Little Social Annoyances That Will Never Go Away

People who struggle socially are sometimes intolerant of petty social inconveniences such as having to make dull small talk. Although they may not enjoy these things either, more-sociable people are more good-natured about playing along. It can help to accept that the following social annoyances will never go away completely, and try to be more tolerant of them:

Formulaic conversational exchanges

You all know these: "Hey, how are you?", "Good, how are you?", "Good. How's school going?", "Good. How about you?", "Good. Are you working now?" "Yeah, I've got a part-time job at the hospital.", "Oh, how's that going?", "Good...." and on it goes.

When you first start talking to someone new, or if you're catching up with an acquaintance, the first few lines you exchange often have this uninspired, rote quality to them. If you're doing this with a lot of people in a short period of time it can quickly grow tiresome. It's pointless to get too irritated at this common scenario. This article goes into more detail about small talk.

Being asked the same questions over and over again

"How were your holidays?", "How's college going?", "How was your trip?" , "How's work?", "How's your boyfriend doing?"

Anyone who's been to a big family function has experienced the tedium of having to answer the same question a dozen times. Again, there's no point in getting too worked up about it. It's going to happen from time to time. Just politely answer and try to move on to a more stimulating topic.

Everyone also has things about them that invite the same questions and comments from different people. If you have an unusual name you're going to hear about it your whole life. If you have a twin you'll get the same cliched questions and corny jokes over and over and over and over and over again. If you have an interesting job you'll forever be explaining certain aspects of it.

Loud, rowdy group conversations where you can't get a word in

You're hanging out with a bunch of friends. You have something intelligent to add to the conversation, but can't be bothered to speak up. Everyone's talking at once. They're shouting over each other. They're cutting each other off. One friend's getting argumentative. Another's yelling out dumb jokes. You don't feel like battling for the mic. You'd rather be quiet and wait until it's over.

Some group discussions just devolve into free for alls. Just having enough people can tip them in that direction. It's likelier to happen when everyone's been drinking, and some of the participants have attention-hungry, opinionated, interrupting conversation styles, and they start competing for the spotlight.

One option is to accept the rules of the exchange have shifted and do your best to hang in there. Honestly, I understand why some people would rather bow out.

People making dumb comments without thinking

Most people mean well, but sometimes they say certain things without realizing how crass or insensitive or ignorant they sound. Like if someone is tall and thin they've probably lost track of how many times people have seen them and blurted out, "Wow, you're skinny!!! Don't you eat?!?" Another example is, "Smile! It's not so bad!"

People are just like that. They don't intend any harm. They just have a burning question or observation on their mind and want to say it... now... without thinking about how to word it in a considerate manner, or if they should share it at all.

Sometimes their remark doesn't bother you that much, and you can brush it off. At other times a thoughtless comment has a more misguided, hurtful edge, and you may decide to point out how it's inappropriate (e.g., "I know you're just curious, but when you keep asking where I'm really from when I just told you I was born here, you're accidentally sending the message you don't think non-white people can be real Americans" or "You know, it's rude to bluntly comment on the weight of someone you've just met"). You may unfairly get flak for being "uptight" and "too sensitive", but believe standing up for yourself is worth that. Still, even if you confidently correct everyone who makes a dumb comment, you're not going to stop all of them from happening in the first place.

Having to chat to people you're indifferent to

You run into your co-worker in the breakroom. They're nice enough. You have nothing against them. You wish them all the best. But you also don't have anything in common, and they tend to complain about their family. But you work with them and don't want to seem like a closed-off grouch, so you make some polite chit chat.

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People who want something from you being insincere

Sometimes we can take it personally when restaurant servers, bartenders, sales people, or store clerks act falsely chummy toward us so we'll hopefully give them better tips or get a commission. The phoniness and not-so-hidden agenda of the whole interaction can rub people the wrong way. While it's still tacky, these people are just doing their jobs. Some of this behavior is also just a (sometimes clumsy) way for staff to appear pleasant to their customers. Oh, and sometimes they actually are being friendly, because they're nice people.

Plans falling apart at the last second

Making plans is sometimes a crap shoot. You spend two weeks organizing a dinner with your friends, and then everyone cancels a day before it's set to happen. The things we organize also frequently get messed up because some of our friends are flaky and unreliable. However, unless someone is lucky enough to have a bunch of mates who are unusually considerate, and who never have conflicting demands on their time, you always have to approach organizing an outing as something that may not pan out.

People not responding to your invite messages

You send a text to a bunch of your friends inviting them to get together on the weekend. Half of them don't reply at all. You get it. They follow an unwritten rule that if they can't attend, or aren't interested, they don't need to respond at all. You know to be easygoing and not make a big stink about it. Still, would it kill them to send a quick, "Sorry, can't make it"? That would be great, but some people are always going to veer on the side of being lazy or indirect like this.

People making superficial snap judgments about you

This is definitely annoying, but I'm pretty certain it's hardwired into our nature. I go more into it here:

Some Ways People Are Mentally Lazy About Judging Others

Having to attend events you would rather not

Dull office parties, irritating family gatherings, overly-formal, stuffy dinners. Mandatory events come up like this at least a few times a year. No one really wants to go to all of them. It's easy to fantasize about beating the system and not having to attend anymore, perhaps by just refusing to show up in the future. That never seems to work out though. You just end up having to plaster on your happy face and put in those few hours.

Any other irritating social situations/dumb things people do

They've been doing it this long, there's no reason they're going to stop now. Might as well quit stressing about it so much and start to play along a little. Someone can complain all they want about small talk being boring, but it will never disappear. Personally I think it's almost liberating to accept that certain things are just the way they are. It frees you up to deal with the challenges of the actual situation instead of feeling bitter about being in it in the first place. I often find that when you approach an annoyance on this level, it's not quite as bad.