Six ways to make people hate you

1. Be late.  This is the worst. There is nothing wrong with being ten minutes late, even habitually, as it gives whoever you are meeting a moment to catch his breath or powder her nose or more likely respond to texts, and mostly no one minds. But much beyond that is rude, and well beyond is unacceptable and even awful. I used to be extremely late, mostly because I was slow and distracted, which is what does it. I would actually be hours late, for events that were my idea, and even though everyone was gone by the time I showed up, I did bother, in my ridiculous way. Mostly I was just something like a half hour or forty-five minutes late, and people expected it, and somehow forgave it—Lord knows why. No one likes having to forgive you all the time—they hate being the forever patsy. What finally set me straight is someone telling me that lateness is nothing more than a sign of disrespect: It is saying that the other person’s time is not valuable, he might as well wait for me, what else has he got to do? I had not thought of it quite that way. I just believed I was slow and distracted, and the 4 train was always delayed, and traffic on Third Avenue was always bad. But after I realized being late is mean, I learned to wake up earlier and be on time. People hate me a lot less.

2. Be successful. Of course, if you are successful, surely many people love you, because this is after all a popularity contest—it all is—and you have to keep winning it to get anywhere. But people hate the rich and the famous and the toasted. No matter what, they somehow did not come by it by honest means. Look, the more doors you knock on, the luckier you get. And the harder you work, the luckier you get. The only pure luck to it is that some people are born brilliant or talented or beautiful, and there is nothing fair about a meritocracy, because it favors those people. And, of course, there is plenty of resentment to go around.

3. Be a failure.  Every family—or at least, every extended family—has someone in it who is always broke, can’t keep a job, is in and out of trouble with the law, is drunk and disorderly mostly at the most inappropriate times, and in all manner of ways has no capacity to get his life together. Okay, maybe not every extended family. Some have several. There are wretched clans who are all doing time together, no doubt. But there are also lovely people who are stuck with one person who just can’t get it right, even after all those alternative summer camps and all those attempts at tough love. Everybody eventually hates that person for being an arrant screw up, because what else can they do? Of course, there are other ways to fail. There is the manic variety of failure, along the lines of Icarus, where you do such crazy [stuff] that the government decides to bail you out, like what happened with Wall Street in 2008. Or perhaps you greenlight a movie like Heaven’s Gate or Howard The Duck—some Hollywood history here—and that’s that. Whatever it is, everyone hates you and blames you. Are you surprised?

4. Play games.  My best quality is that I look like I might say yes. And I might. To whatever. It is a very good thing to be game. But it’s terrible to play games. Never play hard to get. Turns out that doesn’t work. It also doesn’t work to be easy. It works to be authentic. Of course, your personality is a construct, but whatever you’ve come up with, stick with it and be it and be done with it. They say the truth is your best bet, because there is nothing to remember. People really have trouble with that, even though it is the easiest thing. People tell tales so tall that NASA will have to retrieve the mess. Unfortunately, most of us do not have Neil Armstrong at our disposal to get us out of trouble, and everyone hates a liar. Most games are predicated on falsehood, including pretending to care or not care. It is hard to know who you are, but figure it out before engaging, and go with that.

5. Complain. If you’re ever about to say, I don’t mean to complain but, don’t. There is nothing more idiosyncratic than the things that bother you–or the way you express them or the moment it hits you, but somehow it is going to come out wrong. The initial filing in a lawsuit is called a complaint, and what is worse than a lawsuit? If there really is a problem, fix it yourself or resolve it with the powers that be, but don’t make everyone else feel lousy by talking about it. Yuck.

6. Be boring.  It is not possible to talk too much if you are interesting. There is nothing wrong with being the center of attention and dominating a dinner party if that’s how it happens to work out. It is not bad manners to talk too much if everyone loves listening. But if you are boring, people will hate you and walk away. Usually people are boring because they are bored. They don’t read or listen to music or see movies or watch tv or or in any way engage. Or worse: They do all that, and even still. If people tell you that you talk too much, you are boring. So do something about it. Or keep quiet. I talk tons. Tons and tons. No one complains.

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