Wednesday 29 May 2024

Self Help For Cynics #35: People Ain't No Good

Lloyd Cole - People Ain't No Good

Last week, we talked about hating people, and I came to the conclusion that I didn't really hate people, but actually it's "all just an act to paper over insecurity, a tragic lack of self-confidence and a Grand Canyon of loneliness in perpetual conflict with an innate desire to be on my own".

Felt - All the People I Like Are Those That Are Dead

Just as I thought I'd talked myself out of misanthropy, C replied...

You're in good company Rol, I think nearly all the best people I know are people-haters, which doesn't really make a lot of sense and yet somehow it does!

Richard Cheese - People = Shit

And then I remembered the postcard at the top of this page, which Louise bought me some time ago; it's pinned on the wall next to my desk. You may find it interesting to note that Louise ordered two copies. There's also one pinned up on the wall next to her desk. Make of that what you will...

I can't understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand

Depeche Mode - People Are People

The jury's still out on hating people then, but here's something I thing we can all agree on: people are very, very annoying.

James - Born Of Frustration

But why is this so?

"They just are!" I heard you cry.

Napoleon - I Try To Despise The Ugly People (But The Beautiful Ones Keep Turning Me Down)

OK, let's start with an easier question. Why does our brain get annoyed?

To answer that, we need an MC...

Ring the bell, school's back in!

MC Hammer - U Can't Touch This

Not that MC. Here's MC Flux, psychologist, neuroscientist and science communicator from the University of Colorado, as quoted in the Grauniad. He says annoyance is “moderately negative, and moderate arousal... it’s basically a flag, saying: ‘Something is wrong, and I should probably do something about it.’”

Green Day - Warning

Now, I'm tiptoeing around this subject because I don't want to get onto anger until I've read sweary Dr. Faith's next book on my reading list, Unfuck Your Anger. And clearly anger is the next step on from annoyance. However, it should come as no surprise that our old friend the amygdala is the main culprit responsible for such emotions. Healthline says,

Anger starts with the amygdala stimulating the hypothalamus, much like in the fear response. In addition, parts of the prefrontal cortex may also play a role in anger.

Frustration, such as facing roadblocks while trying to achieve a goal, can also trigger the anger response.

Now we know what's going on in our brain... but we've still not answered the big question: why are people so annoying? Or should that be: why do I find people so annoying? Are they the same question... or two very different questions?

The Doors - People Are Strange

That Guardian article I mentioned earlier highlights four key answers to the first question: "uncouth habits, inconsiderate acts, intrusive behaviors and norm violations". I think a lot of these come down to what I'd label a lack of empathy, emotional awareness... or just plain arrogance. And once we get onto the subject of arrogance, I need another post. Or ten.

Dean Wareham - Heartless People

Meanwhile, therapist Julia Kristina has an uncomfortable answer to the second question...

Those unfavourable qualities, habits, or tendencies of someone else we react negatively to are really just our own shortcomings that we have turned our back on and refuse to own up to.

They always clap on the wrong beat
They're wearin' loafers on their feet
Greedy awful people!

The Stooges - Greedy Awful People

Ouch. I think I'm going to have to come back to that one as well. But just in case anyone here thinks of me as an annoying person, I consulted Indeed for some tips on how to eliminate my own annoying behaviour...

Be an active listener

This is actually really easy if you don't have much to say for yourself.

The Ramones - Learn To Listen

Focus on the positives

Easier said than done, as discussed some time ago.

Sam Cooke - Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive 

Speak at a normal volume

Louise does sometimes get embarrassed when we're out in public (not often, to be honest) as she claims I speak louder than I need to. I don't think I do, but then I am partially deaf...

OMD - Talking Loud And Clear

Avoid interrupting others

Science For People butts in a this point...

Many annoying people don’t even realize they’re being annoying in the first place. Annoying people might violate various social norms, be incompatible with others, try too hard to make others laugh, or even take a phone call while in a quiet library.

Did you know that you could even be the “irritating person” because you’re too positive?

Oh, yes. I knew this.

This type of positivity is known as toxic positivity—and it’s a real thing.

You don't need to tell me twice. There's a post in that as well. 

Georgie Fame - Bird In A World Of People

Clearly, I've only scratched the surface of our central question: Why are people so annoying? There's a lot more to uncover in future weeks...


  1. I don't hate people in general - some of my best friends are people - just certain categories e.g. cyclists who think that because they are not killing us all by polluting the atmosphere it is OK for them to cycle at high speed down the pavement and crash into pedestrians one at a time, people at gigs who think you are there to listen to them not the band, people who jump queues and then add insult to injury by taking forever to pay etc.

    I suspect if you did a Venn diagram there would be a lot of overlap between these categories, perhaps under the heading 'selfish b*****ds'.

    1. There's a special circle of hell devoted to people who go to gigs to have a nice chat. Dante wrote about it in detail.

  2. I need a copy of that postcard!
    I often feel real hatred towards mankind as a whole, what a waste of space we all are, fucking everything up including each other. But amid this horrific species are some very lovable and marvellous individuals. Oh, the conflict!
    As for our hatred towards the arrogant, selfish individuals, the ones that make us moan and despair, I think it comes down to what Margaret Meldrew once said about Victor, the classic grumpy old man, in the episode 'Warm Champagne' when another man questions why/how she could be with him: " talk about being sensitive - I'm afraid that's Victor's trouble. He's one of the most sensitive people I've ever met, and that's why I love him, and why I constantly run to ram his head through a television screen..."

    1. They called me Victor Meldrew in high school!

  3. Of late I've been spending a lot of time with people - all the friends who rallied round when I was ill - so they are by definition people I like and am happy to spend time with. As for annoying people, there will also be those in the world so best to just accept it and spend as little time as possible in their sphere.


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