I was impressed by the self-knowledge displayed by a reader who emailed me to say, "I get the feeling that other people find me difficult. I'm trying to figure out why I always seem to be rubbing people the wrong way."
The thing is, some people are...difficult. Most difficult people, however, probably don't realize quite how difficult others find them to be. They have their own - perhaps quite reasonable - explanations for the things they say and do, and they don't recognize how they're affecting other people.
In his excellent book The No A****** Rule (I'm omitting the title for fear of spam-blockers), and also on his blog, Work Matters, Bob Sutton has a quiz to help people recognize if they are a*******. I was inspired to adapt that material for this quiz.
As you answer these questions, be brutally honest with yourself. Don't make excuses for yourself or other people; just try to answer accurately. These questions apply to family members gathering for a birthday, or to co-workers, or to any group of people who are trying to get along with each other.
--Do you often find that when you do something nice for people, they do a lot of grumbling? Do they seem ungrateful or uncooperative? Do they seem reluctant to accept your generosity? For example, you offered to host Thanksgiving dinner, but no one appreciated it.
--When you join a group of people, does the mood often shift? Does a group tend to break apart after you join it?
--When you do something generous for others, do you think it only right that your generosity will allow you to make decisions for them or direct their actions?
--Do you find it hard to get your calls and emails returned?
--Are you often puzzled when people dramatically over-react to little mistakes, oversights, or casual remarks you make? You bring up some cute anecdote from years ago, and everyone acts upset.
--Do you often find yourself saying defensively, "It was just a joke!"
--Do you think it important to express your true feelings and views authentically, even if that means upsetting other people?
--Do you find that people seem resentful and angry when you offer objective, helpful criticism or advice?
--Do you often find out that something you've done or said has caused an argument between two other people? For example, your son tells you that he and your daughter-in-law have been arguing about the lovely plans you've made for the holiday.
--Do you find that even when you're trying to be helpful by explaining something or providing information, people don't want to seem to listen to you?
--Do you feel annoyed because people tend to refuse to acknowledge your greater experience or knowledge in an area, and instead, ignore your suggestions?
--Do people tend to change the conversation when you try to explain a major insight that has led you to make a major lifestyle change, or why you hold a particular firm belief?
--Do people tend to gang up against you - when you're arguing one side, everyone takes the other side, or when one person criticizes you, everyone else chimes in?
--Do you find it funny to see other people squirm?
--Do you delight in spreading the word when you pick up a bit of gossip?
--If someone asks for your opinion, do you think it's right to tell them frankly what you think?
--Do you think it's useful to point out people's mistakes, areas of incompetence, or previous track records of failure?
--Is it fairly common for one person to tell you that he or she will speak to a third person, so that you don't have to? In other words, do people volunteer to act as intermediaries for you, rather than let you do your own talking?
A "yes" may be a red flag that you're a source of unhappiness for others.
What other signs of being difficult have I missed?
* Interested in starting your own Happiness Project? If you'd like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the "at" sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than "Resolutions Chart" in the subject line.