When You Purposely Sabotage Your Social Interactions

Some people who struggle to socialize and fit in will tell you about moments they were in a conversation and purposely sent it off track. They might have done something minor, such as making strange comments, which caused everyone to see them as weird. Or they could have acted upsetting enough to burn their bridges with that group.

In some cases they felt like they had a good reason to behave that way at the time. In other instances they weren't sure what they were thinking. Something just came over them. Either way, they often regret the decision after the fact. I'll share what I know about this self-sabotaging phenomenon.

Examples of ways to deliberately derail an interaction

There are other reasons someone might do the things below, but I'm talking about when they choose to do them to mess up a conversation. For example, someone is being argumentative. They may genuinely think they're right and want to debate their "misguided" friend. They could be nervous and that's scrambling their judgment. Or they may pick a fight because they get a mysterious urge to disrupt the discussion and annoy everyone.

Being odd

Not matching the group's mood

Trying to stir up a dispute

Being insulting

Creating an uncomfortable atmosphere

Not making a social effort

Substance use

Reasons someone may feel like they have at the time for sabotaging a social interaction

As I said, in the moment someone can either not know why they're throwing a wrench into the conversation, or they may have a sense of what their motivation is. If they do, here are some common ones:

As you can see, there's an overall theme of "I don't care how this goes. I'm above it all."

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Deeper, often unconscious, reasons for sabotaging a social interaction

It's possible someone may purposely mess with a conversation simply for one of the reasons above. It's a bit mean-spirited to screw with people for your own amusement, but not everyone's a saint. In my experience, while that's the apparent surface reasoning, there's usually a deeper motivation for social self-sabotage. Same goes if someone gets the urge to disrupt an interaction for no discernable reason. Of course, there's something driving the decision.

It's hard to know what unconscious reasoning motivates any one person. If you've ever been self-sabotaging at a social event, maybe as you read the above list one or two of the points rung true to you.

What to do if you have social self-sabotaging tendencies

The first step is to know you're prone to acting this way in the first place. You can't change something if you don't realize you're doing it. I'll assume if you've gotten this far in the article you're aware of the issue. Here are some other suggestions:

Try to catch yourself wanting to self-sabotage in the moment

For example, you're having dinner with some new friends, you don't find the conversation that exciting, and get an impulse to bring up a contentious topic to get everyone arguing. When you have that urge, stop and ask yourself what you really want to accomplish.

Over time, you may notice certain situations predictably set off your urge to be self-sabotaging. Like you may get that way when you're nervous, feel left out, are around a certain type of person, or are in a sour mood.

Once you've caught yourself, ask if there's a better course of action

To continue with the same example...

Just realize it's not the best behavior to purposely aggravate or screw with people

I know that heading may have made you think, "Oh great, here comes a lecture about how I'm a bad person". I'm not trying to shame anyone. I realize that if you've ever purposely or half-purposely tried to sabotage a social interaction that you weren't doing it out a deep desire to be evil and hurtful. You were being driven by some unconscious instinct you didn't have full control over. That said, from other peoples' perspective it doesn't feel good to be on the receiving end of someone who's deliberately annoying or screwing with them. No, it's not likely to give them lifelong emotional scars, but there are nicer ways to act. Just keeping that in mind may give you some motivation not to deliberately disrupt the conversations you find yourself in.