you, not someone else, needs to be able to calm yourself down.

This is where first-aide, in-the-moment techniques come into play: Deep breathing, Emotional Freedom Technique (there is plenty of info on this online), mindfulness, distraction, exercise, journaling. Again, there are plenty of tools and techniques out there to use and a number of articles on this website. Your goal is to recognize your anger level, label it, own it, and take some concrete action there and then to lower the emotional fire.

While your angry brain may say that you need to fix the problem now in order to calm down – get the other person to do what you want, quit your job, etc. – this is a bad idea. Your rational brain is offline. The emotions are the immediate problem, not what you’re thinking. Put out the fire.

When you’re feeling more calm, when your rational brain is back, use your anger as information, assess the problem, and take action in an adult way.

#3. Reshape your personality.

Steps 1 & 2 are about managing anger. This step is about seeing anger as a bad solution to another problem you’re having in running your life and relationships. It’s about stepping out of the dysfunctional roles and out-moded, ineffective coping styles that you’ve relied upon.

Control Freaks: So if you are like Tom, you need to address your anxiety directly rather than relying solely on control to manage it. You may need medication or meditation or therapy. Most of all you want to resist themagical thinking that if you could just run a tighter ship you’ll feel better. Actually, the opposite is the case. Your goal is to learn to recognize anxiety, tolerate it better, and when necessary have more effective tools to rein it in.

Martyrs: If, like Sara, you are one of these folks, you need to stop running your life solely on “shoulds” and making everyone happy, but instead learn to focus on you, what you want. This doesn’t mean becoming insensitive to others, but rather becoming more sensitive to yourself.

Victims: Victims feel trapped and are often easily overwhelmed by emotions. The way out is two-pronged: Having ways of calming the emotions so your own rational thinking can replace relying on the other’s control; having a way of escaping the relationship or rebalancing it so you don’t feel so unempowered. This can be tough to do or figure out, and you will likely need support from community, family, friends to develop a plan and take the necessary steps to break free.

Bullies: Most bullies don’t see themselves as bullies. If they did they probably wouldn’t be one. What often has the best chance of changing their behavior is bottom-lines – getting disciplinary action at school, on the job, their spouse threatening to divorce, trouble with the law. Their biggest challenge is learning to take responsibility for their behavior and emotions rather than blaming others.

Internalizers: This is about learning to speak up when you’re inclination is to shut down and pull back; to not believe the self-critical voice in your head all the time, to build self-confidence by solving problems. Therapy can help a lot, medication can reduce the anxiety of taking acceptable risks.

So there you have it, a combination of tools, action, new ways of thinking. Since a lot of these behaviors and emotions are so hot-wired, it’s about having a goal, a plan, about taking baby-steps to handle emotions, relationships differently.

Be patient, be kind to yourself, take it one step at a time.


Written by Robert Taibbi, L.C.S.W. Bob is a graduate of Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina, and has served as adjunct professor at several universities. He provides trainings nationally and internationally in the areas of couple therapy, family therapy, brief therapy and clinical supervision. He is currently in private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia. Author of 6 books and published over 300 magazines and journal articles. Bob can be reached through his website at bobtaibbi.com. Visit Psychology Today where this excerpt originally appeared.

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17 Things Happy People Say Every Day

Are you as happy as you wish you were today? If not, try saying a few of these simple, inspiring things to other people. They won’t just improve your mood; they’ll trigger positive reactions that will legitimately make you feel happier, too.

There’s an easy-to-articulate, hard-to-implement best practice when it comes to how to teach yourself to be happy. It stems from the recognition that the positive things you do for other people often reverberate back to create positivity in your own life. In effect, doing little things to make other people happy can greatly improve your happiness.

Make sense? There are two theories at work. The first is that focusing on others creates joy of its own accord. The second is that as you succeed in improving others’ happiness, you’ll wind up with happier, more grateful people around you. They’ll find you likable and charismatic, which in turn can lead them to treat you in a manner that produces even more happiness.

It’s easier said than done, but fortunately, there’s a compelling shortcut. Your words are among your greatest tools, so you can have an outsize effect on others simply by thinking about what you say every day and making an effort to be both positive and sincere. There are certain inspiring things that truly happy people find themselves saying to others all the time. Try making an effort to say a few of these every day for a week. You’ll be amazed at how the positivity you create improves your happiness.

1. “I’m happy to see you.”

This is the most basic and attractive sentiment you can express to another human being–that simply being in the person’s presence creates a positive feeling. Whether you’re telling an employee that you need his skills, that you value his opinions, or just that you think he’s good company, you’ve begun an interaction on a very high note. How can that not produce some level of happiness in the other person?

2. “I’m always happy to see you.”

Take the previous remark a step further. This is the opposite of most relationship advice–that you should never take a specific negative action and suggest that it’s indicative of someone’s entire way of acting. Well, turn that on its head, by expressing that it’s not just this interaction that has produced positive feelings but basically all interactions with this person. It’s an amazingly gratifying thing to hear.

3. “Remember when you…”

Surprise someone by bringing up a positive thing that she did in the past, and you’re almost guaranteed to induce a positive response. Maybe it’s a joke the person told that you’re still laughing about; maybe it’s a small act of heroism she performed. Regardless, if it’s something she thought was long forgotten, learning that something she did made a positive, lasting impression on someone else is an amazing experience.

4. “You might not realize this, but…”

This an even more potent version of the previous suggestion, provided you finish the sentence with a description of how the person’s actions led to a positive outcome. It’s one thing to learn that other people recognize the favorable things you’ve done; it’s another thing entirely to learn that you’re having a positive effect on other people without even realizing it.

5. “You really impress me.”

This is similar to “I’m happy to see you” and “I’m always happy to see you,” except that it focuses on things that the person does, rather than his or her existential being. Other variations include “You are really great at…” or “People love that you…” Simply be sincere and specific. “You’re really great at calming stressful situations” or “People love that you always have the best music.” It can be anything, as long as it’s authentic and truly positive, and it’s guaranteed to elicit positive reactions.

6. “You really impressed me when…”

Focusing on specific actions or events can be even more powerful. It means that you’re not only thinking abstractly but offering proof that things the other person does provoke positive reactions. It’s the difference between saying that a comedian was really funny and quoting one of his or her best jokes. (Other versions: “You handled that well when you turned that client’s objection into an opportunity” or “It was really cool to see how you parallel-parked that car into that tiny spot.”)

7. “I believe in you.”

People have self-doubts. You do, I do, we all do. (Heck, every time I write a column here–and this is number 167, by the way–I wonder how people will react.) When others simply say they believe in you, however, it becomes easier to believe in yourself.

Here’s an analogy. Have you ever gotten into lifting weights, or simply watched people do it? It’s amazing how the slightest bit of assistance from a spotter–with force equal to the weight of a pencil–can help someone lift far more weight than he could on his own. It’s the same concept here–just that small expression of confidence can push people to achieve more–and then to be thankful for the help.

8. “Look how far you’ve come!”

It is so important to celebrate achievements. This doesn’t mean you have to throw a party, but even acknowledging that someone’s efforts have achieved results can be extremely gratifying for the person.

Of course, heck, if you want to take things to the extreme, throw a party. Just be sure that you’re the one buying the first round and singing the loudest.

9. “I know you’re capable of more.”

Everyone needs to be pushed at times, especially when we fall short. If you care about people, you’re going to be called on sometimes to be a bit of a coach, or maybe to employ a bit of tough love. Even the most steadfast and confident among us sometimes need a friend to guide them to a better way of acting.

The late, great NFL coach Vince Lombardi put this best: “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” Nobody does anything great alone, so be the one standing by to help, and you’ll inspire positivity and gratitude.

10. “I’d like to hear your thoughts about…”

Everyone likes to think that his or her opinions matter, and of course they do–sometimes. However, this kind of invitation to share what someone thinks can’t help making the person feel just a tiny bit more self-worth, which in turns creates both happiness and positive feelings toward you. Just be sure to be sincere; don’t just say this for the sake of saying it. Make sure that you are truly interested in whatever subject you’re asking about and listen actively.

11. “Tell me more.”

This is the best follow-up to the last item. It tells the other person that you’re listening, and that you find value in what he or she is saying. The actor and writer Peter Ustinov once said that the greatest compliment he ever received took place when he was afraid he had gone on too long in a conversation with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, only to have her tell him, “Please continue.”

12. “I took your suggestion.”

OK, it’s almost too easy at this point. Combine asking someone’s opinion and demonstrating that the person has had impact on your life and you’ve provided him with two of the most gratifying, basic experiences of the human condition.

It doesn’t matter really whether you tried a new restaurant on the other person’s advice, followed his suggestion on how to begin an important conversation, or started getting up 15 minutes earlier for a week because he said it was a good idea. Simply being listened to and having impact makes people feel better. Bonus points if his suggestion created a positive result, but you’ll get credit regardless. (Related: “You were right.”)

13. “I’m sorry.”

Say this when you mean it–when you’ve done something worth expressing regret for or the other person deserves sympathy. However, don’t water it down by using it when you don’t mean it. In fact, one writer made a compelling argument recently that the phrase is so overused that it ought to be retired. That would be a shame, but it underscores how people appreciate this phrase when it’s sincere, and how it annoys them when it isn’t.

14. “I’d like to be more like you.”

Now you’ve got it–you’re expressing positivity toward other people almost naturally, pointing out not only things that they do well but maybe even things they do better than you do.

If you want to see a sentiment similar to this work very effectively, watch the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets. Or else, just read this short bit of dialogue in which Jack Nicholson’s character offers Helen Hunt’s character the ultimate compliment: “You make me want to be a better man.

15. “Thank you.”

It’s not that much of a stretch to suggest that every other item on this list is in fact a form of “thank you.” This is truly one of the most powerful, underrated phrases in the English language. It packs a heck of a punch, encompassing positivity and impact in two little syllables. (By the way, thanks for reading this far into this column. Maybe if you share it with others, they’ll thank you, too.)

16. “You’re welcome.”

Not “yep.” Not “no problem” or “no worries.” Say “You’re welcome.”

Instead of deflecting another person’s thanks, as some of these other phrases do, saying “you’re welcome” dignifies the person’s gratitude. It acknowledges that yes, you did do something worthy, or nice, or positive for someone–because you believe that she’s worth it.

17. “No.”

There’s one small risk in this entire mode of expression, and this word is your fail-safe. The danger is that sometimes people who make other people’s happiness their priority can wind up doing so at the cost of their own happiness. We all know some people who take advantage, or who simply aren’t going to be happy no matter what your efforts amount to.

Two little letters, and yet they can be so powerful. Most important, they demonstrate that you care for yourself, which is a key prerequisite to caring truly for other people. Carry this one in your back pocket; use it when necessary. You’ll find that the most positive and happy people you interact with respect you for doing so–and that can make you happy, too.


 

About the author: Bill Murphy Jr. writes about leadership, entrepreneurship, and how ordinary people achieve extraordinary things. He has written and collaborated on several books, and he is the founder of Nonfiction Partners, which helps people with great stories find a ghostwriter. Previously, he reported for The Washington Post. You can reach him at contact.billmurphyjr.com@BillMurphyJr. Visit Inc for the first version of this story.

6 Things Entrepreneurs Wish Family, Friends and Employees Understood

Entrepreneurs often feel misunderstood and with good reason. If people around them acknowledge the following six points, everyone can benefit.

I started my first company when I was 25.  I was a reluctant entrepreneur. My sales abilities outgrew three companies, and I couldn’t seem to manage the politics necessary to get where I wanted to go at the speed I wanted to get there. So I took a deep breath, opened a company in 1989, and never looked back.

But in my journey of building four businesses and making the Inc. 500 list, I often found I saw the world differently then many in my circle. I would struggle with communication and empathy, as would the people around me. My family and my friends would never quite understand why I took action with such passion and drive. Though they would be continuously fascinated how I could make things happen from what seemed like unrelated connections and events.

Employees appreciated my drive, but still considered me a puzzlement. They couldn’t imagine taking the risks and responsibility of building a company, and I couldn’t imagine not having control of my own destiny.  I have spent decades in the close company of more than 1000 entrepreneurs in public session like Inc. conferences and in private forums like the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO). I have come to learn that we have similar ways of viewing the world and creating lifestyles. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us.

If you are an entrepreneur, you need to articulate the six concepts below so the people in close proximity can comprehend your behavior. And for those of you engaged with an entrepreneur, I hope the tips below shed some light and give you some guidance to enjoy the ride.

1. Entrepreneurs are benevolent narcissists. There is no question that many entrepreneurs act as though they are the center of the universe. Once I get a vision in my head, it stays at the forefront of my mind until I either eliminate it or execute on it. Over time, I have learned that in order to make visions come true, I must constantly sell and recruit people to my mission. That means talking about my ideas and actions… a lot. So yes, my world revolves around my vision and ambition. That is the narcissistic part.

But unlike most self-centered people, most successful entrepreneurs aren’t in it just for themselves. They love to bring other people along for the ride. Making others happy, wealthy and successful drives entrepreneurs. They create companies to benefit society with their products and services. They may interpret that benefit differently than most people, but few are motivated by pure exploitation.

Tip: The next time you feel ignored by an entrepreneur, ask them how you can get involved and benefit from their activities. You may be surprised at the opportunity that opens up.

2. Entrepreneurs evaluate risk differently. The term risk-taker is often associated with entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs don’t believe they are taking risks by opening businesses and growing companies. Gone are the days of institutions that provide steady employment and guaranteed retirement. I personally lost everything in the 2008 collapse of the banking industry. But I have many friends who spent 30 years as employees in that field and also went through great hardship. I was able to rebuild by taking advantage of opportunity and being agile while many of them are still trying to reconstruct their lives.

Entrepreneurs know the only safety net they can bank on is their own ability to leverage knowledge, resources and relationships to build something from nothing. They believe there is greater risk in being boxed in to a structure than to venture out to new horizons. That all being said, many of us have learned to overcome our material desires and put a little away for those rainy days.

Tip: Don’t assume that actions taken by entrepreneurs are careless or not well considered. If you have concern, ask about the process or diligence. You might be surprised what you learn.

3.  Once entrepreneurs decide to take action, they commit. There is an incorrect assumption about most entrepreneurs that they are impulsive. The image of people ideating all over the place and randomly straying from project to project is one that is constantly portrayed in media and is most often a mischaracterization. Most of my successful entrepreneurial friends are actually quite disciplined and focused. They have learned tocreate structure where there is none. They have a set process for evaluating opportunities and are wary about taking on a new project without vetting it carefully.

But once the due diligence is done and action is required seasoned entrepreneurs will commit all necessary time and resources to making the dream a reality. They have no tolerance for doing things halfway. The project may fail, but the entrepreneur will only be satisfied if it does on its own merits. Then it’s time to learn and move on to the next entrepreneurial venture.

Tip: Entrepreneurs in motion are a force of nature. Either get out of the way or support the activity whole-heartedly. Dipping your toe into their projects will only create static and dissatisfaction for everyone involved.

4. Entrepreneurs feel angst about time. There are very few new ideas out there. Hardly anything comes up today that hasn’t shown up in a science fiction novel or movie from decades ago. The innovation comes from ways to execute those ideas in a manner that can support the market and a profitable business model. For every entrepreneur attempting to find that perfect path to success, there are many competitors nipping at their heels. Some have smarter people, more money or better partners. Some have all of the above. But that’s the game. And to the victor goes the spoils.

Once I complete a vision in my head, it’s a race against time to see if that dream becomes a reality. The more complexity involved with the vision, the more challenging time becomes as a factor for success. This is where I use my creativity every day, to figure out how to get from point A to Point B the fastest way possible without sacrificing stability or harming anyone along the way. Executing on my need for speed sometimes results in my being less polite, considerate or reverent than people expect. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that sometimes I am moving so fast I forget to show it.

Tip: Give entrepreneurs the benefit of the doubt when expecting niceties. You don’t need to put up with rudeness, but you can gently remind them that not everyone moves at their pace and others need consideration to feel respected.

5. Every day with positive cash flow is a good day. I remember a few years back being at EO event in Hong Kong at the end of the month. My wife at the time and I were laughing because all around the hotel you could hear the same stressed mobile phone conversations going on about whether or not the attendees had made their payroll obligations for the month. Growing a company requires resources, especially cash, and most entrepreneurs will stretch those limits to make progress quickly in the marketplace.

The lack of resources to battle the competition is usually the number 1 stress point for an entrepreneur. The most painful days in my life have been when I could not meet my financial obligations. Those are the days I feel guilty and inadequate. Those are the days I feel the pain of those who depend upon me. As an entrepreneur I understand that family, partners and employees put their trust in me to help them achieve financial stability. I understand that they do not choose my life because they don’t want to risk instability. As long as there is money in the bank to continue the path forward, every other challenge is minor.

Tip: Don’t assume entrepreneurs are primarily motivated by greed. Certainly they enjoy the rewards that come with success, but they are driven to achieve the security that comes with strong liquidity and cash flow.

6. For entrepreneurs, working means fun and relaxation. Contrary to popular belief, most entrepreneurs are not workaholics. I describe work as the things we have to do in order to do the things we want to do. Some people like to play sports or dance or do woodcraft as a hobby. Entrepreneurs love to build businesses. We get excited about opportunity,  networking and product development. When I sit at a Yankees game, I amuse myself by calculating the per-attendee revenue and cost of services to figure out how much money is being made. When I run a 5K or kayak, my brain lets loose with creative ideas that can either improve my business or create something new from the resources I have.

I feel blessed that the things I love to do are also the things that make money and give me a sense of accomplishment. When I need to rest my brain and body, I do so. But very soon, I go back to doing what I love because I enjoy it and it makes me happy.

Tip: No need to ever tell an entrepreneur to slow down or take time off. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing. It just wastes your time and annoys the pig.


About the author: Kevin Daum concedes that he has a face better suited for radio than television. That’s why he is the Executive Producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. If you haven’t already read his Amazon #1 best-sellers, Video Marketing for Dummies (Wiley) and ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle(Wiley) you’ll likely catch him sharing his thoughts (and limericks) on stage, or on the web. Humor, he says, is the key ingredient for great communication. An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin helps companies communicate in strategic and compelling ways. Visit him at KevinDaum.com or e-mail kevin@roaringvideo.com@awesomeroar Visit Inc.com where this excerpt originally appeared.

10 Ways to Lose Friends and Irritate People

Want to win friends and influence people? Here are 10 things that ensure you won’t:

1. You thoughtlessly waste other peoples’ time. 

Every time you’re late to an appointment or meeting says your time is more important. Every time you wait until the grocery clerk finishes ringing you up to search for your debit card says you couldn’t care less if others have to wait unnecessarily. Every time you take three minutes to fill your oversize water bottle while a line stacks up behind you says you’re in your own little world–and your world is the only world that matters.

Small, irritating things, but basically no big deal? Wrong. People who don’t notice the small ways they inconvenience others tend to be oblivious when they do it in a major way.

How you treat people when it doesn’t really matter–especially when you’re a leader–says everything about you. Act like the people around you have more urgent needs than yours and you will never go wrong–and you will definitely be liked.

2. You ignore people outside your “level.” 

There’s an older guy at the gym that easily weighs 350 pounds and understandably struggles on the aerobic and weight equipment. Hats off; he’s in there trying.

Yet nobody talks to him. Or even seems to notice him. It’s like he’s invisible. Why? He doesn’t fit in.

We all do it. When we visit a company, we talk to the people we’re supposed to talk to. When we attend a civic event, we talk to the people we’re supposed to talk to. We breeze right by the technicians and talk to the guy who booked us to speak, even though the techs are the ones who make us look and sound good onstage.

Here’s an easy rule of thumb: Nod whenever you make eye contact. Or smile. Or (gasp!) even say hi. Just act like people exist.

We’ll automatically like you for it–and remember you as someone who engages even when there’s nothing in it for you.

3. You ask for too much. 

A guy you don’t know asks you for a favor; a big, time-consuming favor. You politely decline. He asks again. You decline again. Then he whips out the Need Card. “But it’s really important to me. You have to. I really need [it].”

Maybe you do, in fact, really need [it]. But your needs are your problem. The world doesn’t owe you anything. You aren’t entitled to advice or mentoring or success. The only thing you’re entitled to is what you earn.

People tend to help people who first help themselves. People tend to help people who first help them. And people definitely befriend people who look out for other people first, because we all want more of those people in our lives.

4. You ignore people in genuine need. 

At the same time, some people aren’t in a position to help themselves. They need a hand: a few dollars, some decent food, a warm coat.

Though I don’t necessarily believe in karma, I do believe good things always come back to you, in the form of feeling good about yourself.

And that’s reason enough to help people who find themselves on the downside of advantage.

5. You ask a question so you can talk. 

A guy at lunch asks, “Hey, do you think social-media marketing is effective?”

“Well,” you answer, “I think under the right circumstances…”

“Wrong,” he interrupts. “I’ve never seen an ROI. I’ve never seen a bump in direct sales. Plus ‘awareness’ is not a measurable or even an important goal…” and he drones on while you desperately try to escape.

Don’t shoehorn in your opinions under false pretenses. Only ask a question if you genuinely want to know the answer. And when you do speak again, ask a follow-up question that helps you better understand the other person’s point of view.

People like people who are genuinely interested in them–not in themselves.

6. You pull a “Do you know who I am?” 

OK, so maybe they don’t take it to the Reese Witherspoon level, but many people whip out some form of the “I’m Too Important for This” card.

Maybe the line is too long. Or the service isn’t sufficiently “personal.” Or they aren’t shown their “deserved” level of respect.

Say you really are somebody. People always like you better when you don’t act like you know you’re somebody–or that you think it entitles you to different treatment.

7. You don’t dial it back. 

An unusual personality is a lot of fun–until it isn’t. Yet when the going gets tough or a situation gets stressful, some people just can’t stop “expressing their individuality.”

Look. We know you’re funny. We know you’re quirky. We know you march to the beat of your own drum. Still, there’s a time to play and a time to be serious, a time to be irreverent and a time to conform, a time to challenge and a time to back off.

Knowing when the situation requires you to stop justifying your words or actions with an unspoken “Hey, that’s just me being me” can often be the difference between being likeable and being an ass.

8. You mistake self-deprecation for permission. 

You know how it’s OK when you make fun of certain things about yourself, but not for other people to make fun of you for those same things? Like receding hairlines. Weight. A struggling business or career. Your spouse and kids.

It’s OK when you poke a little gentle fun at yourself, but the last thing you want to hear are bald or money or “Do you want fries with that?” jokes. (Bottom line: I can say I’m fat. Youcan’t.)

Sometimes self-deprecation is genuine, but it’s often a mask for insecurity. Never assume people who make fun of themselves give you permission to poke the same fun at them.

Only tease when you know it will be taken in the right spirit. Otherwise, if you feel the need to be funny, make fun of yourself.

9. You humblebrag. 

Humblebragging is a form of bragging that tries to cover the brag with a veneer of humility so you can brag without appearing to brag. (Key word is “appearing,” because it’s still easy to tell humblebraggers are quite tickled with themselves.)

For example, here’s a tweeted humblebrag from actor Stephen Fry: “Oh dear. Don’t know what to do at the airport. Huge crowd, but I’ll miss my plane if I stop and do photos… oh dear don’t want to disappoint.”

Your employees don’t want to hear how stressed you are about your upcoming TED Talk. They don’t want to hear how hard it is to maintain two homes. Before you brag–humbly or not, business or personal–think about your audience. A gal who is a size 14 doesn’t want to hear you complain that normally you’re a size 2, but you’re a size 4 in Prada because its sizes run small.

Or better yet, don’t brag. Just be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Let others brag for you.

If you’ve done cool things, don’t worry–they will.

10. You push your opinions. 

You know things. Cool things. Great things.

Awesome. But only share them in the right settings. If you’re a mentor, share away. If you’re a coach or a leader, share away. If you’re the guy who just started a paleo diet, don’t tell us all what to order.

Unless we ask. What’s right for you may not be right for others; shoot, it might not even turn out to be right for you.

Like most things in life, offering helpful advice is all about picking your spots–just like winning friends and influencing people.

Now it’s your turn. What would you add to the list?


About the author

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry from forklift driver to manager of a 250-employee book plant. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest innovators and leaders he knows in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list. He’d tell you which ones, but then he’d have to kill you. @jeff_haden Visit Inc where this excerpt is originally appeared.