Available now - The book based on the site

The Social Skills Guidebook

Learn More
View on Amazon

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 or more 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 the question and 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 to people.

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 mean any harm by it. 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 an appropriate manner. If you get one of these comments and handle it with grace, maybe by making a joke about it, you can at least win some points and come off looking like a good sport.

People who want something from you being insincere

Sometimes we can take it personally when restaurant servers, bartenders, sales people, or store clerks acted falsely chummy towards us so we'll hopefully give them better tips/commissions. The phoniness and not-so-hidden agenda of the whole interaction can rub people the wrong way. While it's still tacky in a way, 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 really 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 gathering 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 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 go to them 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 annoying situation on this level, it's not as bad.