How can I be less misanthropic and get people to like me more?
May 24, 2007 10:05 AM   Subscribe

How can I be less misanthropic and get people to like me more? I'd like to know strategies for becoming less annoyed with people and thus increasing my desire to interact with them more.

I can tend to be somewhat misanthropic and would like to change this. I wouldn't say that I "hate" people, but just that a lot of people tend to annoy me to an extent where I sometimes want to avoid interacting with them or make the interactions as brief as possible. This occurs almost primarily with people who I don't know at all (i.e., strangers) or those who I don't know very well. Once I get to know people, I actually tend to like most people a lot and, in the absence of any horribleness, even be very optimistic in my assessment of people; that is, I'll overlook quite a few annoying / bad personality traits and focus on the positive aspects of someone with whom I'm acquainted.

This misanthropy toward strangers has two negative effects that I'd like to address: First, I frequently feel an almost constant, low-grade state of annoyance when I'm in a public place with lots of strangers. Something as simple as a walk down the sidewalk can get annoying when people are walking toward me (on the wrong side), talking loudly on their cell phone, or yelling. In general, I tend to dislike anything that is loud or rude. However, I recognize that this is somewhat unavoidable in public situations and wish that I didn't notice it so much. I also realize that the vast majority of the people who annoy me don't intend to do so and that I shouldn't judge them because of it.

The second consequence of these feelings is that most of the time I have a hard time making new friends. I'm actually very social, and have a fairly large group of really great friends (albeit spread about the country) who I love to spend time with. However, making new friends involves interacting more with strangers, something that I often have no desire to do, given the aforementioned feelings. I should also mention that every once in a while I'll enter a super-social zone where I am not annoyed by people and have no problem talking to strangers / making new friends. I guess I'm looking for advice on how to get myself into this mindset more often and avoiding becoming annoyed over little things that don't matter. Thanks for reading.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
There are SO many threads about this - try searching around and see what you come up with. There is really a wealth of good advice already available here - please seek it out.
posted by Carnage Asada at 10:11 AM on May 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

For a second there I thought I posted this. Spooky. You sound exactly like me.

As for some advice about how to cope, recently I've been trying to think of one positive thing about strangers I pass on the street. It seems to quench some of the annoyance that I feel when they do whatever it is they do that bugs me so much. Maybe you could try something like this?
posted by LunaticFringe at 10:28 AM on May 24, 2007

When I get annoyed by strangers, I try to come up with an acceptable (to me) reason why they might be acting the way they are. Guy who cut me off in traffic? His wife's in labor at the hospital. Girl who's too made-up and pretty? She's not a snobby ditz, she's just afraid people won't like her because she was teased for being the fat girl 15 years ago. People walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk, in my way? They are out for a pleasure walk, something I would like to do more, whereas I'm the jerk who just needs to get somewhere ASAP. Keep in mind that everyone has their reasons and their insecurities, just like you do. That exercise has helped me develop a lot of empathy over the years.

Another thing you might look into, if you're looking for a specific practice that will help you develop a less misanthropic attitude, is Metta meditation. It's Buddhist, but I can't imagine anyone of any religion finding it offensive to their own system. The gist of it is that you sit quietly and concentrate on feeling love and care towards yourself, then people close to you, then people you don't care much about one way or another, and then people you actively dislike. It takes you through the gradual steps of being able to think positive things about difficult people. You can do this on your own, find guides on the 'net, or look for a meditation center in your area that engages in this practice.
posted by vytae at 11:12 AM on May 24, 2007 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I meant to say in my first paragraph: Even if I can't come up with a realistic explanation that would excuse someone's behavior, the effort to think of one takes my mind off being annoyed, so I get over it more quickly.
posted by vytae at 11:14 AM on May 24, 2007

I once heard an interesting theory on the nature of reality which I remind myself of when I feel the way you do.

What if there is only one soul, and it is living out all the lives in the universe (perhaps as a way to stave off boredom)?

That would mean that when you are nice to someone else, you are also being nice to yourself on another trip through this reality.

As an agnostic, I don't necessarily give this any more weight than many other theories for our existence. But I do find it to be a useful mental exercise to help me connect with other people that I might otherwise feel contempt or indifference towards.
posted by joquarky at 11:59 AM on May 24, 2007

A couple of thoughts --

You may be one of those "highly sensitive people" -- perhaps that's why you have trouble in public spaces with what you perceive as overbearingly loud people. That sort of behavior slaps you in the face harder than it does others -- it's more difficult for you to ignore it and tune it out. Lots of advice on the web for coping with life as highly sensitive person.

Social anxiety/insecurity may also be at work in interactions with strangers. Anxiety can be projected as annoyance -- it's not always immediately felt as insecurity/nervousness/etc.
posted by treepour at 12:10 PM on May 24, 2007

This could describe me. I'm fairly introverted and most of the time I don't care to be around a crowd of strangers. I often find that I am not in the mood to interact with them and would like to just focus on buying some groceries or whatnot. Your constant low grade annoyance sounds very similar to how I feel about this.

I generally enjoy talking to people I know, or meeting new people when I choose to, but I find that being thrust into being around others and not having enough alone time makes me feel annoyed. It seems like a paradox, but try spending more time alone.
posted by yohko at 12:14 PM on May 24, 2007

i find a pair of in-the-ear headphones (the ones that fit into your ear canal) paired with the mp3 player of your choice block out pretty much everything taht's going on around me. this eliminates a lot of the low-grade annoyance i would have otherwise in supermarkets, on public transport, etc. in fact, listening to some music while observing what goes on around me is in fact quite pleasurable...
posted by modernnomad at 12:41 PM on May 24, 2007

I second yohko's advice and, in addition, I also think that your story could easily describe myself. I am also highly sensitive and introverted; casual social interactions tend to make me nervous and uncomfortable. I guess I am just not interested in discussing the weather at length and, since I find people to be so easily offended, I do not want to say anything that might set them off (i.e. anything worth discussing). I also have a number of good friends and have always managed to find friends despite my nature (and frequent moves). I try to think on how I met them and they might as well have fallen out of the sky; in my memory, they are just there.

I would not worry about this so much, since it may make you more sensitive to your annoyance and therefore more anxious; but, if you find yourself getting annoyed to an uncomfortable level, try to find a calming place. If you are out and about, try to find a place more devoid of people for a few moments. If you are in your car, maybe play your favorite CD and try to tune out the annoyance or take a detour down a less-crowded residential street. These are techniques that I employ and they seem to help. All the best to you.
posted by melangell at 12:46 PM on May 24, 2007

Something as simple as a walk down the sidewalk can get annoying ...I have a hard time making new friends.

You have a social anxiety disorder, your anxiety manifests itself as what you call annoyance. Paxil, wellbutrin, any number of anxiety medications will calm you down. Go see your doctor, explain your anxieties and take the pill.
posted by valentinepig at 1:12 PM on May 24, 2007

Consider that not just anxiety, but also plain depression, can manifest itself as irritability. I thought my being a cranky fuck was independent of my being a sad bastard, but since I've started getting my depression treated, I hate people much less.
posted by clavicle at 1:39 PM on May 24, 2007

You have a social anxiety disorder

You're not his doctor, so your medical opinion, particularly when it hasn't been solicited, is not useful.

There was an article posted to the Blue just the other week which discussed the continuum of levels of sociability that fell within the range of "not a disorder". Anonymous can probably be described as sensitive and introverted. A lot of us are. We don't need meds, and we don't have a condition.

To the OP: more time alone to recharge helps me. We could be siblings.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:15 PM on May 24, 2007

What works for me is I have convinced myself over time that everyone has something worthwhile to bring to the table. This theory of mine emerged out of an attempt to be more generous with others. I used to live and drive around a busy hospital district where tons of people drove in the most annoying way as they tried to get in and out of the medical center. Then on the verge of that anger and annoyance I felt for the driver in front of me, I thought - they could be going to see a sick friend in one of these hospitals. Almost immediately I became more patient behind them. This approach spread to other parts of my life. So try and trust the possibility in others, be generous with them. Fight any feeling of judgment.
posted by dog food sugar at 4:09 PM on May 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

You have a social anxiety disorder, your anxiety manifests itself as what you call annoyance. Paxil, wellbutrin, any number of anxiety medications will calm you down. Go see your doctor, explain your anxieties and take the pill.

This type of advice is highly annoying!

I don't want to fill my body with unncessary and expensive medication with who knows what interactions and long-term effects, merely to match some American social ideal of extreme hail-fellow-well-met extroversion.

I could move to Finland.
posted by bad grammar at 8:11 PM on May 24, 2007

Yeah, drug yourself up, because there must be something wrong with you! Great advice!

The problem is that the world is full of annoying people, like the one who dispensed the above sage advice.

The way I deal with annoying jerks is to just consider them non-people (I call them pod people. See Inside the Monkeysphere for more on what I mean. It wil probably sound very familiar).
posted by tjvis at 11:09 AM on May 25, 2007

tjvis, I've been in no fewer than three discussions on MeFi where various monkeys have gone nuts and flamed out because I've asserted that I don't really think of MeFites as people.

I think we agree, more or less, but you'll want to keep that viewpoint on the QT. Not because you or I care what the pod people think, but because if the pods don't react with visceral hatred every time you post, they might even learn something when you post something really good instead of rejecting it outright because they think that you've somehow insulted them int he past by considering them unpeople.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:00 PM on May 25, 2007

I just want to say that you sound COMPLETELY normal to me, but then I'm exactly like you. I think "people persons" are fucking freaks.

I definitely don't think you're depressed and whether you want to go on meds for social anxiety, which may or may not be a real pathology, is up to you.

I find the only thing that helps me like random strangers more is just being well-rested and in a good mood and having my shit fairly together, in other words, I make room for a bit of extroversion. But even then, there's only so much I can take. Just do your best to be polite and try not to come off as a serial killer and I think you're doing okay. Otherwise save your energy for reaching out to those you feel a bond with. You can try out your wit and charm on a select few and see if they appreciate it or not and proceed accordingly.
posted by Jess the Mess at 5:52 PM on May 25, 2007

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