How to make people around you miserable

August 20, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog, Tips

People sabotage their relationships and lives without realizing it. You might too. Today’s post will tell you an effective way to make your relationships miserable and shallow, in contrast to yesterday’s post on how to get others to improve your life.

People do the opposite of that post’s ideas and, lo and behold, achieve opposite results. They have apparently valid, but ultimately shortsighted and counterproductive, reasons for their behavior. Their reasons seem valid only when their awareness is low enough.

Yesterday’s point was that by sharing with people what you love, they’ll know what you love and tend to share it with you; likewise that when you know what others love, you’ll prefer to share those things with them. Everybody enjoys being on both sides of that sharing.

It seems obvious to me that if you don’t share what you do like and don’t share what you don’t like, people won’t know what to share with you. You’ll have at best a superficial relationship based on work or talking about the weather. You could do worse and create a relationship reinforcing the things you don’t like.

So what do people communicate about things besides what they love? And what are their reasons?

People complain!

Some people complain in nearly every conversation.

Why? For attention and sympathy.

People complain about the weather, having too much work, too little work, too many obligations, nothing to do, being sick, … whatever. One of my earliest cases recognizing this behavior was the mother of a high school girlfriend. Her mother complained of being sick, as I remember, every time I interacted with her.

And every time she said she was sick, the family members around her asked her how she was and offered to help.

I’m sure sometimes she was sick but not every time. Thinking about it now makes me sick — at the knee-jerk coddling that reinforced her behavior. The family danced a dance of victim-hood and reinforcement as a twisted way of showing familial love. Don’t get me wrong, the family members clearly loved each other. Only a major way they developed to share it centered on the mother’s complaints.

(As an aside, I learned in part from her to love being healthy. I try to avoid complaining about sickness, even when sick. I don’t find complaining helps me get healthier.)

I recall the last semester of business school filled with people complaining about future work — no job offers, difficult choices between job offers, job offers only from places they didn’t like, and so on. Of course, people spoke about plenty of things, but complaining about future work was a big part of it.

Most cases aren’t as extreme. People you interact with little, like coworkers and neighbors, you tend to have passing conversations with, and a lot of them complain. So the relationships remain superficial. Who wants to deepen a relationship with someone who doesn’t like their work, the weather, and the sports team who keeps losing?

My catch-phrase “don’t look for blame but take responsibility for making things better to the extent you can” applies to cases where people complain to you.

You don’t have to stay satisfied with boring, superficial relationships. If you start by sharing something you love, they’ll respond by wanting to share that thing with you. Tell them something you love, show how you make it part of your life, and see if they don’t start telling you about reading about that same thing in the newspaper or found another friend who loves it to or ask you more about it. Now you have someone else in your life sharing things you love, possibly bringing things related to it to you.

Oh, but this post is on how to make people around you miserable. Instead of sharing what you love, complain to them too. You’ll bring misery to them and keep your relationship shallow.

Good luck!

Read my weekly newsletter

Initiative leadership spodek

On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

2 responses on “How to make people around you miserable

  1. I hear you what you’re saying about your friend’s mother who always complains. Perhaps she is a victim of her own way of expressing herself to get love and attention from other people? Compassion and acceptance of her maybe a bigger challenge for most of us.

  2. I think of her as a victim. Then again, I tend to see a dichotomy in strategies people use (usually unconsciously and unintentionally) to define themselves with victimhood on one side and responsibility on the other. Responsibility takes more effort to start, but rewards you much more in the long run.

    I agree, if I understand you right, about responding with compassion as opposed to pity, which comes easier if she plays up her martyrdom too much.

Leave a Reply

Sign up for my weekly newsletter