Tackling Bad Habits in
Personal Relationships

Friends Drinking Coffee

Overcoming bad habits in all relationships is core to healthy and happy living.  As Emily Post said, “Good manners reflect something from inside—an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for self.”  

Using mindful etiquette, or asking yourself, “What are the unwritten rules that I need to follow in this situation?” affords others an opportunity to witness your character in action.  But there are personal bad habits that we need to watch out for and strive to tackle in ourselves.


There’s hardly anything worse than to feel shackled by someone’s over-tending to your personal life.  Being “bossy” or “nagging” is a creeping behavior that can sneak into a relationship un-noticed. It is often passed off as love and concern, but it is really about control.  

Self-examining helps us step-aside micromanaging behavior.  

  • Do you tend to inject an un-asked-for opinion of what another person is wearing?  If you think there is a problem, ask a question.  “John, you’re going to be onstage.  Would black socks be better?” 
  • Are you criticizing what someone is eating? Correct yourself, by saying, “I just meant to ask, “Are you enjoying your chips and salsa?  I’m staving off my overeating tendencies, so excuse me.  I’ll come back to join you later.”
  • Do you have an opinion about the other person’s actions in public or with others?  That’s ok, just don’t express it in the moment.  During a private conversation in a different setting, letting the person know you feel uncomfortable when he phrases something a certain way demonstrates your respect for him and at the same time, consideration for yourself.


Scrutiny is a good skill to have when carefully checking out benefits and costs, examining a paper or report, overseeing and reviewing a project, or making an important decision.  But in personal relationships, looking too closely, making a person feel as if they are being viewed through a looking glass, is not only rude, but can become a habit that damages your relationship.

How can you recognize it in yourself?

  • Notice if the other person is quick to defend herself or complains with “Why do you always second-guess me?”
  • When the other person protests with, “Don’t you trust me?”
  • When you are irritated that another person doesn’t accept your advice and lash out with a bullying comment.

Not Listening

Perceiving oneself as worthy is part of healthy living.  Feeling that you’ve been heard and that your thoughts have value is necessary in having a close relationship with another.  

“To hear someone” is defined as perceiving with the ear the sound made by another, whereas “to listen to someone” is defined as making an effort to hear what the person is saying and being alert and actively ready to process information.  

How can you test your listening self? 

  • Score yourself on this self-assessment
  • Am I intending to listen?  Asking this question in any conversation is a barometer that helps you register and respond to changes in the moment.
  • Are you processing the words you hear, or are you just thinking of a response to what you think the other person is saying?  There is a difference.

Recognizing Bad Habits

There are other bad habits to tackle in personal relationships, but the three listed above are primary to self-improvement in the etiquette domain.  Do you recognize them in your own behavior?  What are some others you might want to overcome?

Recognizing your habits and targeting them for change is a bold step.  Not only are you willing to be your best self, but you are proving a commitment to authentic connection with other people.  It’s a commitment that will definitely change your life for the better!

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