Stop clicking that pen and other annoying habits
By Robin Scott
The repeated click of a ballpoint pen, tapping of a pen, or jingling keys in a pocket can become quite distracting. Why people engage in annoying habits is a mystery, but all people have some habit that likely annoys those around them or even cuts off proper communication completely.
Taking a test when the person behind has a sniffle, or trying to watch a movie when the child behind continually kicks the seat can feel as bothersome as a leaky faucet or squeaky screen door except that they are controlled somewhat by the human consciousness. The leaky faucet or the squeak emanating from the screen door isn’t deliberate undertakings that interrupt a train of thought. Shouldn’t a person with a cough or sniffle reschedule the test, and why doesn’t the parent of the child with the uncontrollable feet at the movie theater make them stop kicking?
People’s annoying habits only seem to bother others and not the perpetrator. How is that possible? At a lecture in college a guest speaker rattled keys and coins in his pocket throughout the speech. The students all noticed and even commented that at times they couldn’t hear what the speaker was saying. When the lecture was over the speaker was asked, “What’s in your pocket that made all of that noise?” The surprised speaker stated, “Nothing, I think.” He was shocked to discover how much he had interrupted his own talk and had no idea he had done so throughout the hour-long lecture.
The would-be-drummer who constantly taps his fingers on every possible surface or the cheerleader who can never stand still because she’s always in the midst of a hurkey interfere in their own communication too. Anyone in conversation with a cheerleader or drill team member knows to give them at least five feet of space. People who talk with their hands have a similar need for extra room in their personal space. If their hands were tied behind their back could they talk at all?
Some habits that are annoying cause people to feel uncomfortable. The continual blinking of the eyes or swallowing air as though trying to get a golf ball down the throat causes pain to even the onlooker. Tugging the hair, tapping the teeth or rubbing the face all have meaning according to ASIS International. ASIS is a company dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and productivity of security professionals by developing educational programs and materials. One seminar the company provides on body language teaches people how to control a conversation by being aware of their body language and those around them.
Popping gum can become such a distraction that communication ceases. The victim of the gum popper is unable to concentrate on anything except the gum, and people who pull their gum in and out of their mouths while chewing definitely lose all hope of having a valuable conversation. Some habits are dominated by particular groups of people. Young girls are gum poppers, while adults undertake pen tapping.
Tossing and playing with hair during a conversation, especially if a mirror is nearby can lead to anger by the victim. Trying to talk to anyone who is preoccupied with something else is nearly impossible. Clerks in a store who are engaged in personal conversation, or worse, on a cell phone, can lead to loss of business. When speaking or relaying ideas people inherently feel their words should be taken seriously. How is that possible if picking lint off a shirt takes precedence over the conversation?
Some habits don’t annoy to such a degree. Biting nails is more detrimental to the nail biter than those around him. Scratching one’s nose while deep in thought probably doesn’t cause too much of a distraction. Those habits may be overlooked or forgiven, while others become impediments to all activity. Habits that occur while deep in thought have a purpose and may be forgiven. Many people tap the side of their head while trying to recall some detail and their eyes become distant as they chase the thought through their mind. Discovering the thought is followed by an “Ah-ha!” Everyone feels the relief in recalling information, so the thought provoking habit it took to get the information is a small price to pay in exchange for the tidbit.
Crunching ice, making strange noises, opening a peppermint candy during the Sunday morning service, slurping every drop out of a cup, or cracking knuckles are also on the list of annoying habits that people do without thinking. Hundreds of websites on the Internet offer ways to stop engaging in bad habits, so people must actually be thinking about them and how to avoid them.
The key to getting rid of any bad habit is recognizing the habit and identifying circumstances or situations that cause the bad habit to surface. Nervousness leads to many habits that annoy others, thus identifying and overcoming the cause for the nervousness could take years or even a lifetime. Some of those types of bad habits include biting nails, clearing the throat excessively, popping the jaw and chewing on the inside of the lips or mouth.
Other bad habits that are caused from inattentiveness should require no more than some attention to one’s own behavior to eliminate. Those habits include clicking pens, rattling keys and smacking gum. Asking a friend or family member to comment when those behaviors are engaged in will provide self-awareness that gives the offender an opportunity to immediately correct the behavior. People are quick to correct their young children when they do something that is annoying. Everyone has been told by their mother not to make funny faces or their face would freeze that way, but for some unknown reason it becomes harder and harder as people age to say, “Stop doing that!” If a request to stop comes too late it is often accompanied by anger and an explicative, which leads to a whole different set of bad habits.