What trivial, obnoxious habits have you quit?
September 4, 2019 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Okay, so without really thinking about it I was sometimes in the habit of...not refilling the water on the shared espresso machine at work* on the theory that other people never refilled it either so I often had to do it before making espresso. Though perhaps justified, this is obnoxious behavior and I am making a point of refilling the machine now. I would like to be a better - or at least less annoying - person by dealing with minor bad habits of which I may be only partially aware. What small annoying things have you stopped doing?

*It was second-hand and we mostly use it for coffee, ie Americanos.

I am more interested in habits that affect others than in, eg, remembering to moisturize or always packing your gym bag the night before - that is, in things which benefit me primarily by making me a less irritating companion rather than by making my skin dewier.
posted by Frowner to Human Relations (47 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
I am not sure if this is a bad habit, exactly, but back when I still had a car, I gave up hunting for the closest parking spot in parking lots. instead, I would take an easily available spot further out. I found this made me less stressed, and it meant less chance of a fender bender as I circled the lot, and I presume it made people who really like to park close to stores happier, too.

My commitment to this wavered during the coldest part of Toronto winters, though.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:39 PM on September 4, 2019 [24 favorites]

I stopped pointing grammatical errors out to my unsuspecting parents, and others, because I try to be less of an asshole. I actually used to thing I was being helpful ::shudders::
posted by waving at 1:41 PM on September 4, 2019 [29 favorites]

When I worked in an office, I would actually replace the toner rather than shaking the old one for the billionth time and putting it back in. I HATED replacing the toner because we had to recycle the old ones and they never fit back in the box properly, and I had to bring them down to the mail room, but eventually I realized someone had to do it so it might as well be me.

Also as a general rule, I stopped automatically going for the sarcastic, snarky comment. I mostly try to keep my mouth shut if it's not helpful or at least productive complaining.
posted by lyssabee at 1:43 PM on September 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

I stopped pointing grammatical errors

Ooh me too mostly.

Also trying desperately to stop correcting people about other things that are mostly irrelevant.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:44 PM on September 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

Disposable ballpoint pens that barely produce ink? Trash them instead of putting them back for someone else to struggle with.
posted by exogenous at 1:47 PM on September 4, 2019 [33 favorites]

I think some of this is thoughtfulness more than bad habits (because it sounds like you rationalized yours). So around kitchens, whether at home or work: cleaning out the drain, putting away/cleaning my own dishes/an extra dish without complain, wiping down the counters.

Bathrooms: wipe the counter when it's dirty, replace the toilet paper when it's empty

Basically, try to leave shared space slightly better than you found it.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:51 PM on September 4, 2019 [17 favorites]

Wipe off the counter in the bathroom / kitchen. Empty the dishwasher, if relevant. Pick up any towels, etc. on the floor and throw in a bin. Refill things that have run out. Dispose of gross/smelly trash so it's not sitting in a work area getting noticeably grosser all week.
posted by momus_window at 1:53 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Really trying hard to stop finishing other people's sentences for them. Results have been mixed.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:57 PM on September 4, 2019 [30 favorites]

There's a guy at my office who gets in way ahead of everyone else and he always starts the coffee and (more importantly) refills the communal fridge with soda and sparkling water so everything is nice and cold by lunchtime. I appreciate him every time I go to grab a drink.

If someone is signaling to get into your lane or trying to make a difficult turn and you can help them out by giving them space and waving them through, please please please just do it. I cannot emphasize enough just how much it improves not only my day but my general attitude and wellbeing whenever someone is gracious to me in traffic like that.
posted by anderjen at 2:04 PM on September 4, 2019 [32 favorites]

I am trying to remember to take those few extra steps and put the shopping cart back in those parking lot corrals rather than leaving it loose to cause mischief. I developed this bad habit when my hip was really sore before I had it replaced. Which isn't much of an excuse, but there you go.
posted by agatha_magatha at 2:07 PM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

I find myself returning to the habit I was raised in of picking up stray trash in the street, assuming there's a nearby trashcan, rather than ignoring it as if God was gonna pick it up.
posted by praemunire at 2:21 PM on September 4, 2019 [15 favorites]

After you use a sink in a public restroom, please use your paper towel to dry off any moisture on the counter so that short people (like me!) who have to stand closer to that counter to reach the faucet don't get that water on their shirt/pants (depending on the height of the counter).
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:22 PM on September 4, 2019 [22 favorites]

If something's on the floor, pick it up. Don't just walk by like you don't see it. I had a boss flip out at me over this and now I always do it.

Likewise, if something's dirty, clean it. If something's empty, fill it. If something's missing, go get it. Don't just pretend you don't notice the problem and hope someone else solves it.

When you finish something, replace it immediately. And replace it completely, so it's in usable condition for the next person. Like if you finish the soda, put more sodas in the fridge. If you finish the TP, put the new roll on the holder. If you finish the coffee water, put more water in the carafe. (You sound like you're already doing this, though!).

Finish each task. This is really difficult for me. But things aren't done until even the cleanup is over and everything is prepped for next time.

Don't ask a question unless you genuinely want to know the other person's answer.

Remember that other people are trying to look cool or interesting and are worried about what you think of them. I guess this is basically just giving people the benefit of the doubt rather than writing someone off like, "what a wanker."

Be a generous driver.
posted by rue72 at 2:23 PM on September 4, 2019 [14 favorites]

Leaving the crud in the kitchen sink drain.
posted by wwax at 2:27 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Saying thank you spontaneously rather than waiting to be prompted - if someone did something nice or helpful, call it out and just say thank you at the first opportunity, even if what they did is what they always do but it's something you appreciate (like the kitchen guy in anderjen's comment above).
posted by Mchelly at 2:32 PM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

When the printer's out of paper, I refill it AND grab an extra ream to leave next to it. (The paper is stored in a high cupboard 15 feet away.)
posted by shiny blue object at 2:33 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

More like a trivial, nice habit I try to practice - if you think or feel something nice about someone, don’t hold back from telling them (within the bounds of appropriateness). Even if it’s just a little text like “I was just remembering that time we jumped into the lake with aunt jean—so funny. Hope you are well.”
posted by sallybrown at 2:47 PM on September 4, 2019 [23 favorites]

In conversation, just listen to people and let them entirely finish what they are trying to say without having some entertaining retort. Let them get all the way through their entire train of thought without advice. Make eye contact.
posted by effluvia at 2:55 PM on September 4, 2019 [21 favorites]

When a coworker died suddenly years ago, someone remarked that she never complained when someone handed work to her - not even jokingly. I decided I would never complain about being given work again. So anyone who hands me something to do gets a thank you, not a snide remark.
posted by FencingGal at 3:16 PM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

I'm working on not interrupting people when they speak - effluvia, your comment is exactly what my goal is.
posted by danabanana at 3:20 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

Linking to files properly and tidying up folders on shared drives. I didn’t realise that I was contributing to a big ole mess by drag n dropping things into Teams chats. Now I copy the file into a sensible place on Teams, link to it and tidy up the General dumping ground from time to time.

I also make sure to leave a sugar spoon in the sugar tin if it’s not already there and we have a small mug of water for wet spoons. This prevents every person from grabbing a new dry spoon, getting sugar and then contributing to the overflowing wet spoon mug. Now everyone keeps the dry spoon in the tin and grabs an already wet spoon to stir.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:41 PM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

I also got rid of all the generic chipped mugs. Nobody wants a chipped mug and they just kept getting picked up and put back at the front all morning long. We had so many that we were stacking them anyway, which resulted in lots of chipped mugs go figure.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:45 PM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

Not getting into real-life arguments I've had before a zillion times that I don't expect anyone to change their position in.

There's a social group I now nearly don't speak in.

I think they think they won, but oh well.

effluvia, I also like your goal. Is it having a noticeable effect?
posted by clew at 3:46 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

A while back I made a decision to assume that most other adults generally know what they're doing, and therefore I didn't need to jump in right away if they weren't doing something (driving, chopping an onion, whatever) the way I would do it.
(Is this because it's an annoying habit my mom has? yes.)
posted by exceptinsects at 4:19 PM on September 4, 2019 [20 favorites]

Clew, I actually had a friend get really annoyed with me for interrupting him. Instead of getting defensive, I told him it was a great feedback opportunity to learn how to improve myself. He was totally shocked I didn't just get angry and defensive. I think of that moment when I'm engaged in conversation now, and it helps me just slow down and listen and let them talk. I also noticed as a teacher that if you are too quick with advice, students just sort of shut down and stop sharing. So I don't jump in with advice, I just let them finish their whole train of thought. It does take some discipline, but you know, it's totally worth it. I think the retort and advice are well intentioned, but don't fully allow the other person to be heard. So it's worth it to me for them to have the experience; I do get people noticing and commenting on how good it feels for them.
posted by effluvia at 4:41 PM on September 4, 2019 [23 favorites]

These are a couple things I hate when other people do them to me, so I'm trying to get myself to be careful not to do them to others:

1) I'm working on cutting the phrase "you should" and other variants on the same idea out of my vocabulary and, in general, not giving advice unless I am specifically asked for it. I like it when people assume that I am competent and have my own good reasons for acting as I do - I'm trying to train myself to assume the same about others.

2) A few years ago, I noticed that, whenever I asked someone to repeat something they'd said, they would almost always repeat only the last few words...which was, of course, the part that I had heard just fine the first time. Since having this realization, I have tried to always repeat myself in full when asked.
posted by darchildre at 5:08 PM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

I stopped being sarcastic.
posted by seesom at 5:10 PM on September 4, 2019 [14 favorites]

Refusing to get into pointless online arguments.

Has reduced my stress levels quite a bit.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:11 PM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

Going back to the shared espresso machine, I always rinse or wipe the milk steaming nozzle, and rinse the portafilter under the tap.
posted by w0mbat at 5:39 PM on September 4, 2019

I clear unused seconds off of the microwave now, since my husband told me that he likes to find or ready to use.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:52 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

Basically, try to leave shared space slightly better than you found it.

Yes. Leave objects and spaces ready for someone else to use.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:58 PM on September 4, 2019

My husband likes to stick his finger in my mouth when I yawn without covering. This happens... frequently. YMMV.
posted by stray at 6:13 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

put the shopping cart back

Same concept for anything I use -- put the object back in its home space (if it makes sense). If I took the scotch tape dispenser and used it in a different room? I put it back on the desk where I got it. If I got the tape measure out of the toolbox? Put it back.

When I was younger I had a bad habit of taking the cassette/CD out of its case, and then not putting it back in the case right away after I'd played it (sorry Dad). These days I deal with physical media far less often, but I try to be better at putting CDs/DVDs etc back in their cases.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 10:33 PM on September 4, 2019

I used to use the general queries about a person (you know, the hey how are you doing variety) as either a small talk ritual or a conversational starter to get to the next bit. Now I ask, pause and actually listen.
posted by Nieshka at 1:37 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’ve recently gotten into the habit of adding something to the end of “thank you”. Just a thank you started to feel like a tic and not very grateful or mindful. So for example now I say “Thank you, that’s very kind of you”, “Thank you, that’s made my day better” or something simple like that. I mainly use it these days when people help with with the stroller on stairs. I might be just imagining it but I feel like the people who help me notice the thank you just a bit more and smile more so I hope they feel even better about their nice deed.
posted by like_neon at 1:54 AM on September 5, 2019 [20 favorites]

Thanks for that thread, a good reminder of many things I absolutely need to be working on.

Obnoxious habits I've already made some progress on:

- Arguing with compliments. My kneejerk impulse, when I get a compliment, was to somehow minimize it/put it in perspective. Part of that might be my socialization as a woman, fear of seeming over-confident, inspiring a need to take me down a notch, or fear of raising expectations, or just plain superstition (not attracting the envy of the gods or something). At any rate, it's something I no longer do. Someone else made an effort to make me feel good, and I think that needs to be acknowledged and not undermined by deflections.

- Probably related: Being too quick to share my doubts in situations when that's not particularly productive/killing the mood by being over-zealous about managing expectations. My boss sometimes (gently) teases me about being overly quick with the worst-case-scenarios before we even have all the information/when things are still very much in development, and it kinda drove home to me how terrible I would find it if she were like me in that regard. It would stress me out to no end, and for nothing. It's good to keep an eye on warning signs and take precautions, but sometimes there's really not much you can do one way or the other, and then it's better to take more of a wait-and-see approach, cross that bridge when you come to it.

- Taking up too much space in meetings/seminars/workshops, etc. I'm sometimes a bit too much in love with my own voice and need to constantly remind myself to listen more. Nowadays I try to only be the first to speak if really no one else wants to, and people might actually appreciate someone else breaking the ice, otherwise I try to wait till everyone else has said their piece. When I go into it with my best intention to talk as little as possible, I still end up talking more than enough.
posted by sohalt at 3:28 AM on September 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

At home: I try not to leave packages of food with only a small amount left in them. In the past, my reasoning was that I will eat 3 crackers, and I know we're almost out and have crackers on the grocery list. But the others don't know, and they are annoyed when they are looking forward to a nice snack and then the box rattles in that dire way. And if I feel the need to rattle the box before putting it away, I need to eat all the crackers or decant them into something else.

At work: I'm trying to go with whatever level the other person wants the conversation to be on, as long as I can somewhat understand it. It might seem like someone is trying to manipulate me with some kind of work-speak but if I can understand it, they are still being fairly transparent. If we disagree substantially, that's going to come out and I can maintain my boundaries without drawing attention to the way people are communicating, which really does come off snotty.

Generally, anything I'm doing while thinking it is cute or like something on TV is probably pretty obnoxious and I need to stop and think why I'm really doing it and making this mental excuse for it.
posted by BibiRose at 6:10 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

The public transit version of the farther parking spot thing--not taking a seat on the subway or bus unless I really need it or if I'd get in more people's way by standing. If I consider my default to be standing, I feel less tense while traveling because I'm not worried about jockeying for a seat, and it's one more seat available for someone who might need or appreciate it more.

I've also been trying to make more physical space for other women when I'm in public--like, I see/experience how men expect women to get out of their way, and I know white women often do similar to WOC, and if I can I just want to be one less person doing that in other women's days.
posted by lampoil at 7:18 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

At work I refill the kettle and re-boil it when I am steeping my own tea. I bring in yummy snacks and teas regularly to share.

I push the paper towels down in the bathroom trash can so that they don't pile up as quickly and replace the toilet paper roll if it's almost done.

At the grocery store I tell the cashier if someone's left items in a basket so they can be re-shelved and not go bad if it's a frozen/refrigerated item.
I try to put a separator behind my items on the rolly thing and try to stay out of people's way.
I put cash directly into the cashier's hand (people who dump their change on the table and make the cashier scrape it up and count it are the worst).
If someone behind me has a few items I ask if they want to go ahead of me and try to project calm and patience especially when the lines are crazy.

At home I put my (ADHD) partner's things back in place in the bathroom and kitchen because he's out of the house before me and he never thinks to put things away in his morning rush. I keep his necessities on auto-order from amazon so he never runs out of coffee or nose strips.

I used to be terrible for leaving cupboards open, I am better now. Before I leave the house I look back at the kitchen and living room and if it looks like someone's robbed the place (because things are open, stuff is all over) I try to straighten up a bit before I go if I'm not going to be late.
posted by lafemma at 9:42 AM on September 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

Are cigarettes trivial? Now that I'm not smoking I can smell smokers smoking through closed windows. I can't believe I used to do that to people.

I taught my dog to poop and pee in the street instead of on the sidewalk- I curbed my dog. I was really smug about it until they painted the curb green, now I'm the asshole whose dog poops in the bike lane.

(I pick it up, of course, but still. I get dirty looks from bicyclists all the time, unfortunately the dog is now old and unable to learn new tricks.)
posted by Admiral Viceroy at 6:38 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

In the kitchen at work, I take home the dish towel and launder it when it's getting gross, and I replace the sponge with a fresh one regularly.

When I go for a walk, I bring a small trash bag and pick up litter I find along the way.

I collect kids' books (from Facebook neighborhood "free" sites, etc.) and stock the local book boxes (little free libraries). When I noticed one of the book boxes was damaged, I posted on NextDoor and found someone who knew how to repair it and did it for free.
posted by southern_sky at 7:30 PM on September 5, 2019

Pay attention to where you’re walking or standing. Pedestrians on the sidewalk should be like cars on a busy street. Don’t stop suddenly, if you’re going to stop, pull over to the side, don’t walk in the middle or take up the entire space with your friend, etc
posted by saul wright at 9:58 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Something I do in my relationship that maybe fits here: when we got together, I decided to try a secret experiment and started telling my partner whenever it turned out that he'd been right about something where we disagreed. Just, "Oh, I went by that shop and you were right, they don't sell the kind of dingbats we need," or, "Thanks for reminding me not to leave my water glass on that shelf, the cat got up there again and it would have caused a huge mess if I'd forgotten (again) and left it there."

Obviously, this advice won't suit all relationships. My main goal was to avoid getting into situations where, if we argued, I could throw out lines like, "You never do X!" or "You always do Y!" because I'd have a frequent reminder that he did sometimes get things right, heh. I think it's been good for improving communication between us in general, though.
posted by daisyk at 6:00 AM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Leaving the (clean) dishes in the drying rack and only putting anything away once it reached truly Pisa-like status. I now make an effort to put them away as soon as they’re dry. It makes the system much nicer and more friendly both for me and my housemate.
posted by seemoorglass at 7:37 AM on September 6, 2019

This recent thread on kind and courteous habits to adopt.
posted by pimli at 1:45 AM on September 13, 2019

Just thought of something else! A friend of mine talks about completing the chore cycle. If you take out the trash, put a new garbage bag in the trash can. That sort of thing. Don’t do half of a chore.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:55 AM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

daisyk, you are a nobler soul than I am. My sweetie and I joke that `the three little words that keep a relationship sweet' are not `I love you' but `You were right!', and I hope I say it -- to anyone, not just my partner -- with cheer and honest enthusiasm. But I am also very prone to cry `Three little words!' when I mean `I was right!'

Okay, I have something else to work on.
posted by clew at 4:45 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

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