11 Habits That Can Cause People To Misunderstand You For The Worse
Do you go through life feeling totally misunderstood? If the answer is yes, you're not alone. This is a problem a lot of people have, and it can be incredibly frustrating — especially when it feels like people are misreading you at every turn. If this is an issue you've been struggling with, it could be that your habits are throwing people off.
While you shouldn't let this make you self-conscious, it's always a good idea to take a step back and evaluate how others may be perceiving you. "It's important to know how you're coming across because ultimately your intentions mean very little when it comes to social interactions," certified counselor David Bennett tells Bustle. "Communication (including body language) isn't about what you intend to say so much as how you're heard. If you find you're doing things that always get negative reactions, then you may want to adjust how you're communicating. This requires being aware how you come across."
So take a moment to check in with yourself, and try to see your actions (and gestures, and expressions) from an outside perspective. Are you super sarcastic? Do you zone out when people speak to you? Below, a few more habits that can make people misunderstand you, for the worse.
1. Being A Little Too Sarcastic
There's nothing wrong with sarcasm, and it definitely has its place in small doses. But if this is your go-to way of communicating, it can cause problems. As therapist Carrie Krawiec tells me, people can read into it and some of them may even feel mocked or teased. And that's definitely not your intention.
2. Hiding Your Emotions
In an effort to be polite, well-liked, or "cool," some people hide their emotions or keep their expression neutral. But this makes it almost impossible for others to get a good read on you. "Without emotional cues, what you say and why you're saying it can easily be misinterpreted," says Colorado-based psychotherapist Tina Gilbertson. "People might think you're angry when you're actually pleased, and vice versa."
3. Not Being Fully Present
It's pretty normal to be a least a little bit distracted when chatting with someone. You might check your phone, or kind of drift off thinking about your to-do list. But failing to be present in this way can give off some rather rude vibes.
"When we are looking at our phone in a meeting, or a dinner, we send a message that we don't really value the person we are with, or that we would rather be somewhere else," licensed psychologist Dr. Angela Johnson tells Bustle. "Right or wrong, others may conclude that we are disinterested and disengaged."
Little facial expressions — like frowning, wrinkling your nose, or pursing your lips — can give off negative vibes, without you even realizing it. "We have some habits and daily tics that create an impression about us in the minds of our observer, which may not always be a true reflection of who we are or how we feel," says Dr. Sonam Yadav, medical director at JUVERNE. While you shouldn't become fixated on what your face looks like, others may be reading into expressions like these, thus causing you to be misunderstood.
Pulling at your collar, playing with your hair, scratching your face — these tics and habits can send off a negative message, too. This is all thanks to body language, and how we subconsciously read into it. As Yadav says, fidgeting gestures "can make us look nervous and under-confident. Or worse, like we are lying."
6. Not Making Eye Contact
Not everyone's great at making eye contact, and that's totally OK. But it does help to be aware of how your shifty gaze could be perceived by others. "Oftentimes, people who don’t make eye contact when speaking to others are less likely to be trusted," says therapist Christie Tcharkhoutian, MA, MFT. "It’s harder to connect with someone when it appears you are not present. And if people don’t feel seen, heard and valued, they are less likely to be understanding of you." So, maybe something to work on?
7. Failing To Actually Listen
When you're not listening during a conversation, people can totally tell. Maybe you're just waiting for your turn to talk, or you're interrupting. And that can, for obvious reasons, come off as rude. That's why listening skills are so important, Tcharkhoutian tells me, as well as being fully engaged when someone is talking.
8. Seeming Shy Or Introverted
While it's OK to be shy or introverted, keep in mind that it may take a little extra effort to get people to "get" you. "People often mistake silence and shyness as a sign someone is angry or aloof, when in reality it may be simple shyness," says Bennett. "In dating, a partner may perceive shyness as a lack of interest or being bored." So keep that in mind, when you're out and about. "Just be aware that the person you're interacting with can't read your mind if you don't express it."
9. Apologizing All Day Long
Some of us are big time apologizers, and that can be a lovely quality. But how often do you say sorry when it's totally not necessary? "Do you walk into someone's office and say, 'sorry to interrupt,' if you have important information to share? Do you say, 'sorry' when you are confused or unclear? Don't be sorry when it comes to communicating with others," says career coach Chrysta Baiire. Apologizing can take the power away from what you're saying, while making you seem unsure.
10. Minimizing (By Using The Word "Just")
Minimizing is another habit that can make you seem less than confident, without you even realizing it. "For example, using the word 'just' before referencing yourself or your actions. It sounds like this — 'I'm just calling to follow up on our conversation,' instead of, 'I'm calling to follow up on our conversation," says Baiire. "Which statement sounds stronger and more confident?"
11. Doodling During Meetings
Little "bored" habits, like doodling on paper or tapping your foot, can create the impression that you don't give a damn — even when you totally do. "When in meetings on or the phone, doodling can signal that someone is bored, but in reality it's capturing the full attention of the doodler," says graphic designer Marsha Baker. "Doodlers are a misunderstood lot."
While you certainly don't have to completely change your personality, paying attention to your little, everyday habits — and adjusting them where necessary — can mean projecting your realest self, and feeling more understood.