by Ocean Palmer
part 2 of 2
(part 1 dealt with “Likeable Traits”)
Shared below is a robust list of “unlikeable traits” largely created by one of my recent business classes. As you read these, remember that these words describe perceptions. The learning point is vital: While we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions . . . others judge us by our actions. It is their observations and conclusions that shape their perceptions. If their perceptions are negative, it’s safe to assume that conclusion was drawn by a collection of negative data points.
Since none of us is perfect — everyone messes up from time to time — this quick exercise helps identify the negative perceptions we create most frequently. Once we know what they are, minimizing their occurrence gets easier.
In no particular order, here is the class list of 35 unlikeable traits. As you read through them all, check those that seem somewhat familiar.
Arrogant/cocky. Confidence is good, arrogance is bad. Let others decide how good you are. They are quite capable of drawing their own conclusions.
Carries a grudge. It’s tough to sustain a relationship with a grudge carrier. Grudges also bear a negative emotional weight. Discuss things that matter — put them on the table — and then let go. Life is far too short to carry a grudge.
Dominating. Reserved people are rarely comfortable around dominating personalities and typically disengage. Dial it back.
Rude. Manners matter. Rudeness is a judged conclusion based upon witnessed and actions judged to be disapproving. Be polite. Polite is free. Behave to make your parents proud.
Fake. Worry less about the image you want to project and more about who you really are. Sincerity is good. Masks are not.
Suck-up. A “suck-up” is someone who cozies up to someone in a position of influence in order to gain preferential treatment.
Condescending. Don’t look or talk down to others. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of belittling behavior, you know how unlikeable this action is. Often this results from someone’s insecurity or frustration. Don’t lash out at others. When you do, your stock drops.
Annoying. Aesop wrote, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Mark Twain took the point one step further. “Familiarity,” he said, “breeds contempt . . . and children.” People who bug us come in two forms, strangers and friends. The reason they bug us is that the lens we are looking through is the wrong one. For example, I have friends who simply cannot not talk. They utter more words in one hour than I do in a month. If I dwelt on that, it would bug me. Instead, I shrug it off — preferring to admire their hearts of gold. In an emergency they would be there no matter what, when, or where. The secret here is to not insistently look for things that annoy you. Look for things that do not. What we look for is up to us.
A poor listener (who can’t or won’t listen). Everyone hears but few listen. Listening is a skill — a vital life skill — and yet it is never taught in school. Great listeners are not accidentally effective. They are skilled. They see non-verbal cues, measure voice and tone, and retain the words the speaker chooses to use. And as they listen, they listen for two things: the message and its emotional resonance. If we do not listen with a respectful purpose, we will often be perceived less positively than (and by) those who do. And remember: No one can listen if he or she doesn’t block out distractions, zip it up, and dial in. Listening takes effort!
Backstabber/untrustworthy. Trust is a conscious, earned decision. Once violated, it is tough to restore. Try not to screw up.
Sloppy. Attentive care to self helps project a good image. Being a slob indicates you don’t care about yourself — much less others.
Mean. If you find yourself too mean too often, the reason is inside you. Meanness is a sign of a hollow weakness. Head and heart must be aligned. Clear your mind of excess noise and work hard to feel good about who you are. Look inside, find frustration’s root cause, and fix it. The quickest way to find the root cause is to ask yourself “Why?” five times. “Why are you mean?” When you answer that question, ask the “Why?” of the answer. Then repeat and keep going. The fifth degree of Why is your root cause. It’s a quick soul-baring exercise that blows away the camouflage and gets to the truth. Trust it.
Self-absorbed. This fix is easy: Worry less about ourselves and more about others.
Negative. My late pal George Simmons — who died on 9/11 when his plane was skyjacked into the Pentagon — lived by a motto I’ve never forgotten: “No stinkin’ thinkin’.” Attitude is a choice. Having wandered through stages of life as an angry young man and a very positive person, I can tell you for sure that being positive is the only way to fly.
Stinky/unkempt. Demonstrate personal pride. Showers don’t hurt and deodorant isn’t expensive.
Gossiper. If you say things behind someone’s back that you would not say to his or her face, you shouldn’t be saying it at all. A most unseemly trait.
Socially disengaged. People are gregarious herd animals. Be one.
Inarticulate. Read more. If you have dyslexia or a barrier to reading, listen to books on tape. Build your vocabulary. Learn to use the language properly — and prove it. Avoid slang, jargon, curse words, etc. Expand your vocabulary.
Self-centered and self-referenced. Care more about others and they will care more about you.
Braggart. Similar to cocky. Leave your achievements for others to measure.
A one-upper. A siren-blaring symptom of the insecure, one-upsmanship cries out a personal craving to be judged as better than someone else. This is an insecurity flaw. Once we are comfortable with who we are, the need to do this disappears.
Grumpy. We have no reason to be grumps. Billions of people in far worse shape could not care less about your car repair bill. Grow up, lighten up, and brighten up.
A random liar. You can watch a thief but never a liar. Never be branded a forked-tongue snake. If you’ve done a lot of this in the past — stop.
Tattletale. Unnecessary snitching, usually for personal gain, is a very low place to go.
Greedy. Enough is enough. Too much is too much — plus it comes with diminishing returns. The price you have to pay is never worth the cost.
Judgmental. True power comes from understanding more and judging less. If you tend to quickly judge others, pull back and refocus on understanding why someone is the way he or she is; or why they did what they did.
Vindictive. Spite is ugly. Avoid the temptation. Stay on the high road.
A taker. In life, we can give or we an take. Givers are liked. Takers are belittled.
Untrustworthy. As mentioned before, trust is given. Therefore, don’t blow it up. If you mess up, own it, deal with it, and fix things the best you can. As my high school track coach liked to say, “If you ever get caught with your pants down, pull ‘em up before you start running.” Funny what sticks with you when you’re 17, isn’t it?
Agenda-driven. People can help us achieve goals. No one needs to be run over in our haste to succeed.
Cannot or will not change. Flexible is good. Inflexible is bad — a very “old school” trait. Technology has changed global communications, cultures, and behaviors. If change is hard, read up on how to better embrace it. The process is rather easy.
Racist. Everybody’s racist. In what ways and to what degree are the differentiators. Be positive in the lives of those unlike you. This achieves two things: You will feel better, and you will be part of the global movement trying to change mistrust into trust.
Unmotivated. If you don’t have a purpose — find one. Motivation comes from within. Find something you are passionate about — anything — and chase it.
Vulgar. One person’s art is another one’s vulgarity. Our upbringing and experiences shape our tolerance levels. Shock value is pretty low on the totem pole of things most folks admire.
Foul-mouthed. Profanity is the language of youth and the uneducated. The dictionary has 455,000 words. Use other ones.
Now, go back and count your checkmarks. These are the behaviors that belong on your list of instant reminders. Whenever you recognize yourself slipping back into one of these negative behaviors, catch yourself and stop.
If you read and scored Part 1 of this 2-parter — Likeable Traits — you may want to finish this lesson by subtracting your number of Unlikeable checkmarks from your total number of Likeable traits.
This remainder indicates your “net” score. Whatever it is, commit to raising the number.
Increasing your score improves your likeability. This is good. The universe embraces its positive influences.