We may all have asked ourselves ‘am I hard to get along with’ at some point. It is an important question to ask because you don’t always know and being difficult to get along with can affect both your personal and your professional life. The answer is not categorical, as in, it is not yes or no, but rather it is about the context: in which contexts am I hard to get along with? Knowing this allows you to develop self-awareness, to know how to deal with those more challenging situations better, and have more choice over how you express yourself.
Being hard to get along with means other people find it difficult to interact with you for some reason. This may be because of your body language, your combative approach to conversation, or the way the conversation always ends up being about you. The result is that you can perceive others as being difficult, aloof, rude, or out to get you. The answer to these problems starts with self-awareness, moves to expressing your emotions in more healthy ways, and ends in being true to your core values and ideals.
So the good news is that you can do something about being hard to get along with more easily than you think. But equally, we also need to recognise that being hard to get on with can be beneficial in certain circumstances. So it isn’t ‘bad’ if you are; but it can be. Conversely, it isn’t ‘good’ if you are easy to get on with; but it can be. But being able to have some choice over your self-expression is the key to being able to know what to do for the best in different situations.
The Tell-tale Signs
Let’s first look at how to notice the tell-tale signs.
If you do identify with any of them this is a good place to start developing more awareness of how you feel in different situations and how others feel around you.
So these are things to reflect on and notice – not panic about!
1. You Often Feel “Left Out”
If you’ve noticed that you’re the last person to learn important information or you constantly feel like the “odd one out,” this could signal that you’re difficult to get along with. At work, you may notice that people aren’t including you in certain details or even in some work activities. But you can also find that this is the case within your wider family or friends.
This usually means that people are worried about sharing certain types of information with you because they fear your reaction. If you receive unsolicited advice or comments from someone regarding this issue, you might want to listen to what they have to say and ask for more details to better understand it.
If you haven’t received any comments, you might want to ask someone to give you some feedback. The things they say might be hard to hear, but it may also be something you need to hear.
2. You Feel Paranoid Much of the Time
Feeling like everyone around you is “out to get you” is never a pleasant feeling, and while this is a feeling many people get occasionally, it shouldn’t be something that is a constant in your life. When everything seems to be some type of conspiracy against you, you likely have some traits that others find hard to get along with. If the paranoia continues for too long, people tend to build walls around themselves so they don’t have to deal with anyone else, and this is seldom a good thing.
It can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but you can change it before it gets to that point. The best thing to do is find someone you trust and talk to them about it. Make sure they tell you the truth so that you can learn more about yourself. Try not to get defensive!.
3. You Have Few Friends
We all need friends. And by friends I mean those people we choose to spend time with, those we like and admire, those we want to have an ongoing relationship with because we get something out of that relationship.
So your friends could be family members or people you are not related to. They can be contextual friends, such as those people you are friends with at work but don’t see them outside of work. And they can be deep connections that provide an enduring and lasting bond over time and space (you may not even see them very much!).
If you find that you do not have many friends within your family, in your social circle, or at work, AND that you would like to have more friends, then this is an indication that others may find it hard to get on with you.
4. You Get Angry Easily
Everyone gets angry occasionally, but if you find yourself getting angry frequently, especially if you get that way over things that seem to be no big deal to everyone else, this is a sign of deeper issues surfacing that are getting in the way of you relating to others.
Anger is an important emotion and we all need to be able to express it in healthy ways. But if you do not have much control over your anger then this will have adverse effects on your relationships.
It may be that your anger is explicit. You can get angry at others and show them you are angry. Where this is justified and explained well, other people will understand your feelings and their role in the situation. But if the real issue is about something deeper and this current situation is simply a way to express those suppressed emotions then others will find it hard to understand and relate to you.
But it may be the case that the anger is implicit. You feel angry but don’t want to let others see it. So you sit on it and stew and vent to others, never addressing the issue. You can hide certain feelings in the short term but you can’t hide them in the long term and so they come out in some other way – such as resentment, criticism, or passive aggressiveness.
5. You Feel As Though You’re Always Complaining
Everyone has good days and bad days, but if your bad days tend to happen more frequently than the good ones, this could be a sign that you’re difficult to get along with. Some of your complaining might centre around not trusting people, and the fewer people you trust, the worse the situation is.
You should also examine those you spend time with to see what influence they are having on you. Do they bring out the worst in you? If so, why? Do they complain a lot? Have you created a social group where complaining is the way to express your feelings rather than being honest about them? If so, you might want to have some honest conversations about what is really underneath the complaints.
But we can’t blame those we spend time with for how we feel and what we do. We are always part of the issues. You need to start paying attention to the feelings in your body and the thoughts going through your mind. These give you the key to what is really going on that is getting in the way of getting on with people in more satisfying ways.
6. You Are Always up for a Good Debate
People have varying opinions, and while debating a certain issue with another person is not a bad thing, there might be a problem if you are constantly debating everyone about everything. This is especially true if you seem to seek out debates with other people all the time, or you constantly need to feel as though you’re playing “devil’s advocate.”
While a good-spirited debate over non-controversial topics is nothing to shy away from, constantly seeking out topics to debate with someone can feel obsessive and annoying to others. The best thing you can do to avoid this scenario is to try not to debate anyone unless it’s a topic that makes sense and others want to engage in such a debate.
Analysing your situation
You can take these signs and identify where you see them in the different spheres of your life: in your family, your friends, and your workplace.
This table will help to complete this as an exercise. Simply tick the box for the sign in the area of your life where you see it. The more ticks you can see the more you can identify that you are perhaps hard to get along with in that area.
You feel left out
You feel they are out to get you
You have few friends
You get angry easily
You complain a lot
You end up in lots of debates
You can break this down even further to get more specific about the contexts in which you may be hard to get along with, by looking at the details of the people, places, circumstances in which you see these issues.
So, for example, I am hard to get along with when I am with others who just want to have a light hearted chat. So social gatherings where I don’t really know people very well is a good example. My wife pointed out to me a number of situations in which I have gotten into debates and been very serious and intense (is the word she uses) about certain topics in such situations. I didn’t see it until she pointed it out and I could see a pattern. I am even worse when I have had a drink!
What this exercise does is allow you to get specific about the contexts in which you are hard to get along with. Then you can start to look at this to understand yourself better. By better understanding yourself you will move towards having more choice over your actions and having more satisfying interactions.
I grew up in a family where I didn’t feel we were having conversations that needed to be had. I have carried this with me unconsciously and so situations that seem to be avoiding or passing over important topics taps into that experience and those feelings and I respond in ways that seem a little odd – or intense – to others. By becoming aware of this I can keep those feelings in check knowing that the current situation is not linked. This frees me up to be more present and have more power over what I say and do.
This helps because I might choose to be hard work for certain reason!
When being hard to get along with is a good thing
Being hard to get along with has advantages. It depends on the context.
Some situations require you to be able to interact with others in ways that are not easy. Not everyone is nice to us and not everyone has our best interests at heart. Not all people we complain to have an understanding ear and are ready to make amends. In such situations we may need to get angry, complain, and be obstinate. We need the ability to choose our behaviours – which only comes with self-awareness.
There is a lot of advice out on the web that tells you how to do things, such as getting on with difficult people, but it is easy to say and much harder to do as the missing piece of the jigsaw is you and the work you have done to understand yourself and what you bring to the conversations.
Equally, being easy to get on with can be a real problem. If we are getting on with people because we have to (this may have been how we have been taught to be while growing up) then we have little choice over how we express ourselves – it is automatic. This can lead to others taking advantage of us.
So you need to be easy to get on with sometimes and hard to get on with sometimes. You need to know when to do what to ensure you are being true to yourself. But all of this is dependent on knowing who you are and your core values, ideals, and principles.
To sum up…
You are not hard to get along with. but you may be hard to get along with in certain circumstances in certain contexts. Knowing these circumstances and contexts are a part of the key to personal growth.
If you want to be able to be yourself, do what is right for you, and live life adhering to your core values and principles, then you need to put the work in to develop self-awareness and understand how to do this. This, however, is not easy.
If you want to be able to have more choice over how you come across to others, to know when to be hard work and when to not be, you need to be engaged in a concerted effort to understand yourself, explore your experiences and emotions, and get behind your masks, so you can feel free and true to yourself.