Most of us can probably say that at some point in our lives, we’ve had a friend or family member that required some kind of intervention– usually for something serious and health-threatening, like alcohol, drugs or an eating disorder. But have you ever considered staging a personality intervention for someone who continually shoots him or herself in foot by being really, insufferably obnoxious?
I guess I’m not sure where the line is between needing to accept people for who they are, flaws and all, and actually helping them out by honestly telling them what they’re doing that turns people off. For instance, suppose you have a friend who constantly talks/brags about herself and never seems to be able to engage with anyone else in a normal way. She is upset over the fact that no one calls her and most of her friends drop her like a bad habit; she doesn’t understand what she’s doing wrong. You know exactly what she’s doing wrong, but explaining this to her would require you actually sitting her down and telling her that she needs to seriously rethink her entire personality, or at least her way of relating to people. Do you do that, or do you just continue to be a friend to her, despite her less-than-pleasant tendencies, and hope that others like you will eventually be able to tolerate her?
Nobody’s perfect, obviously, and you can’t go around correcting everyone’s personality flaws without turning into a major asshole yourself. And if a person is just spiteful and ornery and is fine with being that way because he/she doesn’t require that many friends anyway, then there’s no need to step in and say anything. But if your friend comes to you, confused about his or her lack of friends, I feel like it’s ok to gently explain to that person that there are certain basic rules of social interaction that he/she can follow to become a more pleasant person.
A) Ask people about themselves. Conversations should not be one-sided. Do not walk up to someone, introduce yourself, and then talk at them about whatever you feel like talking about for the next 20 minutes. You would think this is a no-brainer, but there are so many people who do this, it boggles my mind. Warning sign: if at the end of a conversation, the other person knows way more about you then you do about him or her, you need to rethink your strategy.
B) Be humble. I cannot emphasize this enough– if you brag about yourself or exaggerate the greatness of your life and pet and house and salary and significant other, NOBODY WILL LIKE YOU. Bragging is like wearing too much makeup– in trying to magnify your attractiveness, you cancel out all of your natural attractiveness and make yourself unnecessarily ugly. Downplay. Always downplay.
C) Have a filter, both in terms of personality and behavior. If you use racial slurs, even in a joking manner, or blurt out personal information you happen to know about someone within minutes of meeting that person, you are over the line. Similarly, if you spit hamburger in someone’s face or pee on his leg the night you meet him, you are so far over the line you can’t even see it anymore. And yes, I know someone who actually did that.
In conclusion, I would argue that yes, it’s okay to tell a close friend the things he or she is doing that really turn people off. It will be an awkward conversation, but I think the friend will appreciate it in the end when one or two more people show up for his or her funeral than otherwise would have.
Maybe I’m wrong. Agree? Disagree? Ever been in this situation?