How you conduct yourself has a lot to do with how popular you are. Forget TV ads that imply only the young and the pretty have lots of friends and an active social life!
If you can avoid the 12 things below, chances are high that you will not spend weekend after weekend watching TV alone in your flat. And we all know just how bad loneliness is for your health. Read more here about how it can raise the death risk in older people.
And by the way, while reading these, how much do you recognise of yourself, and of others you know?
One-upmanship. If you've just picked up R1000 in the street, this person will tell you how he once picked up R5000. If you've just broken your leg, you're no match for their cousin who is in a wheelchair after a diving accident. You name it, they can go bigger and better and you can't help sometimes to wonder about the truth of all these stories. Or about how low their self-image must be never to be able to simply be happy for someone else when things go well. Or just be there for them when they don't, without having to denigrate whatever's just happened to them.
Not listening. Talking and listening should be a 50/50 thing. If you always do all the talking and only listen to someone when what they are saying is somehow to your advantage, don't expect to be popular. There is a big difference between listeningand waiting to talk. Worse still, is interrupting someone. When you do this, what you are basically saying is that what they are saying is of no importance and that which you are saying is so much more important. This is no way to endear yourself. On the contrary. Being a bad listener could spell the end of your social life, if you have one, that is.
Constantly coming late. Making people wait for you, especially if it is in a public place, is simply unforgivable. Sometimes it is unavoidable, such as when a tree has fallen across the road or your car has broken down, but if it is simply because you couldn't be bothered, think for a moment about what message it is sending to the other person: your time is not as important as mine and I don't care if yours is wasted by standing around waiting for me. Do this to someone a few times and watch how quickly you disappear off their Christmas list.
Not respecting confidentiality. If things are told to you in confidence and you spread them around – usually under the guise of concern, of course – don't expect people to trust you again. You are not being a friend, you are just collecting repeatable snippets. Don't be surprised if you're left off the dinner invitation lists next time.
Read more: Can trust be rebuilt?
Being moody. Everyone has days on which they feel less than great. But there is a huge difference between withdrawing quietly and somehow holding those around you responsible for your state of mind. You are responsible for your own happiness. If you don't accept that, others may quickly tire of the burden of being with you. That goes for spouses too.
Being racist. This is a real turnoff, whatever the situation. Making racist remarks only reveals your own ignorance and lack of insight and sensitivity. It also makes you a social liability. Who wants to be seen in public with someone whose boorish remarks might get you involved in a fight? Or worse?
Read more: Racism and mental illness
Being prescriptive. All people hate being told what to do. Even if they have asked for advice. Telling someone what to do, takes their power away from them and makes them feel as if you want to take over. No one likes feeling that way. Most people do not follow advice they have been given, and rather than face your reprimands, they will choose to avoid you instead. Be wary of ever giving advice – ask people what they think is best in the circumstances. Most of the time people have the answers inside of them – they just have to think about it for a while.
Being thick-skinned and oversensitive. These two things usually go together, oddly enough. Some people will be unbelievably insensitive to someone else's feelings, but be hypersensitive when it comes to some slight they think has been passed their way. Generally, if someone is insensitive to your feelings and oversensitive when it comes to their own, people simply find it easier to avoid this person.
Applying two sets of rules. This is a deadly one. If you expect a friend or a spouse or a colleague to adhere to certain rules you have made, you have to stick to them yourself. Otherwise you are invalidating them. If you're not sticking to something, how can you expect others to do so?
Moaning Minny. This is the one who constantly whines about everything – usually things about which no one can do anything. There he goes again like a chainsaw – the weather, the government, the movie you chose, the food in the restaurant. The list is endless, but unfortunately your patience is not. Hit the road and do it fast.
Mine, mine, all mine. Being possessive about your friends is a sure way of getting rid of them quickly. If you have a problem with the fact that your friends also have other friends, it may be an idea to get help, while you still have any friends left. We are all naturally a bit possessive, but when it gets to the point where you throw tantrums when your friends see other people besides you, the red lights should be shining on bright. Just don't go down this road.
Centre of attraction. Me, me, me! Some people will do anything to get attention. Even negative attention. People who are attention junkies are socially exhausting, because they require all your energy, without giving you anything in return. People who become moody when they are not the centre of attraction are best avoided, as they are tiresome and their company is unrewarding in the long run.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24.com, updated February 2014)
Quiz: What kind of a friend are you?
Read more: Who is your poisonous friend?